No one comes close to handicapping and breaking down a golf tournament beforehand like Sal Johnson. Some of Sal’s “secerets” on the eve of this 90th PGA Championship:
- [It’s] important to see who is the best total driver of the ball going into the week and then checking to see who hits the most greens. Since the greens are small they will also be tough to not only hit but hold. Sharp iron play will also help along with the imagination when you do get in trouble.
- Scrambling will be at a premium , look for good chippers like Phil Mickelson or a Sergio Garcia to have a great advantage here.
- Putting is always a key in winning but this year with greens that are a bit smaller than average the longest putt will be from 40 feet, thus giving players more chances to make putts.
- There is also the unknown factor in which the course could yield low scores to an unknown player. In 13 of the last 20 PGAs, the winner has claimed his first major in the PGA Championship so this could be a good omen for a Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose or Luke Donald.
- So what will it take to win? It’s very interesting to see who has won at Oakland Hills in the last 57 years. Ben Hogan, Gene Littler, Andy North and Steve Jones have won Opens there, Gary Player and David Graham have won PGA Championships plus Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have won Senior Opens. So what do all of these players have in common? All of them were great players in their era, didn’t hit the ball long distances but had precision working the ball into the fairway and hitting lots of greens. This is a course in which experience and smarts is what it takes to win. If a player can also putt well, he will be the champion. So you can see why a Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk or Vijay Singh will be the favorites.
Sal likes Mickelson, Westwood and Appleby, in that order.
And speaking of Sergio, how about this story from Paul Mahoney, reporting that Faldo has warned Sergio that he’s no sure thing for this fall’s Ryder Cup? This is precisely the kind of thing that could light the requisite fire under the still relatively young Spaniard. That said, given Sergio’s Ryder Cup track record, how much of Faldo’s gruff was just a bluff?