The PGA Championship begins tomorrow and it’s time to make my guesses for both contenders and the ultimate winner of the year’s final Major. The problem, it occurs to me as I scan the three pages of notes scattered on my desk, is I’m beginning to take this way too seriously. Readers of this blog might recall that I have semi-regularly posted my pre-tournament picks and reasons therefore, but I’ve done so while acknowledging that predicting the outcome of a given golf tournament is nothing more than a guess dressed up in its Sunday statistical best.
I enjoy reading mainstream golf publications in the week of the Majors, and other noteworthy events, wherein golf experts offer varied and sundry reasons to support their predicted winners. I enjoy this because their predictions are, well, predictable--and predictably wrong in the end. The only safe prediction is that no one can predict anything, especially as it pertains to golf. So why, you might ask, am I sitting here fretting over three pages of statistics in advance of committing my picks to this post? Well…I got lucky. I picked Ernie Els to win The Open Championship. And having tasted the magnificence of being correct in that guess, I want to do it again. Ernie was an 80 to 1 long shot to win and I picked him. And I did so based on my astute analysis of statistics…or not. In truth, my hunch on Ernie was founded on not much more than the rather random fact that the greens would be relatively slow at Royal Lytham. That, and my observation that Ernie had been playing well for the last year but couldn’t buy a putt. Thus armed with a bit of knowledge and my own experience that shaky putters do better on slower greens, I figured Ernie might do well.
It occurs to me, then, that I should abandon reasoned analysis and resort to pure guessing. It’s more fun anyway. More fun, still, is to select some lesser-knowns and give superficial reasons to root for them. So here we go. The categories are: Long shots; Sleepers; and Favorites. I readily confess, the long shots are…well, long.
- George Coetzee. I like this South African purely for the opportunity to say he’s no relation to Gerrie Coetzee, the former heavyweight boxer best known for his ability to periodically hit people really, really hard even while being beaten to a pulp. I know nothing about George, other than his tour bio suggests he won his first junior tournament at age 10 by shooting 49 for nine holes. He also won something called the Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour event in 2007. Who wouldn’t like his chances at Kiawah.
- Marty Jertson. A senior design engineer for Ping, he is responsible for the Ping Anser irons and will be playing in his second consecutive PGA Championship. He claims to have turned down Division I college offers in order to attend the Colorado School of Mines where he could spend more time in the lab. That makes him both physically gifted and really smart. Feel free to start hating him immediately.
- Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. This Spaniard has 5 European victories, four of which came in playoffs. Parents take note. If you want a tough kid, give him a hyphenated name.
- Mitch Lowe. He is either the President & CEO of Redbox, or he’s an alien, as there is absolutely no other information about anyone named Mitch Lowe on the internet. By picking him I hope to score free DVD rentals…or a spaceship ride.
- Angel Cabrera. Immensely long, and possessed of a deft short game, it would seem Kiawah is a good fit for him. Also, I don’t recall seeing his name at all this year, which is usually when he decides to stroll in and grab a Major. It is time for an Angel sighting, I suspect.
- Nicolas Colsaerts. This crazy-long Belgian fashioned bookend 65s at The Open Championship. Unfortunately, the “books” were a 77 and 72. Still, he placed 7th, so I called him up and suggested he might want to shoot more 65s and fewer 77s in order to win. I’m thinking he’ll take my advice this week.
- Bud Cauley. I made fun of his name in my Players Championship post earlier in the year, so I owe him props this time around. He’s long and has placed 4th in his last two starts.
- Scott Piercy. He got his second PGA Tour victory 2 weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open. He has 12 top 25s this season, including 3 top 10s and the aforementioned win. He’s very long (sound familiar?) and immensely talented. He’s jumped from 107th to 55th in the World Rankings in 2012.
- Robert Garrigus. Need I say it? He’s very long. The only thing keeping him from winning is the putter. After losing by a single shot to Piercy at the Canadian Open, he said he would’ve won by 7 if he could’ve made a putt. And while that’s a bit like saying “I would’ve won, if I’d have just scored better,” it was probably true. With predicted (relatively) slow greens for the week at Kiawah, Garrigus is a good bet to contend.
No bullet points here. There are simply too many favorites…and they are boring for the same reason that favorites are always boring—they’re expected to contend. There’s no excitement in discussing why someone is predicted to do as predicted. That said, I’ll give you my very short list of favorites who, I guess, will do well this week. Tiger…obviously. He needs to have at least three more weekends heading South in a Major before anyone should not consider him the prohibitive favorite. Steve Stricker will contend, as he played fabulously last Sunday, according to my inside-the-ropes source at the WGC-Bridgestone, and was one putt away from a playoff with Keegan Bradley. He will not win, though. Jason Dufner will win...if the winner comes from the “favorites.” He has 2 victories this year, and his sparse schedule the last 2 months doesn’t seem to have affected his play, as he’s finished 4th at the US Open, 31st at The Open Championship and 7th last weekend at the WGC.
So, Dufner is my pick among favorites, but my actual pick, the guy I’m telling you will win, is….Scott Piercy. Yeah, I know, I listed him as a sleeper, and that’s because he is. But he’s the guy who will get it done this week and break through. He’s number 18 on the Ryder Cup points list, and the only way he gets on the team is to play his way on. I think he’ll do it with a dramatic victory. I have it direct from his swing instructor, Chris O’Connel. We talked (no lie, we did) in April, at which time Chris described Piercy as “hugely, hugely long,” and a “major, major talent.” As superlatives go, and coming from Matt Kuchar’s coach, I’d say that’s very, very good and worth taking to the bank—times 2.