2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Picks + Predictions, Plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #GlorysLastShot #FinchemHatesThatHashtag

Ah, it’s PGA Championship week and Glory’s Last Shot….oh wait, we’re not allowed to call it that anymore for whatever reason (seriously- come on Finchem).  We also aren’t supposed to call Dustin Johnson’s cocaine suspension what it really is since the PGA Tour loves to sheepishly sweep things under the rug- you know, so examples aren’t set and so they happen again and again.  Man, Finchem seems to be overly diluted in his Ponte Vedra pink lemonade these days. Ok, so enough venting already, as hey, it’s only the first paragraph!

Anyway, it’s the season’s final major at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, the out-of-nowhere-suddenly major-championship-venue turned Ryder Cup host and then PGA Championship venue once again.  It’s a Jack Nicklaus design that is unique and borderline loony in some places, but make no mistake about it- it played host to one of the best major championships in history (thank you Tiger and Bob May).

As like most Nicklaus tracks, Valhalla has ample room off the tee and puts an emphasis on approach shots into the bentgrass greens.  It’s a bit too target-golfy for some player’s liking (Sergio), but those that can consistently hit greens and scramble well will fare quite well this week.

Each of the two PGA Championships hosted here have gone into playoffs (Mark Brooks in ’96, Tiger in ’00 emerging victorious), as did  the ’11 Senior PGA Championship (Tom Watson).  Some scintillating golf has been hosted here, and I’m calling right now that we’ll see a heated battle and another playoff this year.  Not that a course can be “right” for a playoff, but mainly because hey, other than sort of at the British Open we haven’t had a close major since last year’s U.S. Open at Merion, so we’re due.  Also, even though Rory + Sergio have been the easy sprinters towards the top of the leaderboard these past couple weeks, I believe we’ll see a couple of lesser knowns make their way up towards the top on Sunday.  But, who will it be……well, let’s move onward and hop into some picks:

LOCKZILLAS (Last Week: Keegan t-4th, Stricker t-63rd)

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker
– After a bizarre offseason rib injury, Sneds struggled with all facets of his game through the early part of the summer, but now is beginning to find his groove.  He finished t-9th at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, backed it up with a t-11th at Congressional a couple weeks later and last week at Firestone posted solid scores of 68-68-68-70 to ultimately finish t-12th.  You’ll find a common theme amongst my picks this week with players playing their tails off to secure Ryder Cup berths, and count Sneds on that list.  Currently at 25th in the Team USA Standings, he certainly has his work cut out for him to make the team, but don’t for one second think that team captain Tom Watson doesn’t want to have “Sneeeeeedeker” on his team this fall.  No question about it, having that rapport from those MasterCard commercials will give Brandt a solid chance at a captain’s pick regardless, and with a high finish this week (I’m calling for a top 5), Watson will have what he needs to call for Sneds to be on his team.

Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan
– It might seem a stretch that a player currently ranked 32nd in the Ryder Cup Standings would be playing to make a late run to secure his spot on the team, but that’s exactly what Hunter will do this week.  Playing on the exact venue where he thrived during the ’08 Ryder Cup in earning 3 ½ points to help lead Team USA to victory, Hunter will no doubt have some great vibes to draw from this week.  He also found a little momentum following his t-15th last week at Firestone, which included a second round 65 and despite a disappointing season overall thus far, he undoubtedly has the talent to be a top ranked player once again.

SEMI-FLIER (Last Week: Walker t-26th)

Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed
– Mr “Top 5” finally appeared to rediscover his groove last week with his t-4th finish at Firestone.  Make no mistake about it, Patrick Reed will make a FANTASTIC Ryder Cupper, and I damn well hope he’s on our team this fall to help put a smackdown on those Euros.  He’s fiery, passionate, an excellent putter and can explode with birdies in bunches- all the makings of a great Ryder Cup player (and also all qualities that are possessed by fellow American Keegan Bradley).  Desire to surge in the season’s final major to lock in his Ryder Cup spot will spur Patrick to a high finish this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last Week: Graeme t-8th)

Jason Dufner
Jason Dufner
– The defending champion’s game is a mess right now, as he’s fighting a bulging disc in his neck and things got so bad at Firestone that he actually gave away his putter to a kid on the 10th hole on Sunday, then putted with his 3-wood the rest of the way to ultimately finish at +14 for the week in t-66th place.  Stay away from Duf this week. #WeekendOff

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last Week: Haas t-41st)

Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood
– As anyone who reads my blog or tweets with any regularity can tell you, I am not a Lee Westwood fan.  I’ve repeatedly predicted that he’ll never win a major in his career and actively root against him each week.  Ok, now that that’s out in the clear, I’m picking him as my Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!  Why you ask?  First, my 1 and 1a least favorite players in the history of golf are Kenny Perry and Lee, and with Kenny finishing runner-up here in ’96 (losing in a playoff to Mark Brooks) it’s just meant to be that Lee would follow and to the same thing.  Lee also stormed Firestone on Sunday to the tune of a 63 to rocket up the leaderboard and needs a solid finish this week to have a chance at making the European Ryder Cup team.  Lee’s a ball-striking machine and will thrive with his steady off the tee and iron play this week…to the tune of a playoff loss.  BOLD?  Why yes, I’d say so.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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