Morning Read contributors don’t stray too far down the world ranking for their picks to win this week at TPC Harding Park
When Morning Read turned to some of its key contributors for their picks to win this week’s PGA Championship, the results were as varied as the writers. But they did find one very common denominator: the top spots in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Jon Rahm, who was ranked No. 1 in the world entering the past week’s play, joined No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 3 Justin Thomas, who won Sunday’s WGC FedEx St. Jude title, No. 4 Webb Simpson and No. 7 Bryson DeChambeau as the favorites from Morning Read’s panelists, who also took stabs at “sleeper” picks.
See how they might rate among your favorites entering this week’s play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. But remember where you saw them first.
Favorite: Jon Rahm – He won the Memorial comfortably to reach the top spot in the world ranking, in part because most of the guys right behind him have been trending in the wrong direction. The Big Spaniard is ready to win a major. His brilliant short game is vastly overlooked, and though questions remain regarding his temperament in big events, Rahm knows his lack of composure on the final nine at Muirfield Village could have cost him dearly. Lesson learned? I’m betting it has. A tough course setup at Harding Park would only improve his chances.
Sleeper: Matt Wallace – I refuse to consider Tony Finau a longshot because he spends half his life on leaderboards; he just never ends up at the top of one. That said, I’ll go with Wallace, an Englishman who finished T-3 at the 2019 PGA and has played fairly well in recent weeks. The thing about picking a sleeper is, it’s basically nothing more than a hunch. Wallace has piled up a ton of high finishes on the European Tour, four of them victories, and won’t be competing against those with a homefield advantage in San Francisco because very few of these guys have played Harding Park.
Favorite: Bryson DeChambeau – With his explosive distance gains, the bulked-up American has redefined golf since the season resumed in June. DeChambeau, 26, ranks first in strokes gained off the tee and second in strokes gained total. That reality puts DeChambeau in position to take advantage of a relatively short, 7,234-yard TPC Harding Park. He missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, ending a streak of seven consecutive top 10s dating to February. The run included his sixth victory in four years on the PGA Tour, at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Was the missed cut at Memorial a wake-up call? As driven as DeChambeau is to win his first major championship, the PGA setup seems to be a perfect fit.
Sleeper: Jim Furyk – No one at the age of 50 or older has ever won a major championship. Julius Boros was the oldest major champion, at 48 years, 4 months and 18 days when he won the 1968 PGA. In fact, only seven players older than 50 have won on the PGA Tour. Sam Snead set the mark at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days when he captured the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open. So, why Furyk, who on Sunday won in his Champions Tour debut in Grand Blanc, Mich.? The field was littered with depth and winners, the likes of which Furyk has competed against for years. Furyk will be making his 93rd appearance in a major championship. He has recorded 23 top 10s in golf’s biggest events, including a victory at the 2003 U.S. Open. Only seven years ago, he finished solo second at the 2013 PGA, losing to Jason Dufner by two shots. Sure, Furyk is 50 now, but that’s the new 40 on the PGA Tour, and his ability to compete on the biggest stage remains intact.
Favorite: Webb Simpson – The Webb Page is not the sexiest pick on the board, nor the longest tool in the shed. But “Glory’s First Shot” at TPC Harding Park will not be a long-drive contest - accuracy my boy, that’s the thing … Accuracy! Simpson is among the Tour’s best iron players and money putters, as he demonstrated in wins this year at Phoenix and Hilton Head. And he has no special history at Harding Park, his 2012 U.S. Open victory came at Olympic Club, just around the corner in San Francisco. He also won the 2018 Players, i.e. the “fifth major,” and recently tested negative for Covid-19, which also might be considered a major victory.
Sleeper: Viktor Hovland – The Oslo, Norway native became the first Norwegian to win a PGA Tour event at the Puerto Rico Open in late February. He also captured the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, which is no more than a scenic Bryson DeChambeau drive up the coast. Since turning pro last summer, Hovland has set a record for consecutive rounds in the 60s (19) and collected 11 top-25s in 20 PGA Tour starts. At the tender age of 22, he would become the youngest ever to win the PGA, since it went all stroke play in 1958. But major championships are this kid’s destiny.
Favorite: Rory McIlroy – It’s been six years since McIlroy’s last major-championship victory, which was the 2014 PGA, and frankly, that’s way too long. The last time McIlroy teed it up in a major was last year’s British Open at Royal Portrush near his boyhood home in Northern Ireland. He laid a spectacular egg at a place he had played hundreds of times with an opening 79 and missed the cut. McIlroy has said he finds it difficult to be inspired without fans on the property. If he needs motivation for Harding Park, memories of the Open ought to do the trick.
Sleeper: Tyrrell Hatton – Don’t nod off on Hatton, who has quietly moved up to No. 14 in the Official World Golf Ranking. And the 28-year-old Englishman has a 2020 resume that compares favorably to Jon Rahm, considered one of the favorites for the PGA Championship. Hatton won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and was T-6 at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. Since the restart, he was T-3 at the RBC Heritage and T-4 at the Rocket Mortgage. And he has four victories on the European Tour. The PGA has a history of players coming out of seemingly nowhere to claim the Wanamaker Trophy. Hatton would be a perfect fit.
Gary Van Sickle
Favorite: Justin Thomas – All he’s done in 2020 is win three times, including Sunday’s World Golf Championships event in Memphis, had a runner-up finish, a third and nine top-10s in 14 starts while wielding an untypical lukewarm putter. He leads in FedEx Cup points, was projected to reclaim the No. 1 world ranking and is on the cusp of a big, big year. With 13 career victories, including the 2017 PGA Championship, Thomas, 27, is hunting big game – majors – with a big game that is well-suited to Harding Park’s big stage.
Sleeper: Matthew Wolff – His unique kick-start swing already has made the Oklahoma State alumnus a brand-name star on tour at 21. His power and swagger give him the look of a major champion. All he’s got to do now is go out and prove it.
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