89th PGA Championship Preview

89th PGA Championship Preview

89th PGA Championship Preview
August 6th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The last time Tiger Woods failed to win a major in one season was 2004. Sure, it's only three years ago, but since his historic Masters win in 1997, there have only been three seasons without a major for Woods.

We will be looking at another majorless campaign if Woods does not win the 89th PGA Championship, starting Thursday at Southern Hills.

He certainly seems poised for a good week. Amidst the final-round grouping hoopla surrounding Woods and Rory Sabbatini Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods dominated. Maybe not dominated, but he humiliated not just Sabbatini, but the whole field and Firestone Country Club.

You get the feeling we could be in store for that this week. Aside from his outrageous performance at the WGC event, Woods is a firm believer in history. Majors are what drive the cart and the wagon has been somewhat derailed in the first three majors of '07.

Woods has held a share of the lead on Sunday at both the Masters and U.S. Open. We've become accustomed to Woods running away with it when he has the lead, but so far, 2007 has been a wash.

That gnaws at the greatest player in the game. Woods' pursuit of history (Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors) drives him to greatness, but Southern Hills may not be the best track for him.

Woods, who tied for 12th at Southern Hills during the 2001 U.S. Open, has one hole in his game and that is wayward tee shots. Southern Hills is full of twists and turns, so length will not be necessary for victory.

Not that the design eliminates Woods. There is not an architect out there that has sculpted a course at which Woods could not win. Southern Hills is no different, but the names you are looking for are average-length hitters with sharp iron play and patience.

Masters champion Zach Johnson fits that mold. As does British Open winner Padraig Harrington, but don't sleep on names like Scott Verplank, Luke Donald or Justin Leonard.

Nor should you forget about Angel Cabrera, the U.S. Open champion. Southern Hills hosted the USGA flagship just six years prior, so what's to say he couldn't contend on a similar track to Oakmont? How about the fact that Cabrera tied for seventh in 2001? Starting to look like he could be a perennial on this list.

Retief Goosen won the U.S. Open here six years ago, so obviously the South African would be a favorite. However he is mired in a horrific slump this year which has seen one top 10 on the PGA Tour.

Jim Furyk would be an ideal choice, but a back injury forced him to withdraw from Firestone. If he's healthy, and simply caught one of those "one-week" back injuries, he could compete.

Phil Mickelson has missed the cut in the last two majors and did not play well at the Bridgestone. Is his wrist 100 percent? Can he handle the conditions, which should rival the inner crust of the Earth's core?

Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and any other big-name guy could win here, but the PGA Championship has favored more of the run-of-the-mill player than has any other major championship.

How many had Shaun Micheel or Rich Beem in their office pool? Even further back in tournament history, names like Bob Tway, Jeff Sluman and Wayne Grady are etched on the Wanamaker Trophy.

Who could be that player this year? Joe Durant, Rod Pampling and Hunter Mahan all make a lot of sense. Lucas Glover is trying to hold onto that final automatic Presidents Cup spot. (Both teams are finalized after Sunday's final round.)

No matter what team you are trying to get on, or how many points you can accumulate for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, you have to get past Eldrick Woods.

Trying to get that last major of the year, Woods will be focused, and clearly his game is in shape. It gets boring picking him, but after an eight-shot win at a difficult course, wouldn't you?

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

Woods' toughest rival at PGA could be himself
August 6, 2007

After just four holes, there was no longer any question who would win, only by how many.

One, at the end of a soggy test of survival?

Five, in a runaway?

More?

For anybody who didn't take Tiger Woods and the over Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational, well, there's still next weekend.

The PGA Championship begins Thursday at Southern Hills, one of those 1930s-era Midwestern classics that, like Firestone, Woods absolutely loves. And he likes it even more, no doubt, after dropping by for a practice round last week and finding out that the two greens he complained about in June have already been rebuilt. It's also the year's final major, one of the four championships Woods needs to win for his season - he already has four tour wins and the top spot on the money list - to be considered a success.

