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Socalgolfblog’s 2016 PGA Championship Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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The PGA Tour’s major championship season began with talk of a Big Four – Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler – taking over the tour. Instead, three first-time major winners have taken home the major hardware, the latest being Henrik Stenson at the British Open.

Will one of the young guns rally this week to keep the Big Four from going 0-for-4 in majors in 2016? San Diego golf instructor Chris Mayson says yes, but you’ll have to wait a bit to find out who he likes this week at Baltusrol GC. First, here’s a look at a few storylines going into the week.

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DJ For POY? – Henrik Stenson is the man of the moment coming off his epic triumph at Royal Troon, but Dustin Johnson remains the hottest player on tour. After finishing in a tie for second at the Canadian Open, Johnson has now gone 5, 1, 1, T9, T2 in his last five starts, including a U.S. Open victory, and hasn’t missed a cut all year.

Talk of DJ for player of the year is stirring and he’d turn up the volume considerably with a win this week. A hot putter and an adept short game helped DJ clinch victory at the U.S. Open. His putter waned on the weekend in Canada after he never really got his game going in Scotland on a course many expected him to dominate. Which D.J. will we see this week?

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A British Bounce For Henrik/Phil? – After staging a duel for the ages, Stenson and Mickelson are right back on the major stage two weeks later due to a compacted Tour season to accommodate the Olympics. Mickelson, who won the last PGA at Baltusrol in 2005, is paired with 2014 PGA champion Rory McIlroy and 2015 winner Jason Day. Will Mickelson put behind what must have been an emotional recovery from finishing second at the British to muster any other championship-worthy effort? He’s got a group that can certainly go low. McIroy shot a solid 67 on Sunday to give him momentum going into the PGA.

As for Stenson, we know the ball striking will be spot on at a venue that demands it. Baltusrol has hosted seven U.S. Opens and figures to be a demanding test where hitting fairways will be at a premium. Speaking of which …

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The Driving Iron Is Back – Baltusrol is home to one of the most famous one-iron shots in golf, the one struck by Jack Nicklaus on No. 18 in 1967 that has its own plaque. For a few decades now, however, the driving iron has existed as more of a Lee Trevino punch line – search “what club should I hold up in a lightning storm” – than an equipment option. That has changed this year and you’ll notice several pros, including Day, now carrying driving irons and hitting them long and straight with ease. Here Chris Mayson explains how and why the driving iron has made a comeback:

“I’ve noticed many PGA Tour players going back to the driving iron this year. Callaway and Titleist have made very good models that are easy to hit off the tee or fairway and a lot of the guys have gone to this club for certain courses on tour.

“I believes it is a natural move away from the hybrid. I think the hybrid is fantastic utility club for everybody except the players with high swing speeds. The club companies like to make them a little closed at address to encourage a draw, and you couple this with the extra loft on the face and the best players fear the hook with a hybrid. So naturally more players have been adding a 5/6 wood or more recently a driving iron to find those tight fairways.

“The driving iron goes about 240-270 yards for the world’s top players so it is perfect for a short par 4 or tight tee shot.

“Keep an eye out at Baltusrol and I’ll bet you notice more driving irons than you thought were on Tour.”

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A Unique Double Par 5 Finish – Strategically Baltusrol is the flip of Royal Troon in the respect that the front nine at Troon offered early scoring opportunities and challenged the players to hold on throughout the back. Baltusrol is the flip and uniquely closes with consecutive par 5s.
That finish will set the table for big hitters – hello, DJ – down the stretch, but they could also be digging out of a hole from not being patient on the front. Whoever manages the course and their emotions the best on the front could go a long way toward deciding who lifts the trophy on Sunday. Will it be an experienced former major champion or …

Will We See A Fourth First-Timer? – Strong performances in recent majors have some sentiment in golf circles leaning toward Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia. Farmers Insurance Open champ Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar are also garnering favor. Trivia alert: We haven’t seen four first-timers sweep the majors since 2011. Can you name them? … Time’s up. They are Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Keegan Bradley and … the man Chris Mayson is picking this week.

Now onto Chris’ prediction and pick:

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It’s amazing to me that the PGA championship is here already. With the Olympics added to the schedule this year it seems that all the big tournaments are slammed together and of course we are going into the FedEx Cup soon after as well.

I have heard from players on the PGA Tour that the rough is very thick at Baltusrol this year and that should add to the charm and challenge of the year’s final major. With the rain at Oakmont for the U.S. Open, it never really played as hard as the USGA intended. I am wondering if the PGA will trick up Baltusrol this year.

There have been first-time winners at each major this year without any of them really being a major surprise. But I don’t think that there will be another first-time winner at the PGA. I expect someone with a little more major experience to take this one.

Due to the extreme rough and the premium on hitting fairways I am going to keep my pick the same as for the British Open and stay with Rory McIlroy. He hasn’t won in America this year and is certainly due, and although he didn’t win at Royal Troon, he did have a very strong fifth-place finish.

