The 2016 PGA Championship has been thrown on its head by the Rio Olympics. For the first time in recent memory, the start of the fourth major of the season gets under way only 11 days after the third concluded. The Olympics are turning into a joke and the golf tournament is in the PGA’s traditional August slot. Who will be able to deal with the change in routine and the shortened rest and recovery window? The majority of the worlds top players are either skipping the Olympics or have not qualified, and if they manage to recharge quickly enough, could use the disruption to their advantage. Imagine them charging into the PGA full bore, skipping the Olympics, and using the extra time off to rest up for the Ryder Cup and FedEx playoffs, which also required significant energy.
Make no mistake, the PGA is the most important event left on the calendar and the American and European stars know it and will be highly focused. Let’s look at the particulars to get you a winner.
Phil Mickelson, fresh off one of his greatest performances in a major, always plays the week before a major but skipped the RBC Canadian Open because of the timing. Lefty has some local knowledge at Baltustrol, but he played so well at Troon and has got to be deflated from the energy spent on another 2nd place finish. I suspect he’ll have a go on Thursday and Friday but will run out of gas. Henrik Stenson can’t possibly duplicate his effort after his performance in The Open.
This major will play out in an epic slug-fest between the world’s top four. Jason, Jordan, Rory, and DJ are all skipping Rio and have their priorities in order. They have been bobbing and weaving in the 2016 majors with Dustin Johnson holding an edge in performance and consistency. Sergio Garcia has been performing well and is always buzzing around the top 5, and the last two majors have been won by players previously on the BPTNWAM list. Sergio is the trendy pick but he is going to Rio and will be too distracted. Who will win it? I am feeling a Rory, DJ and Scott Piercy Sunday horse race This will be a power ball striking tournament and DJ is striping it better than anyone now. He is your 2016 PGA champion. Yes, two majors in one year for a guy I thought would never win one. Like that pick? Who’s your pick at Baltustrol?
I always thought that if Dustin Johnson was going to win a major, The British Open would be his first because the slower bumpy greens equalize the putting ability of the world’s greatest players. Johnson is a notoriously mediocre putter especially during big clutch moments, but has suddenly turned the golf world on its head and is winning everything. Having cleared his first major hurdle, is he now unstoppable?
The other big three (Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth) all seem capable, but currently vulnerable. Spieth is suffering from mechanical issues. McIlroy hasn’t sorted out his putting, and Day had the WGC Bridgestone in control until an uncharacteristic late round collapse. The pre-tournament betting line has all four at 8-1. It’s going to be a wild ride so let’s sift through the morass and get you a winner.
It’s exciting when someone from the BPTNWAM list finally breaks through as DJ did at Oakmont. The final round at The US Open had layers of intrigue. DJ, Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood were all well positioned. But alas, only one player can win it. I liked the way Sergio finished (for a change). He hung tough and didn’t choke. He’s looking good to me this week. Westwood was awful on Sunday and I have to believe that he didn’t believe enough in himself to play well under the gun. Rapidly joining that class is Rickie Fowler. I knew Rickie was done at Oakmont before the tournament started because he basically threw up his hands in the practice rounds and said (I’m paraphrasing) “I cannot putt these greens; they’re ridiculous.” Haven’t heard anything from Rickie this week, which is a good thing, but the guy is in a slump and he doesn’t close well. I need to see improvement before I even consider him for BPTNWAM membership.
The Open Championship always manages to tease us with an aging champion getting into contention, and sometimes gives us a winner, like Ernie Els in 2012 when Adam Scott collapsed late at Lytham. How about Greg Norman or Tom Watson? How about Colin Montgomerie in 2016??? Could you see a Monty, Westy, and Sergio BPTNWAM threesome battling it out on Sunday for the Claret Jug? No.
Back to reality. This year’s champion will have to steel himself mentally, and has to relish playing in the wind and rain (it’s forecast to be wet the whole week). Normally, I’d love someone who would leverage the adverse conditions against the field, someone who knows that bad weather culls the weak from the heard. Someone like a Phil Mickelson. But Lefty has run up against Father Time. Not happening for him this week.
I see the winner coming from a group of six players. The big four, Sergio, and Danny Willett will battle it out all week. Willett plays great in Europe, has the major bonafides and should be able to leverage the home court advantage. But he can’t sneak up on anyone any more.