Woods is never better than when he has a score to settle, and his beef at Bridgestone was with one of his two playing partners, Rory Sabbatini. In a statement that's as close as golfers get to woofing, Sabbatini lost a one-stroke lead to Woods in the final round of the Wachovia Championship in early May and said a few days later, ``the funny thing is after watching him play on Sunday, I think he's more beatable than ever.''

Which is to say not very. Spotting Sabbatini the same one-shot deficit he had at Wachovia, Woods proceeded to play Firestone the way he always does. He grabbed the lead at No. 4 with his third birdie of the day, widened it to six strokes by the turn after chipping in at No. 9, and won by eight - the only player under par for the tournament - thanks to a 5-under 65.

Woods won for the sixth time - his second three-peat in Akron - and afterward, the closest he came to acknowledging Sabbatini's remarks got under his skin was to say, ``Well, the whole idea is just - everyone knows how Rory is, and I just go out there and just let my clubs do the talking.''

Woods unnerves rivals like Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong, the athletes with whom he's most often compared, did. But Jordan and Armstrong often made it personal, making examples out of people who challenged their dominance. Unlike basketball and cycling, though, golf is rarely a team sport. Woods has no one to back him up when he's having an off day, or an entire tournament for that matter, and no way to slow down an opponent who gets hot.

One or both of those factors figured prominently in the first three majors of 2007. Despite hanging close to the lead and even holding it briefly during the final round, Woods never put enough heat on Zach Johnson or Angel Cabrera to force them out of their comfort zones at the Masters or U.S. Open, respectively. Neither did anyone else. At the British Open, he never got close enough to Sergio Garcia or eventual winner Padraig Harrington to take advantage when both briefly faltered.

The difference between Woods and everyone else is that when motivated, he doesn't need any help. Once he got dialed in at Firestone, it became less about punishing Sabbatini than reminding him and the rest of the field of that. On the back nine, without no one threatening and Woods playing strictly for pars, he seemed to amuse himself by picking out the safest landing spots on the greens but adding a degree of difficulty by spinning the ball back, or to the left or right depending on the breaks, to get there.

CBS analyst Nick Faldo, himself a six-time major winner, became so impressed with those course management skills at one point that he began mapping out the shots and calling them for Woods before he hit them. Soon after, David Feherty, another former player handling the on-course reporting, wondered out loud whether a moment of silence wasn't appropriate for the rest of the field: ``Maybe they ought to get together and just say, 'Uncle.'

The cool thing is that like Sabbatini, the rest of Woods' opponents won't be bullied at the PGA Championship, at least not until Woods demonstrates it's going to be one of those tournaments where the only person who can beat him is himself. Johnson and Cabrera took a different tack in crunch time than most of Woods' past rivals have, avoiding risks and shifting the burden to Woods to see if he could conjure up his familiar magic in the majors.

It's not the most heroic route. But if anybody is still within striking distance of Woods when next Sunday rolls around, he'd be wise to follow it.

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

Tiger Woods Gears Up to Defend PGA Championship Title
Monday, August 6th, 2007

Tiger Woods may be the betting favorite to win the PGA Championship this week and it would be hard to argue with golf gamblers who take him at 9/4 odds. Woods is coming off an impressive win at the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday and it has been four years since he's been shut out of a season's worth of majors.

A couple of trends are not going Tiger's way, though. One, every major this year - including the LPGA Tour - has been seized by a first-time winner. Second, Woods' mindset makes him sound like a happy, comfortable man rather than the fierce competitor we all know him to be.

"Last year, all the success I had on the golf course, it still felt like a failure of a year because of what happened off the golf course," Woods said after winning by eight strokes at the Firestone Country Club in Ohio. "This year, what's happening off the golf course has made this year a huge success. It's a polar 180. No matter what I did on the golf course last year it just never felt right. This year, no matter what I do on the golf course, it just feels right."

