Punch Shot: Who will win the 99th PGA?

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 9, 2017, 6:14 pm

With the season's final major ready to get underway, GolfChannel.com writers, using real-time messaging system Slack, offer up their thoughts to four big questions:

Moderator: The 99th PGA Championship is this week at Quail Hollow Club. Let's get right to it: Who's your winner and why?

Rex Hoggard: Have asked a dozen players this week what the key to playing Quail Hollow will be and have gotten a dozen different answers. The only common theme is length and the ability to putt on fast, Bermuda grass greens, so I'm going with Brooks Koepka.

Ryan Lavner: Quail Hollow has produced recent winners like Derek Ernst and James Hahn, but no player is more synonymous with this track than Rory McIlroy. He is obliterating his driver and trending in the right direction. If he can shore up his wedge game – it can't get much worse – he should win. By a lot.

Will Gray: Lavner stole much of my thunder, as I'm also siding with McIlroy. The glint in his eye is undeniable, and the advantage he enjoyed off the tee in Akron should be even more significant this week on a wet track he adores. He's had this one circled for a while, and a Kiawah repeat wouldn't surprise me.

Nick Menta: Rain has made Quail Hollow soft, and more is on the way, meaning distance off the tee is going to come in handy with so little roll. Justin Thomas has already fired a 59 this year on the PGA Tour and a 63 at the U.S. Open. Give him his first major.

Moderator: Let's go a bit down the world rankings, outside the top 25: Who is your dark horse pick who could win this week?

Rex Hoggard: Always a bit of a debate over what we all consider a "dark horse," but I'll go with Branden Grace. He always plays well at the biggest events and it was just last month that he made major championship history at Royal Birkdale by becoming the first player to shoot 62 in a major.

Ryan Lavner: I’ll take Tony Finau as my sleeper, for what feels like the third consecutive major. (Someone look that up.) The winner this week will be among the driving distance leaders, and few can send it like Finau. Three top-7s in his last five starts, too, so he’s coming in hot.

Will Gray: Guy that shot 62 last month? Real bold, Hoggard. Xander Schauffele was a surprise at Erin Hills, but he shouldn't be that much of a shocker this time around. The rookie has exceeded expectations since bursting onto the scene with a T-5 finish at the U.S. Open, including a win at Greenbrier and a T-13 finish last week at Firestone. The good form will continue.

Nick Menta: And Will just stole my pick as I also like young Mr. Schauffele. As with Thomas, his prodigious length should give him a leg up. That and he’s got a Max Power kind of name.

PGA Championship: Tee times | Full coverage

Moderator: Not everyone will leave Charlotte happy. Give us one name, in particular, who will disappoint this week.

Rex Hoggard: Dustin Johnson. The world No. 1 hasn't been the same since taking a tumble at Augusta National, missing the cut at the Memorial and U.S. Open and posting a pedestrian T-54 at Royal Birkdale. On paper, DJ is an easy pick, but for the fourth consecutive major he'll be a non-story.

Ryan Lavner: It’s wildly unfair, of course, but wouldn’t anything but a victory this week feel somewhat disappointing for Jordan Spieth? I just don’t see it happening. He’s ranked 100th in strokes gained-off the tee, and 130th in driving accuracy, so unless he starts hitting the big stick on a rope he’s going to be hacking out of the thick, juicy rough all week. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t feel stressed – he’s not expecting to win.

Will Gray: I'm not sure what exactly has derailed Jason Day's season, but I don't think he'll find the solution this week. Day has gone 1-2 in the PGA the last two years but has now dropped to seventh in the world and seemingly out of relevance when discussing the game's biggest names. The playoff loss at the Nelson didn't prove to be a spark, and 2017 is shaping up as a year to forget for the Aussie.

Nick Menta: Hideki Matsuyama has been known to get hot, but it seems like a big ask to follow a tournament-winning 61 with his first major victory. Hideki will get his – probably sooner rather than later – but his balky putter may struggle on Quail’s quick, grainy, Bermuda greens.

Moderator: And one final question: What's the story line everyone will be talking about on Monday?

Rex Hoggard: Although my head went with Koepka to win this week, my heart says it's Rory McIlroy's week to get back on the major board. The Monday story will be: Who will win the PGA Tour Player of the Year award - Spieth, Johnson, McIlroy, a TBD champion at East Lake?

Ryan Lavner: Golf is longing for a rivalry, and if the Boy Wonder wins, we’ll finally have one: Spieth vs. Rory, a pair of telegenic 20-somethings who have ambition, swagger and loads of talent. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Will Gray: Quail Hollow's questionable standing as a top-tier venue. The spotlight will return here for the Presidents Cup in four years, but reviews of the recent overhaul have been mixed at best and soggy conditions will prevent the course from playing as firm and fast as officials had hoped. I don't think players will be in a rush to see a major return to Charlotte.

Nick Menta: We’ll wind up with another first-time, 20-something major winner and we’ll continue to be in awe of the post-Tiger era. We’ll also expand golf’s top tier to the Big Ten, but we’ll have an 11 in the logo and 14 guys.

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.