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Sunday, August 4, 2013

PGA Championship - Preview

The PGA Championship is here and, as the cliche goes, this is Glory's Last Shot. In many ways, this his been a strong season of majors. Adam Scott and Justin Rose each entered the year among the best to have never won a major, then shed the title. Phil Mickelson got the third leg of the grand slam off his back and hoisted the Claret Jug.

While the PGA Championship has produced its fair share of flukes over the years, nothing about the way 2013 has played out suggests that will be the case this week.Our system of narrowing the field by traditional and objective looks at past history has served to eliminate a bunch of guys that didn't win, while still leaving in play the champions this year, and we'll do it again this week.

I looked back at every PGA Champion since 2000 (Tiger Woods), and several things stood out.

  • Eleven of the 13 winners of the Wanamaker Trophy won on the PGA TOUR prior to the PGA that year. The two exceptions were Martin Kaymer, who played mainly in Europe that season, and Shaun Micheel. Micheel stands as the biggest fluke of the group of 13 winners, nudging out Rich Beem. What I found very interesting was that Micheel and Kaymer each had their best finish of the year prior to that tournament at Doral.
  • Five of the 13 had three or more wins on TOUR before their win. That suggests good things for multiple winners like Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker. Maybe G-Mac too?
  • Eleven of the 13 had a top 10 in one of their three starts prior to the PGA. The exceptions were Keegan Bradley (two top 25s) and David Toms. 
  • Seven of the 13 had a top 10 in a major earlier that year. Included in that was Martin Kaymer with two, who was one of the two without a win. Perhaps this is a good barometer for guys who aren't PGA TOUR members.
  • Rich Beem won in his final start just before his win. What's ironic is that it was in an event using the Modified Stableford scoring system. The lesson is to not write off the winner in Reno this week.
I will point out that the last winner at Oak Hill was Shaun Micheel, which is a little bit scary given his fluke status.

Ultimately, a player has to be clicking on at least two of three main categories. If he hasn't won, his form better be excellent and his play in majors very good, and so on. 

As for Oak Hill, it will play as a par 70, featuring just two par 5s and tapping out at 7,163 yards. The first of the two par 5s is a birdie hole, but the second is touted as having never been reached in two. I would also expect par 3 play to be critical.

One final thought, it's commonly thought that the PGA Championship sets up to offer a very fair test of golf. It is also fairly common to see a fairly low winning score, especially relative to the other majors. Because of this, form seems to come into play more than luck. When in doubt, go with form.

We'll be back tomorrow with a power ranking. Until then, best of luck and happy research!

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