The 2009 PGA Championship

By Aaron M Smith

hazeltine Some may call it the black sheep of the majors.  Some even forget that it is  a major. But starting Thursday, August 13th, the fourth and final major of the 2009 season gets under way – the PGA Championship. This year, the PGA Championship is being hosted by Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

Hazeltine Golf Club was constructed in 1962 by Robert Trent Jones and will be playing out at approxiametly 7,674 yards, Par 72.  This is the 7th major hosted by the golf course, including the 2002 PGA Championship. It is safe to say that the people of Chaska, Minnesota know what championship golf looks like. The 2002 PGA Championship was won by Rich Beem and it should be noted that in 2002,  4  of the holes on the course were listed among the 50 most difficult holes in the United States.  The addition of fairway bunkers throughout the course since the last major, should only help to increase  the difficulty and headaches for the players.

For those watching this weekend, there are 2 holes to pay particular attention to as they may prove to be pivotal in determining the winner of this year’s 2009 championship:

Hole #7 – A Par 5 hole, that was viewed by many in 2002 as a scoring hole – a chance to make up some ground on the leaderboard. The hole playing out 572 yards was reachable for most golfers in two shots, but new fairway bunkers may force golfers to think twice about their strategy on the hole. In 2002, the hole produced 11 eagles and 148 birdies. Don’t be surprised if golfers use this hole come Sunday to make a late push up the leaderboard.

Hole #16 –  is a difficult Par 4, playing out a 402 yards. Johnny Miller was once quoted as saying that it was “the hardest par 4 I have ever played.”  The hole is surrounded by water and leads to an narrow and elevated green. In 2002, the hole produced 114  bogeys, 51 double bogeys, 48 birdies and 6 “others.”  Needless to say it is not a scoring hole and who ever is leading come Sunday afternoon will surely be holding his breath through the entire hole.

48516295 The PGA has also decided to take advantage of this past weekend’s drama, as they have paired Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington (PGA Defending Champion) together for Thursday’s  and Friday’s opening rounds. Expect large crowds to follow this group and with Harrington showing growing confidence in his swing changes – expect the Irishman to be near the top come Sunday afternoon.

tiger_woods_00_pga Tiger Woods enters this weekend as the odds on favorite – a role Woods usually finds himself  in just about every tournament he enters. But back to back tournament victories has seen Woods playing at a very high level. Still it will be interesting to see if he can avoid some of the mistakes and bad putting he has shown in the earlier 2009 majors.  Furthermore it will be interesting to see if Tiger can push aside the controversy from last week’s ending at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods has found himself in the spotlight (more so then usual) after his criticism of a ruling judge during Sunday’s final round. Count on seeing Tiger near the top come Sunday afternoon.

Stewart Cink, the defending 2009 British Open Champion, will be paired with 2009 Masters Champion, Angel Cabrera, and 2009 U.S. Open Champion, Lucas Glover.  The pairing of the current year’s champions in the opening rounds, has been a tradition for the PGA Championship. Cink has continued to play very good golf since his first major and I expect him to be in the mix throughout the tournament.

As for predicting a winner of the 2009 PGA Championship – this writer has learned his lesson – don’t even try. But given that 2009 has already produced 2 unlikely winners in Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink , I am counting on an unlikely name contending for the championship come Sunday.


10 Responses to "The 2009 PGA Championship"

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  3. Crossword Pete   August 12, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Last weekend’s drama and this Thursday’s pairing led golf channel to say “Tiger Woods may finally have a rivalry.” a) that’s a bit premature; b) and what is Lefty, or even Els to some degree? Great piece Aaron. Gives me a bit more guidance as I tune into some of the play this weekend. Good comment re: “the black sheep”, but I expect the winner to be the biggest name of all. No surprises in Chaska this time.

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  5. Smitty   August 12, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Pete – I agree with you on the rivalry comment. In the past, I think the game of golf could have rivalries – i.e. Jack Nicklaus and Arnie, But with today’s equipment and the game of golf growing so rapidly throughout the world – I think it is almost impossible for a rivalry between only two players to exist. I agree that Tiger is the best in the world, but who can determine when a rivalry starts? No offense to Harrington, but he has struggled all year, seems to be hitting his stride this past weekend and suddenly it is a rivalry?

    Each week different players step up and make a run at winning the tournament. For me that is the beauty of golf – it takes 4 rounds of great golf to win a tournament. Doesn’t matter what you did a month ago or last week. From that Thursday through Sunday, you could be the best in the PGA.

    But so many guys have the ability to step up and get hot for a couple of weeks: Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Anthony Kim, Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Mike Weir and the names just go on. One of these guys could go head to head with Tiger and then suddenly they are the next great rivalry?

    No. Tiger is in a class by himself. We need to stop searching for his equal.

  6. Crossword Pete   August 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Well stated with a lot more knowledge displayed than my toss-it-out-there random opinion.

  7. JD   August 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Almost 7,700 yards – quite a challenge. I heard a comment from Beem on how the course was made more difficult. He said something like, “They stood on each tee, turned around and kept walking and then made a new tee box”. The unfortunate thing about these incredibly long courses is that it makes it much more difficult for the short ball hitters to compete – not impossible but definitely tougher. There should be a way to make it tougher that includes both length and course management(bunkers, rough, water, etc.)
    Tiger seems to have changed his tune a little with his comments on what constitutes a great year. He has said in the past that it was not a great year for him unless he won a major. This week he said that it would be a great year whether he wins this week or not. Hmmm…. is the greatest golfer of all time lowering the bar?

  8. Casey   August 12, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Lowering the bar? Ouch!

    Has Tiger been infected?

  9. Wally   August 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    David Toms is not a long hitter but VERY accurate. He’s in the hunt after round 1. If you’re off the fairway on this course, the rough is pretty thick.
    Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson seems to be missing just about every fairway.

    Today we saw why John Daley is … well … John Daley. He eagles a hole on the back nine to get back to 2 over par, but then his lack of discipline shows it’s ugly head as he misses 3 kick-in putts out of frustration and gives it all back and then some. Lots of ability but a two cent head. At least he’s dropped about 30 lbs … looks like he’s serious about getting good again. (I could afford to drop a few pounds myself … I should see what his secret is).

  10. Crossword Pete   August 16, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I guess Paddy Harrington lost his status as Tiger’s “rival” already. However, how about the “new rival”! YE Yang has the title, at least for this week.

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