Category: PGA of America

The PGA Championship-Phil Mickelson

PGA Championship, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort SC

Congrats, Phil!

Watching Phil Mickelson stroll up the 18th hole at Kiawah Island with a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen was almost surreal. I think many of us “Phil fanatics” kept pinching ourselves during those final moments thinking it was a dream. The idea of Phil, at fifty plus, holding off the imposing figure of Brooks Koepka to win the PGA Championship, seemed like an impossibility. Like Ali when he fought George Forman—there would be flashes of brilliance and plenty of determination, but sooner or later the big one would land. I kept thinking about the 2014 PGA Championship, 2015 Masters, and 2016 Open Championships where Phil fought his heart out, put up strong performances with great thrills, but ultimately came up just short. Not this time though, as Phil found an even deeper level of resolve to deliver a historic win for the ages, just as Mohamed Ali did back in 1974. It was a remarkable day, and most certainly the high point of Phil’s fantastic career. And do we dare get our hopes up for that elusive U.S. Open title? You bet we do!

Phil’s Fanatics 

Early in his career, Phil Mickelson garnered the nickname “Phil the Thrill” because he had a seemingly endless number of shots in his arsenal, and was willing pull them out of his bag at any time, regardless of risk, almost always with unlikely and eye-popping success. Since he broke out on tour in 1991, and won the Northern Telecom Open as an Amateur, everyone knew that this young lefty was going to provide us with a ton of excitement. Phil immediately captured the hearts of golf fans with his fan friendly, warm persona, along with his aggressive style of play. That style of play cost Phil quite a few tournaments, including a number of major championships, but that just endeared him to the golfing public even more. Eventually Phil’s following of loyalists became known as the “Phil fanatics.” No matter how poorly Phil might be playing, these fans never left his side. Well, the Phil fanatics were out in full force for Lefty last week at the PGA Championship. They cheered and hollered for him all week, and assembled around the 18th green to share the moment with their hero. Not since Arnie’s Army has a player generated that kind of love and excitement from golf fans—and richly deserved.

The Thrills Keep Coming

Phil’s last major victory came all the way back at the 2013 Open Championship, and there have been a number of highs and lows since then. A dry spell in 2014 and 2015 saw Mickelson drop his longtime swing coach, Butch Harman, and hire Andrew Getson. Getson revitalized Phil’s game, and their partnership resulted in 6 top 5 finishes in the 2016 season, including 3 runner-up’s—but unfortunately no victories. 2017 proved to be another winless season for Phil, now 47 years old with many believing that his days of winning on tour were behind him. But lo and behold, Phil reached into his bag of magic and surprised us all by winning the WGC Mexico Championship in 2018. It was an unbelievable victory, as he took down Justin Thomas in a thrilling playoff and proved that Lefty was not done quite yet. And then in 2019, Phil won again, capturing his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, only to struggle for the remainder of the year, failing to record a single top ten. The 2020 season proved to be another disappointment for Lefty, with only two top 5 finishes in the shortened season. And going into the PGA Championship this year, Phil hadn’t placed among the top 20 in a single event, most recently a disastrous finish at the Wells Fargo where he opened with a 64, only to follow that up with a 75 and a pair of 76’s. While most of the golf world viewed it as yet another sign that Phil was done, his fanatics (and most importantly Phil himself), saw only the brilliant 64, and continued to believe. Well, he’s done it again—shocking the world when everybody counted him out. Congratulations Phil, this was truly an epic performance. You can bet that Phil’s faithful flock will have swelled to record numbers for the Open at Torrey Pines next month, and win or lose, you know he will be giving it everything he’s got. A seventh major? Don’t count him out.  

