Van Cynical Mailbag: Who Will Win the PGA Championship?

August 11, 2015

HAVEN, Wis.—The PGA is a harbinger of at least two things. One, it means the football season is about to start. Two, it means the relevant portion of the golf season is over and we have to wait another eight months until the first major of 2016, the Masters in April.

If that seems longer than a Wisconsin winter, it’s only because it is. So with that gloomy forecast in mind, let’s enjoy the hell out of this year’s fourth major. Hey, at least we’ve got a lake view.

Van Cynical, Who’s your pick to win the PGA this week?—PhillyDave via email

It’s pretty easy to pick Bubba Watson, who nearly won here in 2010. But what fun is it to pick the chalk? I’m going with David Lingmerth, your plodding Memorial champ, but I have to say I’m impressed with Irishman Shane Lowry, who won last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He keeps it simple and just plays hard. And since the Straits is supposed to look like Ireland, who better to win than an Irishman?

Custom Vans, What style of player is best suited to win at Whistling Straits?—Tony Korologos via Twitter

A quick glance at history might suggest a power hitter but that’s not necessarily so, Special K. Remember the first year we came to the Straits, Vijay Singh (big hitter, the Lama) won it but only after a playoff with popgun hitters Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard. Last time, it was Martin Kaymer over Bubba Watson but shortish Zach Johnson was third with Rory McIlroy and the guys in fifth included Dustin Johnson and crafty veteran Steve Elkington. So it’s a mix. The greens are funky, so I’d favor a good iron player who can hit it close enough to make birdies. I don’t think trying to two-putt from 40 or 50 feet or scrambling for pars is something anyone can sustain on these Dye-abolical greens. Watson is playing well, he’s an obvious favorite.


Van the Man Cynical, Aside from the train, what differentiates Whistling Straits from Chambers Bay?—Mr. Fairway via Twitter

The Straits has man-made dunes that are in play on just about every hole, not to mention about 900 more mini-bunkers than Chambers Bay. The grass is different—the fairways are fescue, like Chambers Bay, but the greens are bentgrass and should be much smoother. Also, Chambers Bay doesn’t have a flock of sheep grazing on it all summer like The Straits does. The sheep are penned in this week but otherwise, they’re free to roam about the country.

Van Cynical, Tiger won’t make the FedEx Cup playoffs. Do Tiger or Phil have any chance of being Presidents Cup captain’s picks? I say no way.—Phil Petraglia via Twitter

Outstanding question, P-Squared. I guess we’ll see what captain Jay Haas is made of. On merit, you are absolutely right, neither player deserves a captain’s pick. But it’s kind of like naming Mickey Mantle to the All-Star team late in his career when he really didn’t earn it. Tiger and Phil have a lot of experience, no doubt. Does experience count for much in this event? I don’t think so. That said, this PC will be played in Korea. Would any American viewers watch if Tiger and Phil aren’t playing? It would be a gutsy call from that standpoint to leave them off the team—but it’s the right call, barring a PGA miracle this week.

Sickle sell, Hear of anyone heading to Erin Hills following the PGA?—Shaun Meulemans via Twitter

Just a lot of golf writers and media hacks, Muley. So if you’re thinking about playing there, go there now before all those gaping divots appear in the right rough.

Vans, If Tiger’s world ranking doesn’t improve, would he ever have to qualify for the U.S. Open. He’s set for life in the others, no?—John Schwarb

Yes, the other majors offer lifetime exemptions (well, up to 60/65). Tiger would potentially have to qualify for the 2019 U.S. Open after his 10-year exemption for winning it in 2008 expires. The USGA could give him a special exemption, of course. No apparent expiration date on Tigermania.

Cynical Man, Who will choke on the final day?—James Webb via Twitter

Wow, and I’m the cynical one here? I don’t know who’s going to be in contention (if I did, I’d be the guy in that DraftKings commercial with the big check) so I’ll just give an all-purpose answer—the Cleveland Browns.

Van HitsSixteenInTwo, What’s all the hype about golf at the Olympics? I don’t see it being all that and a bag of poo, what do you think?—Klaugh56 via Twitter

I’ve been opposed to it since Day One. The format is poor—only 60 players and a majority of them won’t be in the top 75 in the world rankings. Their argument is that this is about growing golf around the world. Well, when did the Olympics become about growing the game instead of identifying the best athlete in the sport? Is Olympic 400-meter hurdles supposed to grow 400-meter hurdle running around the world? If this was a team event, three- or four-person teams, it would make some sense but as a 60-player stroke-play event over 72 holes, it makes no sense. One official defended the weak field by saying the fourth-best Jamaican sprinter is routinely left out of the Olympics even though he may be among the world’s 10 best. True, but every other sport in the Olympics has minimums and qualifying heats. In Olympic golf, the Jamaican bobsled team gets a pass right into the final.

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