In 2006, Woods won the British Open and PGA Open titles, but his father passed away in May. This year, he's come up short in golf's premier events, but he's become a father.

He was extremely focused at the Bridgestone, though, and Southern Hills Country Club, where this year's PGA Championship will be held, plays to his strengths. The heat in Tulsa, Okla., will be an issue. The low is expected to be 77 for the first round on Thursday and the highs could reach into the 100s for the weekend. Still, Woods is in as good of shape as anyone on the PGA Tour.

If you're betting on the PGA Championship and want to find value beyond Tiger, look to K.J. Choi, the best candidate to continue the trend of first-time winners. He's at 40/1 odds.

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

PGA Championship Primer

Date: August 9 – 12, 2007
Location: Southern Hills Country Club – Tulsa, OK
2006 Champion: Tiger Woods
2007 Purse: TBD

2006 Recap

Tiger Woods made it an even dozen, earning his 12th career major by destroying the field at Medinah Country Club. He defeated 2003 PGA champ Shaun Micheel by five strokes to become the fifth player in history to host the Wanamaker Trophy three times. He also became the first person ever to win the PGA twice at the same venue, having also won the 1999 edition held at Medinah. Some other players also played in the event, although all but Luke Donald were essentially forgotten by the end of Saturday. Donald entered round four tied for the lead, but dropped six shots on Sunday to finish tied for third with Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott.

2005 Recap

Phil Mickelson held on to a tenuous final-round lead with a deft chip shot from the deep rough next to the 18th green, then calmly rolled in a three-foot birdie putt to earn his second major championship in as many years. Several rain delays caused the final groups – including runners-up Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington - to come back to Baltusrol to finish up on Monday, but that didn't dampen Mickelson's accomplishment. "It was a week where things didn't go perfectly the whole time," Mickelson told pgatour.com after the win. "The first couple of days, the ball was going in the hole, thereafter it was not. Yet, I had to gut it out…I'm just ecstatic that I was able to get it done."

The Course

Southern Hills is widely regarded as one of the best courses in the country, not to mention one of its stiffest tests. The tree-lined fairways and dramatic greens are accented by numerous doglegs as well as undulating fairways that often slant in the opposite direction of the doglegs. "I always thought it was a wonderful golf course," Tiger Woods told PGA.com. "It really tests your ability to shape shots. To keep the ball in the fairway you have to shape it correctly on a couple holes, hit the ball against the hills."

At just over 7,100 yards, the terrain and strategic use of bunkers and doglegs serves to minimize the advantages held by today's long bombers, but course officials have lengthened the track by about 150 yards since the 2001 U.S. Open – the last major event held at Southern Hills. The biggest difference is at No. 16, which is now a 515 yard long beast of a par four that could make or break more than one player this week. The greens at Nos. 9 and 18 have also been modified; in this case each putting area was made less severe, as the previous dramatically sloping surfaces were too harsh for modern green speeds. This week's greens are expected to run at 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. Yeah, that's right, we said "stimpmeter." Such speeds are roughly like trying to putt on the linoleum floors in your kitchen.

The Field

It wouldn't do fantasy golfers much good to play their top draft pick when he doesn't plan on teeing it up, which is why fantasy owners have to be very cognizant of who is playing each week. As a courtesy, we've provided this link to the official field as provided by PGATOUR.com.

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

PGA Championship Odds and Analysis
by T.O. Whenham

The last golf major of the year is just around the corner. Every time I write a preview for one of the big tournaments I feel like an unoriginal moron, but I can't help it. There is no way that I can write about this tournament or any other without gushing about Tiger Woods, saying that he is deservedly the heavy favorite, then complaining that there isn't much value given the price. I may as well just write one article and then change the name of the course and the tournament as appropriate.

The PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is no exception. If you caught any of the last round of the WGC event this past weekend then you saw the kind of ridiculous domination that only Woods can pull out of his bag. He's clearly in top form and full confidence, and will be the man to beat. Yet again. The course at Southern is tough, but it can't be any harder than Firestone was for the WGC. The rough there was virtually unplayable, yet Woods seemed unbothered. Not a good sign for everyone else in the field this week.