He is No. 1 in strokes gained off the tee and I believe that will be the difference maker for him at Baltusrol this year. (Editor’s note, courtesy of the European Tour: In seven PGA appearances, Rory has four top 5s and two championships.)

I expect my own student, Brendan Steele, to also have a strong showing. He is a fantastic driver of the golf ball, is currently ranked 15th in strokes gained off the tee and he had a strong 15th-place finish at last year’s PGA championship at Whistling Straits. It’s a great course for him and he has been playing well all year. Enjoy the PGA and the rush finish to the major championship season.

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Maderas: PGA Championship Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

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A truly historic season for the PGA Tour hits the home stretch by returning to Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship – and Rory McIlroy’s surprise return from injury to defend his title and his No. 1 ranking only adds to the intrigue.

Here are four storylines teed high for the PGA, including Rory’s risky decision, followed by Chris Mayson’s picks to end what’s been an MVP prediction season (including the Farmers, he’s three for four picking the winners). He’s got a Masters champion pegged for the PGA (Hint: Not Tiger). It’s a doubly special week for Chris because he has a student, Brendan Steele, in the field.

Why Is Rory Risking It? – I’m going to cede the floor early to Mr. Mayson to address the week’s hot topic: Why would Rory McIroy return from the Achilles injury that cost him a spot in the British Open to play such a tough golf course and risk re-injury? Is it simply the ego of being world’s No. 1 and the PGA defending champ?

Chris: “I am not sure why Rory McIlroy is playing and risking his health. The only reason behind his quick recovery and entry into this week is surely because he covets majors more than the Fed Ex Cup.

“It would have made much more sense to take another two weeks off and comeback for the playoffs, but I can only assume that he wants another major that badly and it is worth the risk. It would be great to see a McIlroy and Spieth duel this week, but I think he is going to be way too rusty to compete at that level.”
And this is the same player who once WD’d over a toothache. Obviously, Rory has found a new pain tolerance, but the gain may only negligible or worse.

No Grand Slam But A Historic Hat Trick? – The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee wasted no time predicting a third major for Jordan Spieth this week after his near-miss at the British Open. While he’s running away with Player of the Year, will he tote home a trophy for his mantel to go along with The Masters and U.S. Open?
It would surprise no one if he did to cap The Summer Spieth, and it would certainly send a message to the Tour that it might be more of the same in 2016.

Spieth and McIlroy are paired on Thursday and Friday. Two men enter, one man makes the weekend? If it’s two, we might get a preview of 2016 earlier than any of us expected. It would be a fitting finish to the year of Jordan, Rory and Rickie.

Or Spieth could find himself in a familiar scenario …

A Familiar Foe – And A Haunted One Here – We’re, of course, talking about Dustin Johnson here, whose name was first synonymous with “bunker ruling” at Whistling Straits before “three-putt” at Chambers Bay.

Will poetic justice arrive at a place where DJ has all the usual DJ advantages, or will he be felled again by his familiar fails in majors?

But you can be sure DJ will check his rulebook once and twice to determine which bunkers are naughty (traps) and which ones are nice (waste areas) for grounding your club.

Will the rulebook blindside anyone else this week, or did DJ teach an eternal lesson?

Straits or Straights? – The early feedback from the practice rounds has been about how tough the rough is, particularly off the tee. Finding fairways will be especially critical this week in a PGA that sounds like the traditional U.S. Open instead of what we got at Chamber Bay this year.

Chamblee on tee shots: “Big misses here have big consequences.”

He was, naturally, talking about Tiger, whose resurgence is in debate but there’s no debate that he has a tame track record here. In 2010, he’d just switched swing coaches and spent the week tinkering. Is he still tinkering again in 2015 or he has finally tamed his new swing?

Chris Mayson has another Masters champ in mind this week, and he’s about to tell you why.

The final major of the year is upon us and it seems that golf season has only just begun. The first two majors were won by the best player in the world this year, Jordan Spieth. St. Andrews was too much of a weather pot luck to produce the best player, but Spieth’s run at three consecutive major victories was extremely admirable. You would have to assume that he will be in contention again this week.

My pick this week is one of the longest players on the PGA Tour, Bubba Watson. I always go by the belief that if you want to know who is going to win this week, look no further than who finished second last week – and that was Bubba at Bridgestone. He is clearly playing well and he loves to shape the ball, which you have to do on all Pete Dye golf courses, and his prodigious length will allow him to cut off some of the dog legs.

My other sleeper pick is my own student, Brendan Steele. Brendan hits is very long and straight, can move the ball both ways and is coming off a strong seventh-place finish last week on the PGA Tour. I know I am biased, but I think Whistling Straights is going to be a great course for him.

No matter the contenders, I’m sure that Whistling Straights will produce some drama, the same way it did last time.

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