Cleat Geeks

Off the Tee: PGA Championship

At this point, the talk of this summer’s stressed schedule for professional golf’s best players has been pretty much, well, talked into the ground.

Suffice to say, all the players in this week’s PGA Championship face the same challenge, as golf’s final major championship of the year comes a couple of weeks earlier and just 10 days removed from the third major, thousands of miles away in Scotland.jordanSpieth2

It’s not like some guys have a different challenge than others. They all face the same schedule difficulties and, perhaps more relevantly, the same historic track – Baltusrol, site of many historic PGAs and U.S. Opens.

“You’ve got to work the ball a different direction into the greens and play smart,” said Jordan Spieth. “But I also love the finish. What a fantastic finish to the golf course, especially for a major championship.”

The last time a major came here in 2005, it was Phil Mickelson breaking through for his second major title and only PGA Championship victory.

“I’ve got a lot of special memories going back to Baltusrol in ’05, and probably that we don’t have a month to wait between majors is a good thing for me,” said Mickelson after his near-miss two weeks ago at The Open Championship.

“I’ll try to look at the positives and take that into Baltusrol and keep my game sharp as opposed to going home and taking some time off.”

While everyone knew Jason Day very well by the time he won last year’s PGA Championship, that was the crowning achievement to this point in the young Aussie’s career. It solidified his spot at No. 1 in the world rankings, and a year later he’s still in that position, having won six more times since.

But the chase pack is strong. No. 2 Dustin Johnson has two wins this summer including the U.S. Open. No. 3 Spieth and No. 4 Rory McIlroy each have won this year, and No. 5 Henrik Stenson just won the Open Championship in that classic duel with Mickelson.

Day knows with all the solid players on his heels, he will have to keep playing his best golf to maintain that top spot.

“The biggest thing is being able to prepare properly for the events that are ahead, give yourself the best opportunity to win, and then try and do your best,” Day said. “That’s all you can ask for is just to give it 100 percent, and if you can’t win, if you don’t win that week, then pick yourself up, try and give it 100 percent the next week.”

Picks

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Justin Rose – The Englishman has quietly gone about his business with a lot of solid finishes this summer. He’s poised to add a second major to his 2013 U.S. Open triumph, also won on a classic American course, Merion.

Sergio Garcia – I know, I know. Sergio has found so many ways not to win one of these big events, from physical miscues to mental collapses. But this is a course where good iron play is huge and Sergio has the physical talent to play well here. And he has to break through someday, right?

Bubba Watson – The big hitting lefty, like Rose, has been better this season than people probably realize, with a win, a runner-up finish and 13 straight cuts made. He can be erratic but also spectacular, and a third major title is coming sooner than later. Maybe here.

Longshot – Jhonattan Vegas – Yeah, yeah, he just won in Canada Sunday, so we’re bandwagon believers here. But he shot a 60 in nearly winning the week before in Alabama and is on fire, so why not?

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