Punch Shot: Will PGA go to first-time major winner?

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PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Of the three majors contested this year, two have been captured by first-time major winners (Adam Scott at the Masters, Justin Rose at the U.S. Open). The question begs to be asked: Will the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill be secured by a first-time major winner? Our GolfChannel.com writers debate.


By REX HOGGARD

Those who study such things will tell you that this week’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill has all the makings of a first-timer’s festival.

Just two of the last 20 majors, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, have been won by Grand Slam greenhorns and the last time the PGA was played in the slice of upstate New York, Shaun Micheel stunned the golf world.

All that data, however, ignores how the stars seem to be aligned for something special.

Mickelson is less than a fortnight removed from his Open triumph, not to mention his prelude to greatness a week earlier at the Scottish Open, and has embraced a new, dialed-down game that is perfectly suited for Oak Hill.

And then there’s Tiger Woods, fresh off his fifth victory of the season last week at Firestone and hitting the ball better than anyone at the moment.

“Maybe we're starting a new cycle,” said Adam Scott, who nearly collected his second major at Muirfield before limping in with four late bogeys on Sunday. “You know, they are quite recent repeat winners, so maybe the new cycle is that there will be some more, hopefully. I'm trying to talk myself into this one.”

The statistics may be against Mickelson, Woods, Scott & Co., but they have momentum. And momentum always wins.


By JASON SOBEL

We’ve already had two first-time major winners this year. Now we’re about to get our second repeat major champion in a row.

I like my odds based on how many major champions are in the PGA Championship field this week. But I only need one.

I’m taking Tiger Woods to win.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 17 times in the past five years, shame on me. I get it. Then again, I also just watched the guy completely obliterate an elite field at Firestone on a course that doesn’t set up all that differently from Oak Hill. Three weeks after another disappointing weekend at a major, I believe that Woods is now on track to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record.

Put me down for “no” in response to this question. And hey, I’ve got a buffer zone, too: Even if Woods doesn’t win, I’ve still got the likes of Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Justin Rose on my side.


By RYAN LAVNER

No.

Shaun Micheel notwithstanding, Oak Hill has crowned an impressive list of major winners over the years. The other four champions here (Cary Middlecoff, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Curtis Strange) have combined for 29 majors. Not quite the roll call at Muirfield, but hey, you get the picture.

Oak Hill is fair, and it’s difficult, and there’s a premium on finding the fairway off the tee. But this isn’t 2003, when bunters like Tim Clark, Fred Funk and Mike Weir were all in the top 10. Players these days can hit their 3-woods well over 300 yards – and straight, too. At least, Tiger Woods can. So can Adam Scott. And Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. I’ll take my chances with those guys – who largely fit the Oak Hill winner’s mold – over the crop of major-less talents.