Of these six, Day and Spieth have the best minds for the game. Day for concentration and patience, Spieth for guts and grit. It’s a battle of attrition, I’ll take guts and grit. Jordan Spieth is your winner of the 145th Open Championship. Let’s get it on!
This is going to be an awesome final round at The US Open. On Saturday, the cream started rising to the top and I look for more of the same as we conclude round three and begin the final act. As they currently sit, the BPTNWAM group at T-3 has the most intrigue. Oakmont still hasn’t showed its teeth, but that could change today with drying conditions, and that’s the last thing the T-3 group wants. Of those three, probably Dustin Johnson would last the longest. The commonality with DJ, Sergio, and Weswtood is amazing. They can all stripe it but have never putted well enough to close the deal in a major. Regarding our overnight leader, Shane Lowery; I think he crumbles early under the Sunday pressure.
Jason Day has one image in his mind; “Johnny Miller – 63.” Day’s got a great advantage because he doesn’t have to finish his 3rd round in the morning and can watch some coverage and get an early feel for things. Look for a big move from the world’s best. Also look for Jordan Spieth to make a charge, but at 4-over he’s a bit too far off to win. Zach Johnson has the game and temperament for this test and should be right there too.
The one player who’s demonstrated A-game quality and hasn’t seemed to be affected with nerves is our tour rookie, Andrew Landry. Why not Landry to win it all? I’ve never heard of the guy until Thursday, but he’s impressed the heck out of me. Can Mr. Cool handle the Sunday pressure? We’ll see!
I’m off to play and then enjoy this afternoon’s coverage. Happy Fathers Day to all and play well!
Finally, the 2016 US Open returns to a classic course that will produce a classic test. Oakmont Country Club will feature tight fairways, deep rough, and the fastest greens on earth, and I love it. If you are a traditionalist, and you believe even-par is a great score in this tournament, and that this should be the hardest tournament on earth to win, you’re in for a treat. You can’t have been happy with last year’s carnival played at Chambers Bay, or even the 2014 contest at the redesigned Pinehurst #2.
Let’s look at the principals:
Justin Rose won the last US Open contested on a traditional layout (Marion – 2013) and sort of backed into it when Phil Mickelson found another way to finish 2nd. Rose has got to be considered a contender. He’s having a great ball striking year but his putter is shaky and these greens are going to be the most difficult the pros play all year. Regarding Phil, I believe the window is just about closed because of age. Phil plays more interrupt driven golf than ever before. Interrupt driven = pars and birdies interrupted by “others”.
Rory McIlroy leads the BABSBP category (Bad Ass Ball Striking Balky Putter) with Justin Rose closely following. Although Rory is arguably the best ball striker on earth when he’s on, the recent change of putting grip from left hand low to reverse overlap is disconcerting when done so close to a major. He pulled this before The Masters going from reverse overlap to left hand low and was ineffective. He struggled on the slickmeisters at The Players too, and when his putting is off, he clearly gets frustrated. The US Open requires steadiness with the flat stick and more patience than any other tournament, and for that reason, Rory’s out.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth is clearly the best putter in the world. He just recently won at Colonial too. Current world #1, Jason Day is arguably the best all around player and is deserving of his top ranking. With apologies to Masters champion Danny Willett, the tournament will come down to these two. Going head-to-head ten times, Day would win six. It’s that close. Will the heat be a factor? Day has struggled with health issues on and off and during some high visibility moments. Can Spieth keep the ball in the fairway? The occasional chicken wing move could be costly on the clutch tee shots on Sunday. Spieth won at Chambers Bay because he can putt and because there was no rough. Spieth became more and more jittery over his shots at The Masters and I’m not sure he’s overcome that nervousness. Day is cool, Day is calm, Day is collected. Jason Day is your 2016 US Open Champion. Did I miss someone? Who do you think wins it?
This year’s Masters Friday feels like a Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The early upsets are out of the way, some egos have been crushed, most of our bracket’s are busted, and a refreshing reset has set in.
Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize are headlining the weekend action! It’s amazing how some of the old timers continually deliver and the favorites disappoint. Is Phil finally hitting the wall? Maybe. As soon as Jack Nicklaus (had Phil) picks you for something, it’s like the kiss of death. 🙂
The first hole travesty that Ernie Els suffered through shouldn’t happen to anyone. Now this has zero comparison value, but I remember playing in a tournament 25 years ago and five-putting on a par-3 hole. I just wanted to climb into a shell and disappear. I cannot imagine how the Big Easy felt on the first hole of the greatest tournament on earth. It was difficult to watch and to his credit, Ernie answered all the questions with honesty and integrity.
My David and Goliath final match-up is history with both Zach Johnson (cut) and Bubba (made it on the number) shooting themselves out of contention. Zach was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on Friday and missed it by those two shots, but was already on the back-nine bogey train and headed for the weekend off.
So how’s this play out? The good news is that we are in for a surreal weekend treat. Forget about the traditional Sunday birdie barrage. Look for a U.S. Open style battle of attrition where even par is a great score and the toughest course conditions in years force the players to grind grind grind. I think this favors all the ex-U.S. Open champions in the field. Obviously Spieth has to be favored. He has the toughest demeanor in the game and the guts around the green. If the wind continues to blow, the good ball strikers like Rory and Dustin Johnson should be right there although neither of them putt as well as Spieth. If Justin Rose can banish any putting demons, he has a shot. Jason Day has a good patient approach and figures to be right there on Sunday, but flights it a little high which could be a problem if the wind is a factor. And finally, despite making a 9 in Thursday’s round on #15, look for Angel Cabrera to hang tough. All he does is win when you don’t think he should. He is definitely a horse for this course and has an Open trophy and a green jacket.
Enjoy the weekend slugfest! How’s your bracket doing?
The Masters green prognostication jacket is out of the closet. Ready for a changing of the guard? It’s here and this year’s champion will be a first time major winner.
First, the usual suspects. Tiger’s body is breaking down and he’s withdrawn. Phil’s body appears to be giving him more difficulty than in the past and while he’s overcome some significant arthritic issues, age is becoming a factor. I love watching Phil compete, but he is 43 and will turn 44 in June, and from a major winning standpoint, players hit the wall at 44 (see data from golfmajorchampionships.com below). Phil still has game and usually turns it on at Augusta no matter what type of form he’s showing in the preceding weeks. That being said, of all the majors contested since Willie Park won the first Open Championship in 1860, only eight have been won by a player older than 43, making Jack Nicklaus‘ victory in the 1986 Masters, at age 46 all that more impressive. Look for a top-10 finish for Phil.
Augusta National is the premier horses-for-courses venue and picking the winner is the easiest of all the majors because course familiarity is a huge advantage and some of the entrants are aging past champions who have no chance The contest also boasts the smallest field of all the majors with 97 entrants in 2014. The other majors routinely field more than 150.
I love the newer younger cast of characters because they all have great ability and are dynamite when they get hot, but each has a distinct weakness that prevents dominating performances from week-to-week. Come Sunday evening, the tournament will pit four players head-to-head: Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, and Jason Day. Let’s take them in reverse order.
Jason Day will win The Masters this year.
He’s been so close with a 3rd in 2013 and a T-2nd in 2011 and it is now his time. Jason hit’s it a long way, knows the course very well, and has finally got his mind right. I loved the way he kept his cool and closed at the WGC Accenture when Victor Dubuisson kept getting up-and-down out of trash cans, dumpsters, and desert cactus against him in the final. Day’s weakness is his ability to control his distances under pressure. He’s adjusted with a repeatable pre-shot routine and doesn’t deviate based on the situation. Alan Shipnuck’s piece at Golf.com on Day is must reading for students of the mental game. Day’s visualization techniques are more in-depth than any I’m aware of. His fascination with Navy Seals training and affinity for hitting the gym are sounding Tiger-esque and I would caution him about taking too extreme an approach. But for this week, as long as his sore thumb holds up, he wins his first major.
Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar will tie for second. Scott is the horse for this course, has Steve Williams on the bag for steadiness and sense of purpose, and has the full compliment of tools. He’s susceptible to getting on bogey runs which are protracted and seem to come at terrible times under pressure. Yes, he pulled through last year in an epic moment for self and country, but his fellow Aussie will edge him out. In the back of Scott’s mind has to be the upcoming ban on anchoring and how he will adjust. Is it starting to affect his current work with the flat stick?
