156 player field. 99 of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings (I’ll let you guess who’s missing). 35 major champions. 70 International players from 25 different countries. That’s the 2021 PGA Championship in a nutshell; the strongest major field in golf. Kiawah Island plays host for the first time since 2012, when Rory torched the place and won by 8 strokes. This year it will be the longest major course in history at just over 7,800 yards. I almost threw up in my mouth as I typed that. With the wind, waste areas, fescue, and enormous contoured greens, the seaside links track is hard enough. But I don’t really want to hit fairway woods into par 4’s, especially more than once. The word is the PGA isn’t going to utilize the back tees on every hole, especially as they see how the weather plays out. I expect the course to play around 7,500 yards each day. At that length you’d think the setup will favor a bomber, a long hitter. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Pete Dye designed courses don’t favor a certain type of player. They favor whoever is playing the best and have all facets of their game on point. Like TPC Sawgrass, another Dye masterpiece, anyone can win there as long as they’re playing near flawless golf. Players Championship winners includeTiger, Phil, Couples, Love, Rory, Fowler, Justin Leonard, Hal Sutton, Tim Clark, and Craig Perks. I think we will see more of the same this week. I see a leaderboard with a little bit of everything…stars seeking another major, players who have surged of late searching for their first, and a couple non household names. That’s the beauty of the PGA Championship.
Club Pros in the Field 30,000 hard-working men and women make up the family of PGA Professionals who wake up every morning and try to do their part to grow the game. This usually means putting our own game on the backburner in order to help someone else’s. So it’s amazing to see this handful of players get their games sharp enough to qualify and compete on our game’s grandest stage. These 20 men made way via the National Club Pro Championship last month. They’ll go from teaching lessons and folding shirts in the pro shop to playing with the world’s best in Charleston, South Carolina. Hopefully yours’ truly will make it there one day. Here are the 20 that earned their spot.
Denny Balin – Head Professional, Fresh Meadow Country Club, Lake Success, NY – 8th appearance
Peter Ballo – Assistant Professional, Silvermine Golf Club, Norwalk, CT – 1st appearance
Alex Beach – Assistant Professional, Westchester Country Club, Rye, NY – 4th appearance
Frank Bensel Jr. – Assistant Professional, Century Country Club, Purchase, NY – 3rd appearance
Tyler Collet – Assistant Professional, John’s Island Club, Vero Beach, FL – 1st appearance
Ben Cook – Director of Instruction, Yankee Springs Golf Course, Wayland, MI – 3rd appearance
Mark Geddes – Assistant Professional, Coronado Golf Course, Coronado, CA – 1st appearance
Larkin Gross – Assistant Professional, Springfield Golf & Country Club, Springfield, VA – 1st appearance
Derek Holmes – Retail Store Manager, PXG Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN – 1st appearance
Greg Koch – Assistant Professional, Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Grande Lakes, Orlando, FL – 1st appearance
Rob Labritz – Director of Golf, GlenArbor Golf Club, Bedford Hills, NY – 8th appearance
Brad Marek – Teaching Professional, Corica Park, Alameda, CA – 1st appearance
Tim Pearce – Assistant Professional, Birmingham Country Club, Birmingham, MI – 1st appearance
Ben Polland – Assistant Professional, Shooting Star Golf Club, Teton Village, WY – 3rd appearance
Patrick Rada – Head Professional, McArthur Golf Club, Hobe Sound, FL – 1st appearance
Sonny Skinner – PGA Life Member, Georgia PGA Section – 4th appearance
Stuart Smith – Director of Golf, Somersett Golf & Country Club, Reno, NV – 3rd appearance
Joe Summerhays – Director of Instruction, Eagle Lake Golf Course, Roy, UT – 2nd appearance
Omar Uresti – PGA Life Member, Southern Texas Section – 5th appearance
Brett Walker – Assistant Professional, Sunnybrook Golf Club, Plymouth Meeting, PA – 1st appearance
Fun tidbit: Omar Uresti is a former PGA Tour player and was paired with Tiger Woods when he made that famous wild and crazy ace on the 16th hole at the 1997 Phoenix Open.
News & Notes
Jason Kokrak took last week’s Byron Nelson off to hang and play with family in northeast Ohio. It was a nice relaxing break and pretty ho-hum for JK as he fired back to back course records at Hudson Country Club and Lake Forest CC. He shot 63-62 at the respective private tracks just outside Cleveland. In good form is an understatement.
Dustin Johnson says his ankle is 100% pain free and he is ready to go. The question is what will be in his bag come Thursday. DJ has yet to put Taylormade’s new SIM2 driver in the bag as he has opted to stick with last year’s model, the original SIM. But he has a SIM2 with him and has hit it during practice rounds. There’s also talk of a possible putter switch before the tourney begins. But this isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Dustin. He often switches from his trusty Spider mallet and last year he won with Taylormade’s Truss putter only to sideline it the very next week.
Jordan Spieth switched to the new Titleist Pro V1X golf ball at the Byron Nelson last week. He has played the 2017 model since the 2016 Australian Open, which he won.
Smylie Kaufman is anything but smiles these days. The best pal of Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Spieth and the gang hasn’t exactly enjoyed the same success of his buddies. He’s made just one cut since 2019 and the Golf Gods kept kicking last week as he tried to Monday Qualify for the Byron Nelson in Dallas. After a rain delay he came back out and faced his next shot, a one foot putt…which he missed. He missed out on a playoff buy one stroke. Kaufman is now ranked 1530 in the world. [Insert changing his name to Frownie joke here.]
Taylormade Golf has been sold by KPS Capital Partners to Korean-based Centroid Investment Partners for $1.6 billion. This is the largest acquisition in the golf industry on record and the deal is expected to be finalized by July. Adidas sold Taylormade to KPS for $425 million back in 2017. KPS’s goal with the purchase was to revitalize the brand and sell for a healthy profit. Mission accomplished. $1.6 billion is a lot of cheddar, especially since Acushnet, owner of Titleist and FootJoy, sold for $1.3 billion in back in 2011. But golf is booming and equipment retail sales have seen an increase of as much as 70%. Taylormade also strengthened their marketing stable a few years ago by signing a guy named Tiger to their fray. He truly is King Midas in red.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional