Outside Raleigh

PGA Championship Preview

“Glory’s Last Shot” heads down I-85 to that city we can’t stand. Despite its location, Quail Hollow is an awesome track that is usually home to the Wells Fargo Championship. This year, it got bumped up to the big leagues and will host its first ever major, while the Wells Fargo moved down to Eagle Point in Wilmington.

Unlike the usual bitching associated with a US Open venue, reviews from the players so far have been positive. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson called the fairways and greens “perfect.” The PGA of America has made some pretty significant changes to the course, too. It’s so great, even Justin Bieber showed up for a practice round.

Here’s who I like and who I don’t for this week.

Contenders

Editor’s Note: I’m really going out on a limb with these contenders. That’s why you pay us the big bucks for your subscription.

Rory McIlroy – Yeah, I dumped all over Rory before Birkdale, but he played a lot better there. He’s the heavy favorite this week and I’m not going to disagree. He’s won twice at Quail Hollow before and lost in a playoff to Rickie Fowler in 2012. He likes this course. And new caddie Harry Diamond seems to have been a seamless switch from JP Fitzgerald. If there’s any course tailor made for Rory’s 5th major, this is it.

Jordan Spieth – Jordan’s win at The Open should have been a major shot in the arm for his confidence. Just when it looked like things were headed towards an Augusta-esque meltdown, he pulled it back from the abyss and went on one of the most unbelievable runs over five holes that I’ve ever seen. Now he’s staring down the opportunity to be the 6th person — and youngest ever — to win golf’s modern grand slam. That would be a seismic, needless to say historic, accomplishment. He’ll will his way into contention.

Charley Hoffman – This guy seems like he’s hanging around the first page of the leaderboard every week. He’s yet to win this year, but is playing well. The PGA Championship has produced a long list of one-hit wonders — Bob Tway, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, David Toms, etc, etc, etc — and Hoffman fits the bill. I expect him to hang around, as usual.

Pretenders

Bubba Watson – Full disclosure, I hate Bubba Watson. I think he’s a petulant child. No one enjoyed his rise and collapse at The Open than me. Here’s hoping his game is still a wreck this week so we can hear him throw his caddie, the course, his clubs, the weather, and the fans under the bus in his post-round press conference after he misses the cut.

Zach Johnson – I don’t like Zach Johnson either. It’s not pathological like with Bubba, but something about him rubs me the wrong way. He’s getting a lot of hype after a solid 2nd at the WGC-Bridgestone last week, but I don’t think he’ll be in the mix in Charlotte. I’m still annoyed he won that 2015 Open.

Sergio Garcia – I don’t think the Masters champ will be in the running in this one either. He’s still a headcase and really hasn’t done anything special since winning the green jacket (best finish is a T12 at the Dean & Deluca). I predict top 20 or 30 without really contending.

Sleepers

Xander Schauffele – I’m sticking with one of my Open sleepers. This kid is legit. He played pretty well at Birkdale — T20 — after a T5 at Erin Hills. Pretty solid for your first two major starts. He hits the ball a long way and I expect another solid showing.

Daniel Berger – Berger is 9th in the FedEx Cup standings and has a win plus six top 10s this season. He hasn’t done anything spectacular in the majors, but certainly has the talent to be in the mix.

Webb Simpson – I’m taking the Raleigh native and 2012 US Open champion. He lives in Charlotte and apparently is a member at Quail Hollow. Good enough for me, even though he hasn’t won since 2013.

Give Him the Wannamaker!

Hideki Matsuyama – This guy is incredible and is going to win a major, damn it! There’s no better week, either. He’s red hot, coming off an unbelievable final-round 61 to win at Firestone. This is it. Bank it!

Photo Credit Quail Hollow