Daniel Box
By Daniel Box

Almost 13 months on from Shane Lowry's historic six-stroke victory at The Open in Portrush, men's golf is finally going to see its next major championship when the PGA Championship finally gets underway at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Thursday.

2020 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship Twitter

So much has already been written about the return of golf, and sport in general, without the presence of fans. But things are bound to feel a little more surreal at a major championship where everything seems to be kicked up a notch: the very best golf courses, all of the world's best players, huge crowds and an electric atmosphere.

The prospect of watching Tiger Woods battle it out with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and the new world no.1 Justin Thomas on the back come Sunday in virtual silence is something that we will never be able to get used to, but for now perhaps its just time to appreciate the fact that there is some golf for us to watch and enjoy. And here at Golfalot, enjoy we shall.

2020 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship Twitter

Also, if you've been keeping an eye on proceedings on the PGA Tour recently you'll have seen that the standard of golf certainly hasn't suffered since the game's restart, so there's still plenty to be excited about this week.

Last Year

Think major championship, think Brooks Koepka. The American is looking for a third successive PGA Championship title this week after he blew away the rest of the field at Bethpage Black last May.

63-65 in the first two rounds gave Koepka the lowest ever 36-hole total in major history, and opened up a 7-stroke lead at the halfway point, which he retained going into the final round.

Brutal Sunday conditions led to a closing 74, and a late charge from Dustin Johnson looked like threatening at one point but ultimately his late bogeys gave Koepka a well-deserved two stroke victory.

Patrick Cantlay, Matt Wallace and Jordan Spieth rounded out the top five, finishing six strokes behind at -2.

The Course

TPC Harding Park is a 7,234 yard par-70 situated on the outskirts of San Francisco and named after US President Warren Harding.

After a troubled second half of the 20th Century, the course was renovated in the early 2000s under the guidance of Sandy Tatum and has gone on to host two WGC events, won by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

The course also hosted the 2009 President's Cup, where Tiger Woods did this en route to completing a perfect 5-0-0 record during the week...

The course is expected to suit the longer hitters, and with seven par 4s that measure over 460 yards its easy to see why length is to be an advantage. However it is a major championship so you can bet that the PGA of America will tighten the fairways and grow out the rough to penalise those golfers who continue to stray offline.

2020 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship Website

Add in the fact that temperatures are going to be relatively cool, with the addition of a heavy sea air and the chance of some fog, and this could be a golf course which plays long with scoring not expected to be as good as in previous PGA Championships.

The greens are large and pretty flat, and there's a chance that they could be rolling up towards 13 on the stimp meter which would provide opportunities for birdies as long as you put yourself in position off the tee.

2020 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: PGA Championship Twitter

The large cypress trees which line the fairways are striking, and also potentially dangerous as they have been known to swallow up errant drives and could put some players off trying to sneak their tee shots over the corner of the doglegs.

The Field

95 of the world's top 100 players are in attendance this week, although there have been a number of drop-outs due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19.

Branden Grace tested positive for the virus whilst playing on the PGA Tour last Saturday and so had to withdraw, whilst Lee Westwood admitted that he did not feel safe travelling over to the United States due to their handling of the virus thus far.

Surprise surprise, a certain Tiger Woods will be the main draw this week, but his limited performances so far in 2020 have been underwhelming and he struggled slightly with his back at his most recent outing at The Memorial, finishing tied for 40th. The slightly chilly weather may not be ideal for him this week either but he does have a good record and good memories at TPC Harding Park that will certainly bring him confidence.

The joint favourites this week, by most people's reckoning, are Americans Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. Thomas picked up his 13th PGA Tour victory last week by holding off Koepka on the back nine and has been in fantastic form all season, rightfully regaining knocking Jon Rahm off the top spot and regaining his place as world number one.

Koepka has clearly established himself as the leading current golfer when it comes to majors - he has won four in his last 10 major starts and finished in the top five in all four events last year.

He also happens to have won the last two PGA Championships and any worries over his form were quashed last week as he finished in a tie for second place.

2020 PGA Championship Preview

Image Credit: Global Golf Post

Other interesting story lines include the polarising Bryson DeChambeau, who has the power to dominate any course in the world but needs to control his shorter irons and his emotions in order to really contend and claim that elusive first major.

There is also a strong British contingent looking to challenge this week, including the ultra-consistent Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood, who's right-to-left ball flight should suit this course and closed with a 65 last week. Rory McIlroy is also coming in a little under the radar this week, and is clearly overdue a major victory.

Golfalot Tips

  1. Brooks Koepka @ 11/1

You think his incredible major run is going to come to an end at some point, but every time he plays in one he either wins it or comes very close. Form was very poor this season until a T2 last week threw him right back to the top of the favourites. 11/1 is a short price but nobody should be surprised if he wins - he's just that good.

  1. Jason Day @ 40/1

Hasn't won since 2018 but recent form suggests that he is close to being back to his best despite the ongoing struggles with his health. Finished T7-T4-T6 in the last three events and his game seems to fit this course perfectly - long off the tee, favours a draw, and a world-class putter.

  1. Abraham Ancer @ 66/1

The diminutive Mexican has yet to win a PGA Tour event so expecting him to start with a major may be a little optimistic, but he could be an excellent option for an each-way bet or in a head-to-head against other better-fancied players. His strength is his accuracy and he is one of the best iron players in the game, two things which will come in handy at a penal golf course like this. Two runner up finishes and no missed cuts in 2020 prove that he is in good form.

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