Tournament: PGA Championship, August 6-9, 2020
Course: TPC Harding Park, 7,234 yards, par 70. On the outskirts of San Francisco, maybe 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka, two times over. Seeking a 3-peat this year, he won comfortably at Bethpage last year (though it got a little interesting on the back nine). Koepka cemented his place at #1 in the world with his 4th major title. He’s fallen back to 6th place since.
Fun Fact: This course, with about 100 years of history and a second home to some very famous golfers (Ken Venturi, Johnny Miller, etc.) served as a parking lot during the 1998 US Open contested on nearby Olympic Club. Yes, a golf course had public parking on it including greens and tee boxes to accommodate the throngs visiting a club next door.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (ESPN+), 4 p.m.-10 p.m. (ESPN). Saturday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (ESPN+), 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (ESPN), 4 p.m.-10 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. (ESPN+), 12 p.m.-3 p.m. (ESPN), 3 p.m.-9 p.m. (CBS). You’re reading that right… early coverage every day on ESPN+, then switching to ESPN, then to CBS depending on the day. Broadcast rights make strange bedfellows. But at least we get live golf in prime time the next four days.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 8. I’ve listed their names and Thursday tee times just below.
So we’re in August, and professional golf is about to hold it’s first major tournament of the Calendar Year 2020. Sure, it is because of the global pandemic. But why this one? Because the Masters is held annually in April but the Masters Tournament Committee (Augusta National Golf Club) moved it to November mostly to buy some time and because the course will have new grass and most closely mimic April’s course conditions. Because the US Open will be held at Winged Foot and the USGA needed some time to set up their moving circus on the grounds with time to spare and October seemed about right. And because the Royal & Ancient (R&A) said to hell with it all, and canceled the British Open/aka Open Championship for the year outright. And then lastly because the poor ol’ PGA of America, which runs the PGA Championship, didn’t have much wiggle room and thought they could squeeze it in and get some hype by holding it in August. Without fans.
That was a long-winded answer, I grant you. What I wanted to get across is that there are several important bodies in professional golf (PGA of America, separate from the PGA Tour, the Masters by themselves, the R&A, and the USGA) and all but the PGA Tour have a recognized major championship they coordinate and execute. In a word, moving or postponing a golf tournament sounds easy, but instead is complicated.
But we’re now in NoCal, on the shores of Lake Merced, which in my ignorant mind is a oxbow lake off the Pacific Ocean. So the normal cool weather, the whimsical and frequent marine layer, and general crappy summer weather will prevail. This means player sponsors are scrambling to roll out their Autumn 2020 golf apparel and adorn logos aplenty on black and navy raingear.
The course opened in 1925 and was quickly considered one of the best public/municipal courses in the world. It held multiple city, state, and even national amateur championships. The old Tour even had an event here, the San Francisco Open. And that is pretty special, considering that it is surrounded by Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club, venerated layouts of their own. And they are within a driver shot of Harding Park. The city reserves didn’t quite make their way to the cash register in the 80’s and 90’s and the course fell from grace. Thus became the aforementioned parking lot for its big brother across the lake. It was renovated in the early 2000’s and is once more shining bright under new management.
The course is relatively short by modern standards, but is playing at a par 70 (two par 5’s are converted to long par 4’s for the big hitting pros). The fairways are fairly tight and the greens aren’t overly large. The rough will be fair to middlin’ long – probably not enough to cause automatic layups or punchouts on every shot like the US Open setups, but will cause a problem or two.
Protein shake-drinkin’ Bryson DeChambeau seems to be the favorite, and defending champ Koepka seems to be rounding into form. No Classic City Canines have good odds, but I wouldn’t count out Kevin Kisner. He can hit fairways all day and watch out if he can read these greens (bent grass, not the typical poa annua found in these parts). Brendon Todd has two wins, a runner up, and several top 10s (though he has failed to capitalize on two Saturday night leads this summer). Russell Henley can birdie any hole if he starts rolling the rock. And Harris English has been the model of consistency this season. But heck, with 8 in the field, there’s a good chance one of them scares the first page of the leaderboard. Here are there first round tee times (local, which is Pacific, because it’s in California):
Brian Harman 7:00 am #1 Tee
Russell Henley 7:33 am #1 Tee
Kevin Kisner 7:44 am #1 Tee
Keith Mitchell 8:39 am, #1 Tee
Harris English 9:12 am #1 Tee
Bubba Watson 1:25 pm #1 Tee
Brendon Todd 2:15 pm, #10 Tee
Sepp Straka 2:31 pm, #1 Tee
So that’s who to root for. Check out these ‘dawgs chasing little white balls around a famed stretch of golf real estate, and as always…