The 2023 PGA Championship returns to Oak Hill’s East Course but it will be a much different looking test than in 2013, when Jason Dufner took home the Wanamaker Trophy. Andrew Green’s historic renovation is in the spotlight this week with the best in the world on the stage. Only one player of the top 100 is missing from the field. The Fried Egg team convened this roundtable in our newsletter to discuss some of these major topics and players, and make a couple predictions for the second men’s major of the year. You can subscribe to the Fried Egg Newsletter for free daily coverage and opinion on the PGA, and a range of golf topics every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the year.
Within reason, what would be your ideal or best case scenario playing out this week? LACC is getting a lot of the pre-majors hype, but what could make this the best major of the year?
Shane Bacon: I want the two best to go at it. I want Rahm vs. Scheffler. I want it to feel and look a little like Stenson-Phil at Troon. These two have played the best golf over the last 18 months and it would be nice to see both guys show up with their A-games and battle it out for 72 holes.
Will Knights: In a similar vein to Shane, Jon Rahm going 2/2 to start the year would be the best-case scenario. Keeping the chance of a grand slam (and a career grand slam) alive into the summer would send waves through the general sports world. It’s always good to have more eyeballs on golf and Rahm is the one winner who could really drive interest for the rest of the year.
Meg Adkins: This may not be exactly “within reason” as a sore wrist and long, thick rough don’t exactly bode well for his chances, but Jordan Spieth completing the career grand slam is my best-case scenario. Spieth giving it a go this week could easily turn into a worst-case scenario though if he makes things worse and puts his chances of playing the next two majors at LACC and Liverpool at risk.
Brendan Porath: I’m with Meg on the Spieth train, both in terms of the story and whether it’s reasonable. The next option is probably Rory McIlroy ending his nine-year major drought, or Jon Rahm ramping up the season slam talk by taking the first two of the year, which seems quite reasonable. What I want most, however, is the mad tweeter, Phil Mickelson, to be in the hunt against Rory and other Tour regulars. But maybe that’s the most unreasonable.
Is there someone who you think has to prove something this week? Who would benefit most from a win?
Andy Johnson: I talked about this in the preview podcast with Ryan Lavner, but Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are quickly ascending the list of players with the most weeks in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking without a major victory. Schauffele (177 weeks spent in the top 10) and Cantlay (175 weeks) are 15th and 16th among active players in number of weeks in the OWGR top 10. Of that group of active players, only Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Rickie Fowler are majorless. This puts both Xander and Cantlay on the path to becoming the “best player to have not won a major.” To his credit, Xander has had close calls in a few majors. Cantlay, on the other hand, has had a few moments loosely in contention, but for the most part he’s been a major disappointment. The clock is now ticking as these two have been top-10 players for the better part of four years. As we have seen in the past, the longer it takes to win your first major, the more difficult it gets.
Meg: On that note, it’s time to see Max Homa in the mix at a major. For the sixth-ranked player in the world, his recent performance during the four biggest weeks of the year is downright baffling. He’s missed the cut seven times since 2020 with his only finish above T-40 coming at Southern Hills last year. Nabbing his first top ten at a major is one of the last missing pieces to his comeback puzzle, and Oak Hill is a place that will reward his skills off the tee. If the other parts of his game fall into place, we could see Homa in contention come Sunday at Oak Hill.
Shane: This is a big week for Rory McIlroy (as seems to be the case at every major championship). After the Masters MC and whatever was going on with him personally following that disappointing week at Augusta National, he’s coming into Oak Hill a little under the radar.
I think the answer to “who would benefit most from a win” is going to be Rory until he wins another major championship (if he wins another major championship?), and considering the run he had at the majors last year and the letdown at the first one of ’23, I think it’s important for him to get it going again in one of the big four and put himself in the conversation come the weekend.
LIV has a fair amount of representation in the field this week, though perhaps not enough according to some shouters on Twitter. Is there one LIV player you’re most interested in seeing back again on a larger stage alongside PGA Tour players? First choice for one to contend?
Brendan: I remain fascinated by the career arc of Bryson DeChambeau. Is he still a competitive golfer? Is he a YouTuber? He was semi-competitive at last year’s Open, but it’s been a wasteland since he won at Winged Foot. It’s also not been real pretty on the LIV circuit, if that matters at all. He popped for a little bit in Tulsa, but he’s the one I’m still curious about on these largest stages, though that will fade if he continues to no-show. (The sicko choice here is Siwhan Kim.)
Shane: I’m leaning Dustin Johnson. Of the big names that went to LIV, DJ and Bryson are the two that feel the most forgotten. I know Bryson played well last week in Tulsa, but DJ coming off a win (like we said with Koepka heading into the Masters) might mean the form is trending. Plus, Dustin is a guy with six top-10s in PGA Championships including back-to-back seconds in ’19 and ’20, so it feels like the major he should win at some point before all is said and done.
