Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mulligan: Why Phil Mickelson will win The 91st PGA Championship

The final major of the year is upon us as the best players in the world prepare to tee it up on Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. The 91st PGA Championship boasts the longest golf course ever to host a major championship. The par 72 track measures 7674 yards long and it will play tough. In fact, three of the Par 5’s are over 600 yards long! This is not a course for the short hitters, but it isn’t necessarily a bombers paradise. It will take a complete player to win this week and probably a couple of good breaks as well. Let’s take a look at the field.


Phil Mickelson will come into Hazeltine as he has for his past few appearances on the PGA Tour; with his mind in another place. This could actually be a good thing for Phil this week. As you probably know, both Phil’s mother and his wife were recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news is that both are recovering well, so Phil is obviously feeling better about that. That being said, it is hard to focus on golf when two people you care about have been going through serious health treatments.

We have all heard how mentally draining major championships can be on players. Many experts are predicting the mental drain of a major, coupled with Phil’s other concerns might hinder his game this week. I disagree. I think Phil will be able to relax and just play golf this week. He has a mindset this week that many players would love to have at a major. Phil can come out and play his best golf and, win or lose, he goes home to spend time with his family because he realizes how important that is. In other words, Phil will actually be able to handle the mental drain of a major championship BETTER, because he has more important things on his mind; the well being of his family.

In addition, I think Hazeltine is the perfect course for Phil to come out and show off his ridiculously good short game. I mentioned the length of the course at the beginning of this article. This length will help Lefty, but not in the way you might think. Par 5’s normally play to the advantage of the long ball hitters who can reach the greens in 2 shots and putt for eagle while the shorter hitters are forced to lay up and hope for birdies at best.

At Hazeltine, the Par 5’s will likely be too long for even the longest of hitters to reach in 2 shots. That means that the best scores on these holes will likely come from players with good distance coupled with a good wedge game. Phil Mickelson is that player. He can bomb a drive, hit a lay-up shot to about 100-125 yards and then fire darts at the flag-stick with his wedges. I think this will result in a great week on the long Par 5’s for Phil, and if he can play well throughout the rest of the course he will win this tournament.
Tiger has won two straight tournaments and has made us all forget about his missed cut at the British Open. He already has five wins this season and he has finished in the Top-10 in ten of his last twelve starts. He is the best player in golf and the hands-down favorite to win this week. Additionally, he has gone 0-for-3 this year in majors, so he has plenty of motivation this week to get a win. We all know how good he is and we all know that he steps up in the spotlight. Overall, there are just too many factors to pick against Tiger this week (or ever), but I think Phil Mickelson is going to find a way to edge him out this week.
Steve Stricker has a lot going for him this week. He is having a career year in 2009 and it is quite likely that he will contend this week as well. Stricker has two wins to go along with eight Top-10 finishes this season, landing him in 2nd place overall in the FedEx Cup point standings. He put together a good tournament last week in Akron finishing tied for 6th, so he has some momentum coming in.

Additionally, Stricker has played well in majors this year. He finished tied for 6th in The Masters, and tied for 23rd in The US Open (but tied for 52nd in the British Open). To top it all off, he is from Wisconsin and went to college at the University of Illinois, so he should find decent support from a crowd in Big Ten country.


Padraig Harrington looks to defend his PGA Championship title this week with another Wanamaker Trophy for his overflowing trophy case. Overall, Harrington is having a disappointing 2009 coming off of a tremendous 2008 that included victories at the final two major championships of the year. Despite his 2008 success, Harrington has been tweaking his swing and this is likely why he has had a rough patch thus far in 2009.

However, last week at Firestone Harrington posted his first Top-10 finish of the season, and his game looked much better than it has all season. Has Harrington worked out the kinks in his new swing? Its hard to say, but if he has you can count on him to be near the top of the leaderboard Sunday afternoon.

Sleeper Picks

I am going out on a little bit of a limb and taking a shorter hitter this week in Luke Donald. I am going with Donald this week because he has history at Hazeltine. The lengthy beast is where Donald won individual gold (the individual championship) in the 1999 NCAA Championships. He has been playing well this season including only 2 missed cuts in 16 starts. He is ranked 2nd in putting but only 183rd in driving distance so the length could easily pose problems for him. I just have a feeling about this one.

Justin Leonard finished tied for Fourth at Hazeltine in the 2002 PGA Championship, and he is a good dark horse pick for this week as well. Like Donald, he is a shorter hitter (ranked 121st on Tour) but has the short stick working (5th in putting average).
Mike Sim was my US Open sleeper pick and he came through with a T-18 finish. I am sure he was happy with that, but I think he might have played better if he was not paired with Tiger for the final round. That is a lot of pressure for a Nationwide Tour player who isn't used to all the attention. I think he could contend again this week because his record has only improved since the US Open. He now has seven Top-10 finishes this season on the Nationwide Tour to go with that Top-20 major finish. Plus, he now has experience competing in the final round of a major which should really help for his second time around.
Good luck this week and let's keep moving to the top of the fantasy golf rankings!

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poker rakeback said...

I am really rooting for Phil Mickelson to do well. He has gone through a lot with his wife and mother both having cancer in such a short period of time, and he is such a great guy. I think he will bounce back strong with a major next year.