Fans of golf in the UK often consider the Open Championship to be the pinnacle of the sport, while their contemporaries Stateside look upon The Masters or the US Open to be the flag bearers for golfing excellence.
That means that the fourth major, the PGA Championship, is considered something of an ugly stepsister to the main prizes, but you can rest assured that a quality field will very much want to get their hands on the trophy.
Leading the way in the USPGA Championship betting at odds of 10/1 will be Scottie Scheffler, the newly minted world number one who opened his major account at Augusta National in April.
New Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is presented with the famous green jacket by 2021 winner Hideki Matsuyama 💚pic.twitter.com/OmBPnNllMu— Sky Sports (@SkySports) April 10, 2022
But there will be a varied and eclectic set of players trying to prevent the Scheff from doubling up in 2022. There’s a leprechaun (5ft 7in Irishman Rory McIlroy), a DJ (Dustin Johnson), a Viking (the nickname Norwegian Viktor Hovland has given his putter) and an ageing Tiger (that is, 15-time major champion Tiger Woods).
To win the PGA Championship, they will need to overcome the challenge presented by Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s not a course that many in the field will be familiar with, so what can they expect and who is best suited to tame the beast?
The Beautiful South
There have been two recent-ish majors held at Southern Hills CC – the US Open in 2001, followed by the PGA Championship six years later.
What was noteworthy about both was the scoring, with Retief Goosen prevailing at -4 in the former and Tiger at -8 in the latter. For a major where birdies are supposed to be a little easier to come by than at the US Open, it’s fair to say that Southern Hills is something of an outlier as far as PGA Championship hosts go.
The PGA of America selects Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., to host the 2022 PGA Championship from May 16-22. Excited to return to SHCC for the fifth time. The course offers a tough-but-fair test for the strongest field in golf. pic.twitter.com/Etkh81dC0X— PGA of America (@PGA) January 25, 2021
As you would expect in a major, there will be a premium on keeping balls in fairways, but with a yardage of around 7,000 yards for its Par 70, there will be some who plot a rather more “route one” approach – that is, bombing their drives 300+ yards and leaving themselves with a wedge out of the rough into greens that can best be described as ‘spicy’.
Course officials at Southern Hills have done what Aronimink did before them – bringing in famed architect Gil Hanse to bring the 18 holes into shape as the host of a modern major.
Interestingly, Hanse appears to have set up the players for a very specific test of skill. By removing trees and widening fairways, he is creating plenty of room off the tee – however, the real test will come when hitting approaches into small greens that are well protected by bunkers and which have unique contours and very closely mown fronts and edges.
And so solid iron play, plus reliable ‘recovery’ chipping, will very much be the order of the day at the PGA Championship, and those with a quality tee-to-green game – the likes of Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Will Zalatoris lead the way in that statistical category during the 2021/22 season – could enjoy the best of things.
So will one of that trio prevail… or will it be the leprechaun, the DJ, the Viking or the Tiger who gets the win?