Will: Brooks and Dustin, but outside of them I’m most interested to see how Talor Gooch does this week. He’s been racking up good LIV performances but is yet to finish in the top 10 in a major. If he wants to be viewed as a real threat in professional golf, he needs to start playing well in majors, and quickly.
Andy: I’m intrigued by Cameron Smith. He finally played well last week, losing in a playoff to Dustin Johnson. A little less than a year ago there were people who wondered if he was the best player in the sport. Now he’s really only relevant these four weeks per year. While Oak Hill isn’t a perfect fit for his game, everyone will miss greens. And few are better at recovering than Smith.
Is there a “star” or name player you think will bomb out this week?
Meg: Oak Hill feels like a terrible fit for Cam Smith’s game. For all the magic he brought to the Masters and St. Andrews last year, I really hope we see some of it return for the second half of the majors. The good news: LACC and Liverpool should set up nicely for him.
Brendan: Spieth, for obvious reasons. I also think Phil could completely bomb out into orbit this week, like high 70s type stuff. He’ll be wild off the tee and penalized for his misses. He was near DFL at LIV Tulsa, where you had to really work to not break par. Augusta is always kind to experienced players and wilder drivers, so that run on Sunday is probably not indicative at all of how he’s playing or how he could play at this next major.
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) May 16, 2023
Andy: At this point, I only consider Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy as stars, although I might be able to talk myself into Brooks Koepka.
With those four in mind, it’s really hard to envision one of them bombing out, although Rory did at the Masters. The chances of him bombing out for a 2nd straight major is unlikely, thus it leaves me Brooks, Rahm and Scottie. The latter two have been so good and consistent that’d be crazy. So Brooks is my bomb out pick; maybe we see more “Masters Sunday” Brooks and less “led the first three rounds” Brooks.
One aspect of the course or one player you’re most excited to see at Oak Hill:
Andy: I’m fascinated by whether or not Oak Hill will become a bomber’s paradise. There was a concerted effort to mitigate distance with bunkers and other features. One of the few holes that presents a choice is the 10th, with a bunker, hummocks, and a creek lurking where players would hit driver. Laying back leaves a significantly longer iron shot, but avoids the risk of the creek or an extremely uncomfortable lie from the hummocks. Pushing it up successfully will yield a valuable wedge opportunity into a docile green. For the most part, the holes will play out in a uniform fashion, but this hole is the one that should be most compelling to watch off the tee.
Shane: The bunkering, specifically the fairway bunkering. Pro golfers think they can pull off every shot in the book, so it’ll be interesting to see the decision-making when they are in the front halves of fairway bunkers having to make a risk-reward decision that, if not pulled off to perfection, will easily lead to double bogey or worse.
Brendan: I’ve consumed hours of content — written, visual, audio — in these first couple practice days and I can best sum it up with: rough rough rough rough rough rough rough rough. Lot of rough talk! But for me, the recovery plays from some of these steep-faced fairway bunkers that we outlined in our preview video are of heightened interest. Will some have to take their medicine and just bunt it farther up the fairway? Will some go for broke at an inopportune time, leading to catastrophic results (think Sahith at the Travelers last year)? I think it’s a unique, interesting aspect of this major at Oak Hill.
Will: Well…Bryson DeChambeau. We saw Phil Mickelson come out of nowhere to perform well at Augusta National, and I largely chalked that up to his history with the course and how well it fits his erratic game. Thicc Boi doesn’t have any history with Oak Hill, but his bomb and gouge style has proven to work at venues like this. He hasn’t been playing well whatsoever, but is there a chance Bryson has a Phil-like week and gets into the top five?
Pick to win and why?
Meg: Rory. Because Rory Rules the Roc is a great newsletter headline (you’re welcome, Will).
Andy: I waffle every major week and go against what I have said I wouldn’t go against for weeks. NOT THIS WEEK! I am sticking with Jon Rahm, despite really feeling a Scottie Scheffler push in my mind. These two guys have been so freaking good this year, it’s hard to pick anyone else.
Brendan: At the start of the year, I was so excited to both see and pick Will Zalatoris at this major. It’s unfortunate he’s not here. To deviate from the clear Rahm and Scheffler options, I will drop a little, not a lot, further down the odds board and pick Cameron Young to win. Underwhelming results since his top 10 at the Masters, but the power and speed will be a huge advantage and he’s shown well now three of the last four majors.
Shane: I’m going with Tony Finau. His worst finish in 2023 is a T-31st, he’s started to win at the clip we all thought he might win at, and he’s going to drive it long and straight in these Oak Hill fairways. Plus Tony is an underrated pitcher of the golf ball, and among the top names on the PGA Tour he’s one of the best bunker players.
Will: Rahm. You can’t pick him to win them all if you don’t pick him to win the first two (I picked him at the Masters, not to brag.)
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.