European PGA win
PGA Championship: Which European Will Win?
Welcome to Wisconsin, and the year's final Major Championship staged on Pete Dye's Whistling Straits moonscape overlooking Lake Michigan.
With leading Americans ailing, top Aussies doing another walkabout, and Asia already having enjoyed one PGA, it is time to look elsewhere for the winner. South Africa have had their day in the sun for one year (Ernie may make me regret those words) and South America's best are out of sorts (tho that never seems to stop Cabrera), so let's consider Europe's chances after a quick butcher's at the past week's news:
*Scotland's own Russell Knox banked $30K as he set course records of 62, then 61, in winning on the Hooters Tour.
*Kudos to Bill Lunde for a storybook win at Turning Stone. 12 years removed from UNLV's (Nevada Las Vegas) Collegiate Championship Team, where team-mates at various times included Chris Riley, Chad Campbell and boyhhod chum Charlie Hoffman, Lunde scored his first PGA Tour win. Where's he been?
Well, fed up with failing to make the PGA Tour he packed in golf altogether in late 2005 after failing to advance in Q-School. Resigned to getting a "real job" he worked in Las Vegas real estate until the local property market went belly up and he found himself out on his ear.
June 2007 saw him back on the mini-tours with a new "attitude", and in 2008 he finished high on the Nationwide Tour money list earning his PGA Tour card. He retained his card for 2010 but was struggling until arriving at pristine Turning Stone where improved driving and a boatload of holed putts on perfect greens (plus Alex Cejka's demise) were the recipe for his first Tour win and a place in this week's PGA field. Good luck to him!
*And then there's Tiger: Am I alone in thinking that he's rather compromised Corey Pavin by saying he'd accept a Ryder Cup "pick"? Seems Pavin would find himself between a rock and the proverbial, especially if Woods has a shocker this week and fails to qualify for the FedEx play-offs.
But I digress. Who's going to win the Wanamaker Trophy for Europe? There's some previous to consider first so let's look at how those who played at Whistling Straits in 2004 fared back then:
Clarke and Davis tied for 13th, Jacobson (17), Donald (24), Jimenez (31), Poulter (37), Harrington (45), Pettersson (54) and Monty (70th) made the cut. Whilst Casey, Garcia, Jacquelin, McDowell and Rose (and Westwood) missed the weekend. Nothing compelling there.
I like to see a bit of experience and/or scar tissue in my Major Championship picks so will eliminate Dyson, Horsey, Khan, Willett and Wood, Bourdy, Lowry (reluctantly), McGowan and Andersson Hed forthwith.
I don't fancy over-golfed players so farewell Rhys Davies, or Ryder Cup skippers (Monty). Team Denmark (Hansens and Kjeldsen) has struggled lately, Poulter too, while the following make lots of loot but seldom, if ever, win: Davis, Wilson, Gallacher, Jacobson and Jacquelin.
Carl Pettersson achieved his season's goal in Canada, McDowell's feet have still not touched down and Sergio has his vacation bags packed. Did Justin Rose peak too early?
Fisher will be let down by his putting, Quiros by wildness, Gonzo and Laird by their short game. And Steady Eddies may not have the extra gear to break through: Fran Molinari, Donald and Hanson.
72 holes of clifftop golf may be a back nine too far for grey- (and orange-) beards DC and M-A J, and for Stenson who bemoans a lingering viral condition.
Which leaves us with Casey, Harrington, Kaymer, Karlsson, Eddie Molinari and McIlroy.
Casey is carrying a sinus infection and perhaps it's too soon after The Open for him to rebound. Karlsson remains an enigma, too good not to consider but without recent form to back it up. Molinari is a star of the future, but perhaps not this week, while Kaymer consistently gets to the fringe of big event contention without quite breaking through.
So: Will it be Rory or Padraig? Both coming off creditable warm-ups at the Bridgestone and good recent form elsewhere. I'm banking on youth to carry the day and hope that Rory McIlroy wins the first of many Major Championships.
If you MUST back an American, this is one course that might favour an under-the-radar Furyk, what with Woods and Mickelson spraying it, Stricker being the hometown hero and the young guns expected to break through. But Furyk's won twice already this year, is coming off two top tens and is a Major away from being Player Of The Year. Close this week but not close enough.
Here's hoping Rory McIlroy wins for Northern Ireland, perhaps followed by Els, Harrington or Furyk.
Outsiders? How's about Eddie Molinari, Van Pelt (having a career year and 31st in 2004) or Jerry Kelly, another local boy, streaky and a Pete Dye course specialist?