The PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits this week after a six year absence. As someone that will be in attendance for Friday's round, all I have to say is, "YEAHHHHHH!!!!!" Now that I got that out of the way, I can say that I am decidedly less excited about the play of Tiger Woods coming into the PGA. He nearly missed the cut at Whistling Straits in 2004, and is playing arguably the worst golf of his career at this point. Things do not bode well for Tiger, but anything can happen at the PGA. So grab a beer, a brat, and some fried cheese curds and let's have a look at the upcoming tournament in good old Kohler, Wisconsin.
The best way I can describe the Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin (about an hour North of Milwaukee) course is as a British Open course on steroids. At over 7,500 yards, Whistling Straits is the second longest course to host a major. That in itself should be enough of a test for golfers, but Whistling Straits goes above and beyond the normal challenge for a PGA tour player. The course also features over 1,200 bunkers, tall fescue everywhere, elevation changes, and wind whipping off of Lake Michigan. If Pebble Beach met Royal Troon, had a kid, and gave the kid HGH for breakfast everyday, the kid would grow up to be Whistling Straits.
With bunkers and tall grass everywhere, accuracy is obviously going to be a key at Whistling Straits. However, at over 7,500 yards distance off the tee is also a necessity. The best part about the combination of these two challenges is that Whistling often forces players to attack the green with a precision shot. Laying up is often not an option and players have to hit the ball just right while also accurately judging the wind. Its gonna be sweet. Let's now take a look at which golfers might be best equipped to do this.
Hunter Mahan- Hunter won last week at the Bridgestone, and is tops in total driving on the PGA Tour. He has never played Whistling Straits before, but has the chops to win it.
Rory McIlroy- Rory can spank the ball off the tee, and is very proficient in hitting long irons onto the green with accuracy. Forged by British Open style courses and wind, Rory could be just the guy to take home his first major at the PGA. Plus, he parties with CHICKS.
Steve Stricker- Stricker will no doubt be a hometown favorite, making his residence in nearby Madison. He played well at the Bridgestone last week, and if anyone is going to fair well having to scramble out of all those bunkers, it is "Strick Daddy". And like that, we have a new nickname.
Rickie Fowler- Rickie is a solid driver of the ball, can hit greens, and can drain long putts. He has played well in his last two tournaments, and can compete with anybody.
Phil Mickelson- I only mention him because I heard he recently became a vegetarian. I wonder why.
Ernie Els- Ernie finished fourth at Whistling Straits in 2004, and has a good combination of accuracy and distance.
Dustin Johnson- Can DJ exercise his demons from Pebble Beach and win his first major? Maybe. He's got the distance off the tee, and this course suits his game pretty well.
Long John- Daly missed the cut here back in his booze swilling days, but as we saw at St. Andrews he can still play an Open style course. Hopefully we can spot him somewhere in downtown Madison on Thursday night.
Louis Oosthuizen Shot in the Dark: Sonny Skinner- Skinner is a golf pro from Albany, Georgia who has never really done anything in professional golf ever. He will soon find out he has two huge fans he never knew about though. Let's go Skinny Boy!!!
This is going to be one of the best experiences of my life. Should you choose to watch the PGA Championship on Friday (TNT 1pm-8pm) be sure to look and listen for anything unusual. It will probably be me and Trey. And until that day comes, keep your ear to the grindstone.