Day, McIlroy and Mickelson in feature early grouping
SPRINGFIELD, NJ. The 98th PGA Championship, the final major golf event for 2016, is officially underway and among the more interesting pairings in the morning wave features defending champion and world number one Jason Day. He’s paired with former world number one and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and joining them is five-time major champion and the man who last won at Baltusrol in the ’05 PGA Championship Phil Mickelson.
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the PGA of America is being played once again on the storied grounds of Baltusrol Golf Club with the Lower Course being the course where all the golf action will take place. The Lower plays as a par-70 and is just under 7,500 total yards in length. The most interesting dimension will be the fascinating ending — two par-5’s in succession conclude the round and it’s more than likely that major swings in position will take place before the famed Wannamaker Trophy is ultimately presented to the champion.
The major storylines for the event provides for a wide array of subplots that will unfold as the event proceeds. Among the main items of interest.
Now ranked as the #2 golfer in the world — DJ has the opportunity to grab the top spot with a win and less than stellar finish by Jason Day. Johnson broke through the majors win column with a solid US Open win this past June at Oakmont. He then backed that up with a win in his next start at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational
at Firestone. At The Open at Troon Johnson was a mere footnote — although finishing in the top ten. His tied for 2nd place in last week’s Canadian Open shows a high consistency with his play. Baltusrol Lower is a course that demands solid driving and that is clearly within Johnson’s wheelhouse. Winning a second major in a year would in all likelihood assure him of beingnamed Player-of-the-Year.
After a sensational Plauer-of-the-Year campaign in 2015 — Spieth has played well with two tour wins in ’16 but his famed moment in the sun this year comes from the final round meltdown at The Masters this past April. Most players woiuld clearly enjoy what Jordan has accomplished this year but the bar for him is clearly higher. Winning the PGA Championship would take a good year and make it into a top tier one. Claiming the PGA would give him three majors and leave him only short of The Open Championship in terms of a career Grand Slam — something only five other players have ever turn in the history of the game.
The world’s number four player is looking to reclaim his top spot in the world rankings and there is no better way in doing that then winning his 3rd PGA Championship. The four-time major winner missed the cut at the US Open earlier this year and while he too grabbed a top ten placement at The Open Championship he was never a factor at Royal Troon. The PGA Championship has been a wonderful event for the Northern Irishman and Baltusrol Lower with its deep flanking rough and overall length could play very well with Rory’s incredible driving of the ball. The issue for him? Getting off to a good start and being able to have a solid week with the putter.
The world’s top ranked player made statement at the end of the ’15 season he was ready to separate himself from all others. The defending PGA Champion has carried on superbly in the ’16 season adding several wins — most notably The Players Championship this past May. The majors have been a missing element for Day thus far. Last year at Whistling Straits Day showed a brilliance beyond all others – matching long and straight driving with a vintage putting week. A win at Baltusrol reinforces the fact that despite what all others have done the Aussie still commands the top floor of the penthouse.
After nearly winning The Open Championship just two weeks ago, Mickelson returns to a site where he claimed his second major championship in ’05 — the PGA. Lefty has defied the odds in many ways and the 46-year-old would thoroughly enjoy breaking his winless drought which stretches back to the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. Among the players with at least 40 career rounds at the PGA Championship, Mickelson is one of only three players — Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker — to shoot par or better at least 60 percent of the time. Which Phil will show up at Baltusrol? With Mickelson one can never tell with any certainty but the fans of the NY/NJ metro area will clearly be behind him in a big time way.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?