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PGA Championship and The Wyndham

Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro NC (Donald Ross)
Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro NC (Donald Ross)

PGA Championship Wrap-Up

Last week saw a riveting finish to the PGA Tour’s first major of the year. Collin Morikawa fired off a blistering final round 64 to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in winning the PGA Championship at the tender age of 23. Morikawa was calm and collected throughout with a sold round tee to green, while displaying a silky-smooth putting stroke–but two magnificent shots carried the day. On the difficult 14th hole, facing a delicate uphill chip from a tight lie with little green to work with, where getting it up and down to save par under major championship pressure was no easy task—he chipped in for birdie. And then on the reachable par four sixteenth hole, where many in the field were laying back with irons or hitting 3 wood to leave a short chip, he pulled out his driver and drove the green, shaping a gorgeous fade to about eight feet—and then drilled the putt for eagle. With his two-shot victory over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, Morikawa moved all the way up to number 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, closing in on Justin Thomas, who retained his number 1 spot (for now). And with all of the excitement surrounding Morikawa’s huge win, John Rahm’s move to number 1 in the world rankings went almost unnoticed.  Brooks Koepka, the pre-tournament favorite and reigning PGA Champion, faded early on Sunday and finished well back with a final round 74. Koepka stirred up a bit of controversy on Saturday with a comment he made about 3rd round leader Dustin Johnson. When asked if he thought he could catch him and make it three in a row, Koepka pointed out that Johnson only had one major title under his belt, and said “I like my chances.” The comment raised more than a few eyebrows, and brought on a response from Rory McIlroy who said “…sort of hard to knock a guy that’s got 21 wins on the PGA tour, which is three times what Brooks has.” Tiger’s performance was largely uninspiring, and his trusted putter seemed to let him down on every hole, finishing well back at 1 under par (T37). With the level of talent on the PGA Tour right now, Woods will have to raise his game a couple of notches to compete as we head into the FedEx playoffs. And Morikawa wasn’t the only youngster opening eyes at the PGA either, as Scottie Scheffler (Age 24, T4 at -10), Matthew Wolff (Age 21, T4 at -10) and long hitting Cameron Champ (Age 25, T10 at -8) all made a strong run at the championship. When you add so many fresh young faces to an already star-studded field, the next few months is guaranteed to be exciting.

The Wyndham Championship

The Field

The week following a major often doesn’t include a particularly deep field, but with so much talent on the tour right now, in a truncated season, the Wyndham will include plenty of big names, with Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and PGA runner-up Paul Casey all teeing it up. It will be interesting to see how Koepka rebounds from his disappointing finish at the PGA, particularly in light of the remarks he made about Dustin Johnson. Don’t be surprised if Brooks puts the hammer down with big a week at the Wyndham; and keep in mind that Paul Casey went out of his way to say that his wonderful play on Sunday at the PGA was helped by the class Koepka displayed while struggling with his own game in that final round.

The Event

First played in 1938 as the Greater Greensboro Open, The Wyndham Championship is one of the oldest events on the PGA tour. Currently held at the venerable Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC, Sam Snead won the championship an astounding eight times. In addition to Snead, champions include legendary players such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Julius Boros, and Seve Ballesteros. J. T. Poston is the reigning champion, and he will be in the field this week to defend his title.

The Course

Sedgefield Country Club, founded in 1925, is an original Donald Ross design that was updated over the years by notable architects including Gene Hamm and Willard Byrd. In 2007 the course was lengthened to accommodate current equipment, and restored to the original Ross layout by Kris Spence, acclaimed for classic course restorations including Memphis Country Club (Donald Ross), Forsyth Country Club (Tillinghast/Ross), and Mimosa Hills Golf Club (Donald Ross).

Find detailed course information here.

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PGA Tour Update-PGA Championship preview

TPC Harding Park, San Francisco CA
TPC Harding Park, San Francisco CA

3M Open

The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, closed out July with tour journeyman Michael Thompson winning at 19 under par, two shots ahead of runner up, Andrew Long. The win was Thomson’s second tour victory, the first one at the Honda all the way back in 2013. The 2020 season has been difficult for Thomson, making the cut in only 8 of 17 events, but a top 10 at the Heritage in June was a sign that his game was starting to come around. Proving that hard work and fortitude can pay off, Thomson secured a two-year tour exemption along with entry into this week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. In an emotional interview following the final round, Thomson credited his wife, Rachel, for keeping his confidence up and believing in him when things got tough, saying “My wife has been a rock for me.”

WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational

August opened up with the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and saw Justin Thomas mount a dramatic come from behind charge to victory with the legendary ‘Bones’ Mackey on his bag. Everyone expected the hard as nails Brooks Koepka to come away with the win, but the pressure Thomas applied seemed to shake a normally unflappable Koepka and he ended with a double bogey six on the last hole, finishing runner-up. This victory gave Thomas a 713-point lead in the FedEx Cup standings over Webb Simpson, currently in the second spot.

Tiger Woods

After a rocky showing at the Memorial Tournament, questions have again started to bubble up with regard to Tiger’s back. Before starting the Memorial, Tiger put the kibosh on speculation about the condition of his back when he said that his delayed return to tournament play was strictly due to an abundance of caution concerning COVID-19. While Tiger didn’t appear to be in obvious pain at any point in the tournament, his swing didn’t have the fluid freedom we saw at the end of 2019, and a pair of 76’s only add fuel to the rumor mill. Tiger says that he just needed to knock off some rust, and we’ll get to see for sure when he continues his pursuit of Jack’s major championship record this week at Harding Park. Stay tuned.

2020 PGA Championship

The Field

As with all major championships, The PGA Championship will include a tremendous field of top-ranked players, each hoping to bring home the Wannamaker Trophy, awarded to the winner by the PGA of America. In addition to Tiger, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson will all be teeing it up this week. The player to watch is most certainly the reigning two-time PGA Champion, Brooks Koepka. Koepka gained momentum at the FedEx, in spite of the hiccup on the final hole. After poor finishes at the Workday, Memorial, and 3M, Koepka turned up his game with a blistering 62 in the opening round, and recorded solid rounds of 68 and 69 over the weekend. With his explosive display at the FedEx, Justin Thomas (also a former PGA Champion) is another player to watch closely this week. Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantley, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, and Patrick Reed have all been playing well of late, and each would dearly love to add the Wannamaker to his trophy case. And don’t be surprised if Dustin Johnson suddenly jumps in the mix and walks away with his second major victory. Of course, The PGA has been known to deliver the unexpected, suddenly launching an unknown name into the spotlight (John Daly, Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang, Shaun Micheel, Jeff Sluman, and Wayne Grady come to mind). One thing is for sure, this is going to be a great week for watching golf.

The Course

TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California will be hosting a professional major championship for the first time in its venerated history. Harding Park was originally designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, opening in 1925. A municipal course, owned by the San Francisco Department of Parks & Recreation, Harding Park hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1937 and in 1956, and the Lucky International Open on the PGA Tour until 1969. Due to budget cuts, Harding Park’s condition had begun to decline and the tour was ultimately forced to end their relationship. For the next thirty years, Harding Park was largely forgotten, with the most humiliating moment coming when it was used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open that was played at The Olympic Club. 2002 brought about a revival, however, when Arnold Palmer Golf Management was brought in to operate the park. Former USGA President Sandy Tatum played a key role by enlisting the assistance of Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour, with PGA Tour course architect Chris Gray tasked with returning Harding Park to Watson’s vision—and he did a masterful job. 2005 proved to be another groundbreaking year for Harding Park, as it hosted its first World Golf Championship event (The American Express Championship). Ten years later, the course hosted the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Both World Golf events at Harding were thrilling nail-bitters, with Tiger Woods narrowly defeating fan-favorite John Daly in a playoff at the American Express, and Rory McIlroy defeating the hard-charging Gary Woodland at the Cadillac Matchplay. Harding Park also hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and is scheduled to host the 2025 Presidents Cup. In 2010, Harding Park became a member of the TPC network, and is now operated by PGA Tour Golf Course Properties. Joining Bethpage, Torrey Pines and Chambers Bay among municipal courses that have hosted a major championship is yet another fitting tribute to Harding Park, and a testament to how far the game has come in making great courses available to everyone.

Get detailed course information at GolfDay.

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