The 98th PGA Championship is teeming with several interesting plot lines.
The forecast for the final two rounds of the PGA Champhionship is much like the history of the course it is being played on — dark and gloomy. Torrential rain has swept onto the Springfield, NJ course for the second time since 2005. While play was suspended early on into the third round, the 98th PGA Championship is shaping interesting storylines for several players. Here are four takeaways from Baltusrol heading into Sunday.
Rain Rain Go Away
As a guy from Jersey the phrase “dry heat” has never entered my vocabulary when describing my beautiful state. Our summers are brutally hot and extremely humid. In the summer we tend to have an abundance of ground-shaking, apocalyptic thunderstorms. New Jersey is the 10th rainiest state in the summertime, eight of the other nine are located in the equally humid south.
No one should be surprised that the weather has played a part at Baltusrol yet again. In 2005, Phil Mickelson went on to secure a one-shot victory over Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn after finishing his final five holes on Monday.
The torrential rain is having large implications on the tournament schedule and leaving the PGA in a tough predicament. Only 36 of 86 players finished their third round. PGA of America which operates the tournament has come under fire for not making more of an attempt to get more rounds in before the rain came at 2 pm. The PGA stuck with their decision to have every group tee-off from the first hole in twosomes rather than have threesomes tee-off on the first and tenth hole in tandem.
When the tournament restarts at 8:40am EST the leaders will be commencing their third round while others finish up their final round. If the forecast stays true, the PGA Championship may not wrap up until Tuesday.
Low Scores Galore?
“A soft course is often a great course for scoring,” (Mike Malaska, 2012 PGA National Teacher of the Year).
After three inches of rain in two days at Baltusrol, the conditions are making for easy golf. As golf instructor Mike Malaska goes on to explain in his piece A Lesson Learned: Playing A Soft Course (pga.com), a softer course means a greater margin for error as the ball tends to stick on the green.
Golfers can go for the impossible shot without the fear of losing precious strokes.
Phil Mickelson was quick to point to the possibility of record low scores at the PGA Championship.
“There is a low 60s round,” Mickelson said when he finished. “I think somebody is going to break that 63 record in these next two days. The greens are pristine. You can make a lot of putts. They are soft, so you can get the ball very close. I think that there’s that 61 or 62 out there that I was probably trying to chase a little too hard.” (pgatour.com)
Through three days, the scoring average is a +1, 71. Jason Day’s -20 at last year’s PGA Championship, the lowest score ever recorded through four rounds of a major may take a back seat after all is said and done at Baltusrol.
Overall, not even a single bogey has been recorded on nine of Baltursol’s 18 holes. Within the top-10 of the leaderboard Robert Streb, Emiliano Grillo, Henrik Stenson, and Day rank in the top-100 on tour in GIR (greens in regulation) percentage. In a tournament where conditions have made iron-play a threat, the better iron players will shine and shoot rounds in the low 60s.
Jimmy Walker Is Criminally Underrated
Jimmy Walker doesn’t have star power, he’s not glamorous, he never seems to garner the media attention of the Woods and McIlroy’s of the world. But since 2014, Walker has showed up as a force to be reckoned with on tour. Before the start of the 2016 season, Walker had won five times on tour, all of his wins coming in 2014 and 2015. In 70 events since 2014, Walker has also placed within the top-10 19 times. By comparison, the number-one ranked golfer in the world, Jason Day, has placed within the top-10 25 times.
By the numbers Walker is first on tour when going for the green for a birdie or better and approaching the green from 50-125 yards away. Walker’s scoring average of 70.5 is good enough for 36th on the PGA Tour. Oh yeah, he’s also tied for the lead at -9 after two rounds.
Jason Day’s Friday Round Proved Why He Will Ultimately Win
The low point for Day’s tournament came on the par-4 seventh. A double-bogey saw the world’s best drop back to even par. In desperate need of a rally, Day rattled off seven birdies on his next eight holes. It seemed all too easy for Day to simply flip the switch in his brain from average golfer to exceptional.
PGA.COM (@PGAcom) July 29, 2016
Playing to his averages on tour this season, Day is one of the longest drivers, best putters, and best scramblers. His scoring average of 69.5 (4th on tour) is reflective of a player who can play his best golf when facing mounting pressure.
Two strokes behind Walker and Streb, Day is still the odds on favorite to win.
Favorite: Jason Day, 9-4
Other favorites: Henrik Stenson, 4-1; Jimmy Walker, 7-1; Robert Streb, 10-1; Emiliano Grillo, 15-1; Patrick Reed, 15-1; Martin Kaymer, 15-1
Will Jimmy Walker step out of the shadows to capture his first major or will Jason Day further cement his status as world number one? By the end of the 2016 PGA Championship, the real story might be whether or not Baltusrol will survive two more days of torrential rain.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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