PGA Championship 2016: Which Top Player Needs a PGA Win the Most?

July 26, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, N.J.—What’s wrong with this picture? This is July and here we are staring down the barrel of the year’s final major, the PGA Championship. That means it’ll be almost nine months until the next one, the Masters in April.

That’s a long time. There is a Ryder Cup in September, so we’ve got that going for us.

Still, it is recommended that you enjoy the last bit of meaningful pro golf this week after reading the following entreaties found in the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Hey Van Cynical, The new Star Trek movie was a disappointment. What will be this week’s biggest disappointment? #DebbieDowner—Brian Bailey via Twitter

Without Leonard Nimoy, what were you expecting, Bailjumper? Obviously it’s going to be a letdown here that Donald Trump won’t drop in to tell us how great Trump National Bedminster is and why it should host the 2027 PGA. The other big disappointment will probably be that Andrew (Beef) Johnston may show up and serve sandwiches at a local Arby’s (like he did in Manhattan) and I’m not going to be there to have him put horsey sauce on my roast beef sandwich.

Hey Van Sicklers, What’s the over/under how many players can correctly spell Boldisrulle on the first try?—Ed Fulesday via Twitter

It’s exactly the same as the number of television broadcasters who can correctly pronounce George Coetzee’s name. It’s a low number. The number of print media members who will spell Baltusrol correctly will also increase dramatically between Monday and Thursday, Mr. Ed. Let’s start a typo watch contest.

VanLympic, whats the chance of Olympic golf having a successfully hot finish and World Numbers 1-4 realize their lost opportunity?—Verbo Haver Trader via Twitter

Just about zero, Verbosity. The fact that the Australian Olympic team moved out of the athletes’ village and called conditions “inhabitable” is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. I hear the train that is supposed to transport track athletes from the village to the track and field stadium may not be finished in time either. I’ll be surprised if the players who skipped the Olympics don’t say, ‘Wow, I made a great call.’ We’ll see.

Van Shank, What difference do you see between the USGA’s Open setup and the PGA of America’s?—Kevin Montminy via Twitter

They’re similar, Minny. The main difference is that since the USGA is usually in August (well, not this year), it is stuck with sizzling weather that requires the greens to be frequently hydrated to keep them alive. It’s a rare year when PGA greens are firm and fast. They may be fast, but they’re seldom firm. So scoring is usually good unless they’ve hopelessly tricked up the course (see Oak Hill in 2003, the Shaun Micheel-Chad Campbell Duel For the Ages). As far as administering the rules of golf during the competition itself — ah, it’s a toss-up.

Hey Van Cynical, Finally, it seems golf is exciting since Tiger Woods. Agree?—Sanjay Iver via Twitter

That’s a funny word, exciting. Was it exciting when Tiger won the ’97 Masters by a bunch? Or the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a kajillion? Some would say ‘No,’ while most thought it was because, well, he’s Tiger. There were plenty of exciting tournaments in the last three summers without Tiger, but now we’ve got new stars to invest in — Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and others. We have moved on. That said, if Tiger teed it up next week, it’d still be huge news. I agree that golf is in a surprisingly good place right now from an interest standpoint.

Hey Van Conical, Do any of the Big Three need to win this week to not have a failed season? And who of them benefits the most from a win?—Kevin Power via Twitter

Day and Spieth have multiple wins, some of them in significant events. Spieth winning at Ben Hogan’s old Texas track, Colonial, was almost like winning a major for him, Power Ranger. You couldn’t call their years failed. McIlroy would be the one who needs a win the most. He’s heard the most chirping from critics, failed to live up to their high expectations and put the bullseye on himself with his stance on the Olympics, drug-testing and grow-the-game remarks. If Rory wins the PGA this week, all of that is forgotten.

Hey Van Cynical, how is Charles Barkley that bad at golf? Four bogeys, no pars over 54 holes. My grandmom could do better and she died in 1997. #RIPNana—DanFromDC via Twitter

This Bud’s for you, DC Nana. If you missed Barkley’s run on the Hank Haney show, he could pound it 300 yards off the tee on the range but once he got to the course, he had severe full-swing yips. In defense of Sir Charles, golf is a more challenging game (and it’s already plenty difficult) for players above 6 feet 6 inches. It’s hard to get equipment that fits. Also, golf is difficult to pick up later in life if you never played a similar sport like hockey or baseball where you swing a stick. I’m sure it kills Barkley to play so poorly, since he’s a pro athlete, but you have to give him credit for taking it well and putting his game on display for the public’s enjoyment/amazement/horror. I tip my visor to him.

Van Shanksalot, What’s the likelihood that players aren’t totally psyched for this week’s PGA, following the Open Championship just two weeks ago?—Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

If you can’t get up to play a major championship four times a year, Drake, you should turn in your courtesy car. It won’t be a problem, although you have a point, given that many in golf (including me) consider the Open Championship to be the real World Championship. The likelihood that players aren’t totally psyched, or psyched at all, for the FedEx Cup is a much better bet. Hell, you get a FedEx Cup bonus check just for finishing among the top 150.

Hey Van Cynical, Rory McIlroy isn’t buying into the Olympic hoopla and this is somehow a huge blunder that he’ll regret. Think you’re the first golf person who agrees with him but that’s hardly the consensus view.—Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

It takes only one high-profile TV voice to make an opinion seem like a consensus, Drake. I’ve opposed Olympic golf since Day One for reasons I’ve repeated many times. I support the players who backed out, given the health risks in Rio and far more likely, the security risks. Any place the cops and firemen aren’t being paid is a country you don’t want to visit. Rory’s comments on it not being his job to grow the game were right on the money. If 15 years of Tiger Woods didn’t grow the game — and golf is mired in a bad recession — then nothing Rory does will help. The Olympics and Rio’s shoddy infrastructure are going to be an issue. Rory isn’t going to regret his decision or his comments, no matter what some TV experts say.

Custom Vans, The PGA is pretty much the last chance for big Ryder Cup points. Which U.S. or European golfer will play themselves onto the team?—The Bogey Train via Twitter

It wouldn’t take much for Scott Piercy (12th on the points list) or Bill Haas (13th) to crack the lineup. The points continue until after The Barclays, the first event in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Two American dark horses who may surprise you are two assistant captains—Jim Furyk (18th) and the revived Steve Stricker (23rd). For the Euros, I’ll be surprised if the old warhorse, Lee Westwood, doesn’t ballstrike his way onto the team with a good showing this week. It’s easy to forget he was in the final pairing with Dustin Johnson at Oakmont, on account of Westwood having a disastrous final day, but he has put together some Young Westwood-like golf all year. Old guys rule … maybe.