Kuchar plays well at Augusta, knows the course intimately, and has the temperament. He won THE PLAYERS Championship, which is just as hard as a major, and is also ready. Kuchar’s achilles heel is his driving distance. He’s also mediocre in GIR and the fact that he’s so highly rated year after year in scoring average is a testament to his lights out short game and putting. This new closed stance and slightly over the top move is supposedly getting the job done, but doesn’t bode well for the right to left ball flight needed at Augusta and will be just enough to hold him back. Down the line shots at Shell indicate he’s made a slight correction from last week at Valero but still looks too closed to me. Hopefully it helps him.
Rory McIlroy finishes alone in 4th. The Northern Irishman is starting to look like Phil Mickelson from a roller coaster perspective. When hot, there’s nobody better, but when his driving is off, it affects his mindset and his total game suffers. Physically, he’s got the tools to be the best player in the world and is a multiple major winner. He’s still young and it still may happen. Now I need to see a serious run with no final round collapse.
Value picks for your Calcutta. Look for Zach Johnson to make a run. The 2007 champion had a great 2013 season, is hitting fairways and greens in 2014, but has slipped to 68th in total putting.
Nobody wins in his first attempt at Augusta, but I look at these three making their Masters debut to have an impact. Jordan Spieth has the guts and the game to win a major-now. Billy Horschel got real hot this time last year and has the confidence to contend. Harris English has all the physical tools but needs more time under the gun. Missing from the conversation is Jimmy Walker who’s leading the Tour in FedEx points and has three wins under his belt. He kills it of the tee, putts great, but is only 86th in scrambling, which is a must have around Augusta. While he’s shown steady improvement over the last five years, I don’t look for him to make a move in his Masters debut until he gets some experience chipping to these greens.
Masters Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year. Play golf in the morning and settle into exciting final round coverage in the afternoon; I can’t wait. Good luck in your pools!
It’s a good thing the official odds don’t reflect a player’s actual chance of winning and just the public’s appetite for spending, because the public is looking like a drunken sailor bidding up Tiger Woods as the favorite at 8/1. He’s coming off an injury and his putting stroke has deserted him again. Those waiting for the next big win to get back on the Jack Nicklaus record chase can keep waiting.
Did Phil “The Thrill” give us a great ride at the U.S. Open or what? The difficult aspect of a Mickelson pick is the consistency component. It’s simply not there, but what you get with Phil is good theater. I’ve never liked him in the British Open, and except for his final round charge at Royal St. George’s in 2011, he’s been a major underachiever. This week the roller coaster is heading downhill so keep your billfold in your pocket and Lefty off your board at 25/1.
U.S. Open champion, Justin Rose is suffering from burnout. Even though I loved the way he finally conquered the unreasonably high expectations he’s dealt with since his miracle British Open finish in 1998, he’s a poor play at 18/1. At Merion, he didn’t get too excited as he made clutch shot after clutch shot and stuck to his tunnel vision game plan, but the withdraw from the AT&T is a red flag. I’m hoping he can relax and just play golf but it’s asking too much.
I see much of the same positive mental approach in Mr. Overdue, Jason Day. The Aussie peaks his game for the majors, a bit like Angel Cabrera, but with more talent and less results. One of these days Day is going to break through and I like him here at 33/1.
Rory McIlroy can’t handle the pressure of a home game for some reason and lately, he can’t handle any pressure. He was in poor form at the Irish Open and missed the cut, and his club destroying tantrum in the U.S. Open was an embarrassment. Let’s face it, the lad doesn’t handle adversity very well. Got to keep your cool out there and I’m very cool on him this week.
My favorite play here is a Sunday three-ball bet on Ernie Els, especially if he’s in a group with other big name players. You will get a good price as people continue to underestimate him because of his age. He’s in good form after winning the BMW International Open and is simply made for the pressure on the final day of this tournament. He won it last year, and did as well in 2002 at the same venue, and is a superb pick at 25/1 to win straight up.
Dark horse play: Padraig Harrington. 40/1 is a good price for Paddy and a top-10 finish is in the offering. He hasn’t done much as of late, but finished 5th in the 2002 British Open at Muirfield and is a good horses for courses play.
Your 2013 British Open picks:
Champion Golfer of The Year:Ernie Els in a repeat
Runner Up: Jason Day starting to look like Mickelson with the runner up finishes.
Third: Adam Scott gets back on track but not all the way.
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