If you are looking for a reason to bet against Woods, you might want to grab onto his past history at Southern Hills. He has played there twice. The first was the Tour Championship in 1996, the first year he went pro. He didn't do well, but his father was in the hospital at the time, so he was clearly distracted. He also played the 2001 U.S. Open on the course. Though he finished 12th, he had a rough first round and was never really a factor, ending up seven strokes back. Tiger can be a bit erratic of the tee at times, and Southern Hills is one of those courses that punishes you badly for missing the fairway.

One look at the odds will tell you the opinion of oddsmakers about the tournament. Woods is obviously the favorite, at odds of 9/4. The next closest on the board is a group of heavyweights - Els, Furyk, and Mickelson, but they are only at 20/1. As I said before, Woods is the obvious favorite, and deserves to be, but it's hard to see value. That's especially true considering the uncharacteristic inconsistency that has marked Woods' efforts this season. For the interest of getting a real payout, let's take a look at who might beat Woods. After all, he can't win them all. (all odds are from Bodog).

The obvious choices

Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are all at 20/1, and all have the game to win it. Els is in improving form, and could be a factor. Furyk is red hot, but missed the tournament at Firestone with a back injury. If he was healthy he would be a steal at this price. Mickelson has struggled, missing the cut in his last two majors. His wrist has been the culprit to blame for his poor play, though, and there's a good chance that it is healthier by now. He certainly hasn't been playing enough to wear it out. A solid case could be made for at least two of those players here.

Vijay Singh is also playing well. He lost a final round lead at the Canadian Open, but that wasn't a collapse - he played well, but Furyk was on fire. His consistency and unflappability seem tailor-made for a challenging course like this. He's intriguing at 22/1, if only because he is intriguing every time he tees it up. He's also won the tournament twice before, so he knows what it takes.

Retief Goosen won the last time the tour visited Southern Hills, and the South African is probably comfortable with the incredibly hot conditions expected in Tulsa, so he would seem to be a good choice. The problem, though, is that he is in such a terrible slump this year, especially on American soil, that even his 40/1 price likely doesn't offer a lot of value.

Sergio Garcia is at 28/1, and will surely win a major at some point, but this tournament falls not long after the British Open, and I would like him to prove that he has recovered mentally from that debacle before trusting him with my hard earned money.

Off the beaten path

There are at least a couple of reasons to consider some more obscure choices for this tournament. The list of recent past winners contains some real head scratchers - Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks, Wayne Grady. Like all majors, anyone can win it if he gets hot at just the right time. A somewhat obscure but scorching hot winner has also been a repeating trend this season in the majors - Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, and Padraig Harrington were all far from unknown, but they weren't the first names that jumped to mind for anyone who isn't related to them before their wins. Outside of Vijay's two wins, this tournament has been the domain of American winners for more than a decade. Here are two with big prices that capture the imagination a bit:

Hunter Mahan (45/1) - This guy is young, but he has consistently found his way to the top of the leaderboard at some point during the weekend in each of the past few weeks. He won his first tournament in June and was sixth at the British Open. I worry about his ability to handle the pressure of the situation, but you could have said the exact same thing about Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis or any of the other inexperienced major winners. He's far from a sure thing, but might be worth a shot at this price.

Stewart Cink (50/1) - Cink is a grizzled veteran who has the game to contend at any time. He's never won a major, but he has been third twice, and he tied for sixth at this year's British Open. He's a streaky player, but when he finds form he can plod along and find his way to the top of the list. He's certainly not exciting to watch, but he could be in the mix when the dust settles. I'd feel better if he had won more recently than 2004, but he stands a solid chance of being a factor here.

www.docsports.com

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

Mickelson's wrist still not 100 percent
Associated Press

At times Tuesday, it was hard to tell if Phil Mickelson was a promoter for the PGA Tour or a contender for the PGA Championship.
During his news conference in advance of the season's last major, Mickelson insisted he'd already won a major this year — The Players Championship — and talked more than once about how excited he was for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which debut in two weeks.

