The year’s final major is upon us in the form of the PGA Championship. Despite Tiger Woods’ return to the majors and Rory McIlroy’s presence, no one is a true favorite this week, making this major, like the others before it in 2011, a wide open race.
Minnesotan in the field
Jeff Sorenson, 32, will be participating in his first ever PGA Championship this week. Sorenson, listed from Blaine, Minnesota, qualified by recording a Top-10 performance at the PGA Professional National Championship. He tees off of tee number one at 8:10 am Central Time Thursday.
Minnesota’s PGA history
Most golf fans in Minnesota will recall Hazeltine National Golf Club hosting the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships. However, the Gopher State has actually hosted the event five times! Minneapolis Golf Club was the site of the 1959 tournament, which was only its second year under the current stroke play format. During the PGA Championship’s match play era (1916-1957), Keller Golf Course in Saint Paul hosted two championships, in 1932 and 1954.
Considering that the non-Masters majors now have some type of “rotation” between a handful of select courses, Hazeltine National could be getting the nod again soon. However, the next possible opportunity does not come until 2019.
Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course, measuring 7,467 yards, shows a lot of similarities to its “major” neighbor to the east, Augusta National. The tall pines, elevation changes and setup favoring a right to left ball flight are all common themes between the two courses.
The two most exciting holes on the track could be the Par 3 15th and the Par 4 18th, mainly because of their length. At 507 yards, the 18th has been known to produce magical moments en route to victory for past champions. Likewise, the 15th can play up to an astonishing 260 yards! Most recreational golfers would need a driver to have any chance at that green!
In this era of parity in golf, no one has really separated themselves as a clear favorite in the majors. Rory McIlroy seems to be growing into the role of golf’s next superstar, but he’s not there yet. Tiger is just coming back from injury, so it’s unlikely he’ll contend. Adam Scott is rounding nicely into form, but he has a caddy that is, perhaps, too focused on proving himself to the world and an aforementioned player.
Phil Mickelson may be a smart choice this week. Phil finished just shy of victory here in 2001, when he was edged out by David Toms. This course shows great similarity to Augusta National, where Phil has won The Masters three times. He surprised the world by breaking through his traditional struggles on Links-style courses to hold a brief lead on Sunday at The Open Championship. Phil Mickelson could be the man to put an end to the streak of international major winners.