If the Bridgestone Invitational is a tune up to the season’s final major then the field might as well go home. Tiger Woods is in complete control off of his seven shot victory at the Bridgestone Invitational. Luckily for the players each event is unique with its own challenges and what happens on Sunday does not necessarily equal what will happen on the next Thursday. With that thought in mind the time is upon us for the final major of the 2013 PGA Tour season, The PGA Championship, where Rory McIlroy will be defending his title.
This year the PGA Championship will be at Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course in Rochester New York. This will be the third time that Oak Hill has hosted the PGA Championship with the other two events being held in 2003 and 1980. The 2003 edition, won my Shaun Micheel, and the inaugural edition in 1980, won by Jack Nicklaus, both made my list of Top-10 PGA Championship performances.
Oak Hill will play every bit as long, if not longer, than the 7,163 yards the scorecard reports. Oak Hill will be a Par 70 for the PGA Championship and the East Course is set up to provide drama. There are a few holes that every player in the filed should play close attention to throughout the week starting at number one where they can set the tone for their rounds.
The Par 4 460 yard opening hole at Oak Hill will force players to come out ready to play. If players can carry the ball 260-270 yards they can catch a downslope allowing the ball to roll another 20-30 yards setting up a mid or short iron into the green. However if they are off line off the tee they can catch the trees to the right or go out of bounds to the right. A well-positioned tee shot could allow players to start off the round with a birdie. A poor tee shot can easily be a double-bogey.
The Par 3 214 yard third hole is a challenging first Par 3 of the round. It is not the longest Par 3 but at 214 yards it is no cakewalk either. Expect many players to hit mid to long irons into a small green surrounded by very deep bunkers. Long and right of this green is no man’s land and players will have almost no chance of saving par from that position.
The Par 3 181 yard 15th hole will only require players to hit a mid iron into the green but that should not be taken lightly. The green on this Par 3 is very narrow and is protected on the left side by two challenging bunkers. Another concern is the prevailing wind which will blow shots from left to right near the water hazard. Of players go long here, much like the third hole, it will be a challenge to get the ball up and down. Bogey is a real possibility here especially with many challenge hole locations.
The Par 4 509 yard 17th hole demands a left-to-right tee shot well paying attention to not drive it through the fairway down the left. the left side of the fairway is protected by challenging trees and heavy rough. Players should plan to pitch out if they miss it there. Long irons will be the clubs of choice on the 17th into an undulating green protected by bunkers on either side of the putting surface. The lower trajectory coupled with the undulations mean many approach shots will go through this green. Expect more bogeys and double-bogeys than birdies at 17 this week.
The Par 4 497 yard finishing hole is no cake walk for any player hoping for victory in the season’s final major. Another challenging left-to-right tee shot awaits the players while a myriad of problems await. If a player misses the fairway to the left they will be challenged by rolling hills down a closely woven tree line. If they miss to the right there are two large, deep bunkers awaiting an errant golf ball. The green is not receptive to a short shot, elevation will not allow a ball up to the putting surface. The 18th green is wide but not deep forcing players to hit mid to long irons with a great deal of accuracy. A two shot swing at the finisher should not be ruled out under any circumstances
Who really has a chance to win the 2013 PGA Championship? Predictions and contenders will abound across the wire leading up to tee shots on Thursday morning. Will a young player break through at Oak Hill ala Shaun Micheel in 2003? Will a veteran win another major like a hot Phil Mickelson? Will Tiger Woods continue his hot play right into the East Course this week? Will a player win their first major after many years of failure or heartbreak? With the strong fields that a major presents it is hard to predict a winner. But figuring out some of the top contenders is within the realm of the possible. Let’s take a look at who I believe will ultimately be victorious at the 2013 PGA Championship along with four logical contenders for the win.
Up Next: The Contenders and The Pick