Although that must make tour commissioner Tim Finchem happy, it's still hard know what "Fans of Phil" who show up at steamy Southern Hills this week should expect from the injured star.

Mickelson conceded his left wrist is still less than 100 percent. But he said he has been cleared to practice and no longer needs to apply a substance on the wrist to numb the pain.

A player who used to prepare for some majors, like last year's U.S. Open at Winged Foot, over the span of weeks and months, now finds encouragement in being able to practice more over the last several days.


"I've been able to put more time in my game now in the last week or two than I have in the last three months," Mickelson said. "And so I'm really excited about getting back out and playing. I'm excited about the upcoming FedEx Cup Series, but especially excited about trying to play well here at Southern Hills."

Southern Hills has been good to Lefty. He finished third at the PGA here in 1994 and tied for seventh at the 2001 U.S. Open.

But he wasn't injured then. His experiences so far this year when playing at less than 100 percent have been bad.

He hurt his wrist Memorial Day weekend, practicing for the U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Oakmont in June, at the AT&T National in July, then once more later in the month at the British. It marked the first time he'd missed three straight cuts on tour since 1995. A 46th-place finish last week at Bridgestone marks the only time he's cashed a check on the tour this summer.

In between all that, he hit a pair of awful drives on No. 18 in the Scottish Open — once in regulation, then again in a playoff — to give away a victory there. Besides that, he hasn't been competitive.

He thinks things are getting better for this week. Not all the way back, but better.

"I've been talking to the doctors. They think another two weeks, I should be 100 percent," Mickelson said.

Two weeks, Mickelson reminds, is the start of the PGA Tour's first foray into establishing a playoff-like system to bring more oomph to the end of the year.

The winner will get $10 million in deferred payments. Mickelson said he'd like to see something more dramatic, like a big brick of cash laid out on the 18th green, sort of like they do at the World Series of Poker.

"I think it would be cool," he said. "But it's just me. I don't know."

Some might say all this talk about the playoffs seems premature with "Glory's Last Shot" bearing down on what will turn out to be the toughest field in golf this season, with 97 of the top 100 in the world ranking.

For Mickelson, a win at the PGA Championship — which is run by the PGA of America, not the PGA Tour — would make him one of only five players to record a major victory in four consecutive years. Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen are the others.

Of course, according to Mickelson, he should already be on that list.

"I'd love to double up and win two," Mickelson said. "But that's just — we look at The Players a little differently. That was one of the biggest events that I was gunning for."

The Players debate was once reserved for March, but now takes place in May. That's the event's new spot on the schedule, during which Finchem and the PGA Tour trot out their biggest tournament, with a $9 million purse and another of the toughest fields in golf, and say that one should be considered a major, too.

Mickelson won The Players this year, marking his second victory and fifth top-5 of the season and giving indications that his meltdown on the final hole of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last year could really be behind him.

Shortly after that, though, he got hurt practicing out of the rough for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Nothing has been the same since.

The good news for Mickelson fans is he insists he'll be fully motivated even after this week is over. Often in the past, he has shut things down — mentally, if not physically — after the last shot at the PGA.

"I missed some tournaments in the middle of the year," Mickelson said. "I hadn't played to the level that I expect. My desire is much higher at this point in the year than it has been in past years. I am looking forward and wanting to play more competitive golf."

How competitive will he be this week?

Seems like anybody's guess.

"I think going into the FedEx Cup, I should be 100 percent," he said. "But I feel close to 100 percent this week."

If not, he'll always have The Players.

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Re: 89th PGA Championship Preview

PGA Championship Breakdown
August 8, 2007

In the past, the PGA Championship was the swan-song for all the world’s best to go into hibernation (i.e. air-conditioned comfort) and let the tour hacks battle out their positions on the money list. However, we should look at this year’s PGA as the beginning of the playoffs, because after this weekend we will begin the FedEx Cup marathon, where the winner will pocket a $10 million dollar first prize in early fall.

