US PGA Championship – Baltusrol Golf Club, New Jersey
Baltusrol Golf Club is a track we have not seen host a major championship since 2005, but this week it will be the venue of the US PGA Championship for the second time, as well as four US Open titles.
The 7,428-yard par 70 is sure to present some challenges for the field, but as is the case with the PGA, there will be opportunities for players to showcase their sublime skills.
The opening nine presents players with a difficult start, as a handful of brutal par fours and lengthy par threes force golfers to sit up and pay attention from the outset. The only real birdie chances on the outward nine come at two and eight, but both require pinpoint accuracy off the tee and with approach shots.
The course eases off into the clubhouse, with the only two par fives appearing at 17 and 18. But be warned – the 649-yard 17th is no walk in the park.
World number one and defending PGA champion Jason Day headlines the field alongside Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson and US Open champion Dustin Johnson. Masters winner Danny Willett is also in the field, but his form has slumped slightly since his come-from-behind Augusta triumph.
Major championship excitement machine and fan-favourite Phil Mickelson will hope to go one better than his bridesmaid finish at Troon a fortnight ago, while young American Rickie Fowler will be searching for his maiden major title.
Last year’s tournament at Whistling Straits saw Day break the major championship scoring record, firing 20-under to record a three-stroke victory. He will be chasing back-to-back titles this week.
Jason Day’s form of late has been solid without being spectacular, but he will need to conjure something special to upstage the in-form players in the game as it stands.
American Jordan Spieth’s form in majors this season since the midway point of the Masters has been forgettable, and he will need to get past some mental barriers this week to contend.
The likes of Stenson, Johnson and Mickelson should all be there or thereabouts, while Brandt Snedeker discovered some form at last week’s Canadian Open. Perhaps he can carry that to Baltrusol this week.
Mickelson was the winner the last time the PGA was at Baltusol, so combining his strong current form with some positive memories from 2005 could be a recipe for a very fruitful week for the evergreen American veteran.
Brooks Koepka was in some impressive form in the lead-up to The Open Championship but decided to skip the penultimate major to allow a niggling injury to heal. The long par fours this week might not be much of a problem for the big-hitting American, so expect him to have a decent performance if his body will allow it.
Stats That Matter
Twenty-under was the mark at the PGA last year and again at The Open Championship two weeks ago, but at Baltrusol’s last PGA outing in 2005, Phil Mickelson needed just four-under to take the win. Will the track hold up against a potential birdie barrage or will it make the players work hard to beat par?
Tournament By Country
Top USA: Dustin Johnson $5
Top Australian: Aaron Baddeley $19
Top Asian: Hideki Matsuyama $3.50
Top Continental European: Sergio Garcia $4.50
Top Englishman: Lee Westwood $6
Top South African: Branden Grace $3.25
Top Rest of the World: Danny Lee $4
72 Hole Match-ups
Round 1 – 3 Balls
Aaron Baddeley v Kevin Eisner v Emiliano Grillo: Baddeley ($3.15)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello v Justin Thomas v Paul Casey: Casey ($3.00)
Danny Willett v Dustin Johnson v Henrik Stenson: Stenson ($2.62)
Sergio Garcia v Jordan Spieth v Bubba Watson: Watson ($3.20)
Phil Mickelson v Rory McIlroy v Jason Day: Day ($2.60)