Tomorrow, the first major championship golf shots since July 2019 will be struck. There will be no fans and scarce media, but still a stern test and a stacked field. I overheard Paul Casey chatting with Scott Van Pelt on Monday, and he said something to the effect of (I'm paraphrasing a bit), "I hear people talking about there being an asterisk on this week… but to us, it's the exact same; we're playing a major course against a major field." I think that about sums it up.
I just came in from 3 days walking the course and the following are my random, not-that-well-thought-out, knee-jerk thoughts on this week's PGA Championship.
1. Tiger Woods is focused & interested. I know that may seem obvious but it isn't. He said himself that after last year's Masters win, things were a whirlwind. White House visits and celebrations took precedent over comprehensive preparation.
That does not seem to be the case this year. The journos around the media center continuously point out how "Tiger is REALLY grinding this week." We love to hear that.
Tiger did win here in 2005 and went 5-0-0 here in the 2009 Presidents Cup. And he's looked pretty damn good thus far.
2. The weather is a story. Simply put, it's chilly, foggy, windy, and the air is "heavy." You'll hear a lot of that. It means the ball doesn't go anywhere and it makes Harding Park's 7,200 yards play closer to 8,000. Seriously. Guys are hinting at a 10% add-on due to the conditions.
Here's Kiz with 252 pin, 230 front out of the thick rough left of the 515-yard par-4 9th hole.
And the wind coming off Lake Merced is no joke. It will affect play dramatically.
3. The rough is "spotty." Heard that term a lot this week. "Spotty." You're not guaranteed to be fucked if you're in the rough, but you definitely could be. You also could get lucky and be fine. It's hit or miss.
Here, again, is Kiz demonstrating. This time from some green side rough right of the 12th green.
Judging it right will be key, as will be getting lucky a few times.
4. Good golf shoes are waterproof.
Quick lesson for all you kids at home out there. When you're traversing golf course terrain, your feet will be best served in golf shoes. They'll remain dry and give you strong traction as you navigate the hilly, wet grounds of a major championship golf course.
5. The favorites. Are favorites for a reason this week. While I love Kiz, and while I enjoyed seeing him shoot a 4-under 66 with 5 birdies on Tuesday, this place will reward the best players. That is to say, the guys who hit it long and straight: JT, Brooks, Rory, Rahm, Bryson. I mean, we are coming off a Sunday where JT & Brooks were battling it out down the stretch.
I also could see Xander (7th in strokes gained: off the tee) and Morikawa (17th in strokes gained: off the tee) having strong weeks. There are a lot of cross winds out there to make it even tougher. Hitting fairways is huge.
6. The Putter. Tiger will be making a game time decision on putting a new Scotty in play this week.
7. Picture. This is a great photo.
8. TPC Harding Park. This place is cool because it's special to the public. Much like Bethpage or Torrey Pines, it's the local "people's course."
I always love when majors come to a place like this. It means the world to the golfers who play here week in and week out. It provides them forever the opportunity to say "this is where Tiger holed it from" or "this is how far back Kiz's tee shot left him." And that's really cool.
9. COVID. Professional golf continues to do pretty damn well in its handling of COVID-19 while continuing play. Bravo.
Kudos, too, to the players being smart.
10. Viewing. There's a ton of coverage across ESPN and CBS this week. Here are your featured groups, with Tiger, Rory, and JT going off at 11:33am EST Thursday and 4:58pm EST on Friday.
11. Prime Time! That's right. Prime time major championship golf is back. On the east coast, you'll be watching golf until 10 or 11pm.
12. Greatest. This is one of the greatest quotes I've ever seen.
That's all I got for now. Time to record a podcast. Let's have a great week of major championship golf. Here are a bunch of photos to whet your appetite.