Defending Champ – Tiger Woods
FedEx Cup Points – 27,500
Purse - $8.0 Million

Course Preview – Southern Hills Country Club – Tulsa, Oklahoma - This course is known more for its crazy setup during the US Open when Retief Goosen broke through and won his first of two US Open titles. The preview can be shortened by saying one thing – it will be hot and the players in the best shape will be the ones that have a chance to win.

Weather Factor – Temperatures near 100 degrees, with a slight chance of rain every day. It will be steamy.

-- Favorites --

With the way Tiger played last week at Firestone is will be hard to pick anyone else to win outright. However, there are plenty of other candidates that can make noise this week in Tulsa, assuming that Woods peaked a bit early. Obviously all top-ten players are quality starts. We have named a few in the favorites sections based on certain factors supporting their strong chances:

Reteif Goosen

Goosen is a player that will factor into any major championship despite how he plays during the regular PGA tour events, thanks to his patience and demeanor on the golf course. He is a bulls-eye putter and has the ability to carry himself with the flatstick. Goosen won his first major championship at Southern Hills in 2002 (US Open), and with the heat in Oklahoma some are saying that the rough won’t be as penalizing as it was previously.

Rory Sabbatini

The world is quite aware of Sabbatini’s brash statement earlier in the year in a post-round interview where he claimed that the gap between Tiger Woods and the rest of the field (him) was not as great as everyone felt. And on Sunday we had the battle lines drawn – Sabbatini vs. Woods for the Bridgestone. Game, Set, Match Mr. Woods. Sabbatini was knocking down trees all day, ended up losing by eight shots, and appeared visibly pale during his post-round press conference. So why is he on the favorites board? Sabbatini is the type of guy that takes this as another in a long line of challenges, and he won’t allow this setback to damage him mental like a majority of the rest of the PGA field would.

Sergio Garcia

Sergio had a quiet Bridgestone but I think many pros mailed it in after they had a marginal first round in order to save the energy for the PGA. Garcia played well enough to win the British Open earlier but was unable to hold on to the victory on that painful Sunday afternoon. Garcia did vault from 47th to 20th place on Sunday at Firestone this weekend on the heels of a 67.

-- Sleepers --

K.J. Choi

Choi has had top ten finished at both the US and British Opens but yet he is never considered a true favorite going into a major. With the year he has had – winning both Tiger’s and Jack’s invitational tournaments and with the strong major performances he deserves to be listed as a favorite.

Geoff Oglivy

Odd thing about Ogilvy is that he won the US Open last year over the likes of Phil Mickelson, yet is on a sleeper’s list. Ogilvy has not done much to warrant being on the favorites list for ANY tournament over the past few months, but we like his consistency off the tee. Only a player like Tiger will be able to compete from the rough at any major, and Oglivy is all about keeping it on the short grass. Sleepers aren’t expected to win, but definitely consider Oglivy.

Hunter Mahan

Yep, the same Hunter Mahan that started out a recent tournament with a 62 and then melted down back to a 74. We mentioned at that time that he was perhaps not ready for prime-time. So why do we like Mahan during a major? If you look at his PGA stats for the year you will see that he is ranked numero UNO in all-around driving – meaning his distance and accuracy numbers are highest on the entire PGA tour. The key to success at any major starts with driving accuracy, and it does not hurt that he pokes it out there a ways farther than the normal accuracy leaders.

-- Keep ‘em In The Clubhouse --

Phil Mickelson Still rebounding from the meltdown at the Scottish Open. Mickelson finished +13 at the Bridgestone last week.

Jim Furyk Withdrew from last weeks’ Bridgestone the week after a win, so he might be nursing this injury the rest of the year.

John Daly Not sure what exemption he has for this event, but Daly does not have the skills to make the cut at this point in his career.

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