This is the penance I get. I allowed myself to get all wrapped up in the Greg Norman British Open phenomenon and decided to go gutsy and pick him to close out the final round and win the Open Championship.
Led with my heart, not my head, and now I’m paying dearly for it.
The PGA Championship’s third round was suspended by thunderstorms midday Saturday, leaving the last three groups in the clubhouse before even teeing off. For Saturday’s leaders, that means they’re looking at 36 holes on Sunday, a yeoman’s task that brings to mind the old way of playing the PGA, when a 36-hole match play final determined the victor.
So while this may be darn near impossible to project over 30-some-odd holes — history suggests I have a hard enough time doing it for 18 — I’m still going to take a shot at figuring who can win, who won’t win and who will win the 90th PGA Championship.
Who Can Win
Andres Romero +2 (F) Those who have read my majors columns for a while know that I’m pretty enamored with this guy. He just has a ton of game, which was evident by his tournament-low 5-under 65 he tossed up there on Saturday morning.
Romero is streaky, though, and has his moments when pressure gets the best of him, like, say, Friday’s round of the PGA (78 ) and the costly double bogey on the 17th at the British last year. But he finished all 18 on Saturday, leaving him as the freshest player for Sunday. The one thing that could hurt him is that after vaulting from a tie for 48th to a tie for eighth on Saturday, he could actually fall back again as the leaders play a softer course for their morning third round. He’ll need to be within three or four shots when he tees off to have a chance.
Camilo Villegas +2 (Through 14) Another streaky young player, Villegas has been knocking on the door of major contention over the last two years. He will have a brutal finishing stretch to end his third round Sunday morning, and like Romero, could fall back if the leaders can take advantage of the conditions.
Steve Flesch +1 (Through 5) Just a steady fairways and greens player who can hang around by making a bunch of pars. He’ll have a long day on Sunday, but not as long as the leaders.
Henrik Stenson +1 (through 1) He’s a better player than most realize, finishing third at the British, 10th at The Players Championship and third in the Accenture Match Play this year.
Brandt Snedeker +2 (Didn’t start) You knew I was going to put him in here, didn’t you?
While I think he has a chance, and that his grueling experience at the Masters will help him, Snedeker could be hurt by what may be a changing golf course. Two sturdy 71s moved him up the leaderboard and into a tie for eighth, but that was on a hard and fast course where par was the goal. Snedeker isn’t a birdie machine, although he did shoot 63 to win the Wyndham Championship last year, but is as steady as they come.
And, at 27, he’s young. He should be able to handle 36 holes on Sunday. And now that the Donald Ross greens should be softer, Snedeker’s best trait, his putter, becomes more valuable. If it gets hot, he could steal this thing.
Ben Curtis E (Didn’t start) He’s an up-and-down guy, but he’s better than people give him credit for. Did you know he’s won twice on the PGA Tour since his shocking win at the British?
Boo Weekley, Ken Duke, Angel Cabrera +2 They’re all under the radar on what will be a very busy day. Not a bad position to be in.
Who Won’t Win
J.B. Holmes -1 (Didn’t start) I just don’t see it. He’s won on Tour, he’s capable and he may be the biggest bomber in the game.
Here’s the thing: while he ranks second on Tour in driving distance, he ranks 203rd in driving accuracy. So he’s going to keep splitting fairways for 28 holes (minus the par 3s) and missing deep, wet rough when he’s at the top of the leaderboard of a major championship? Uh-huh. Sure.
Justin Rose E (Didn’t start) He’s actually one of the better players in the world, and he’s certainly good enough to win a major. He might even do it on Sunday. But he’s faded on the weekend of majors so often that he needs to prove he can do it before somebody should think he will. How’s that for hedging?
Sergio Garcia +2 (Through 1) See Rose, Justin.
Again, he should’ve already won a major, and he’s a world-class player. But he’s a hot head, too. And he’s got 35 holes left, which means 35 greens he’s going to have to putt. I don’t know. He’s just another guy I think needs to prove he can actually do it first. Maybe this is the week.
David Toms +1 (Didn’t start) A former PGA champion and a solid player. But he hasn’t been the healthiest guy over the last few years, and Sunday will be a long day.
Charlie Wi E (Didn’t start) Nah. Although, he’d be the perfect PGA winner. Somebody only the hardcore fans have heard of.
Who Will Win
Phil Mickelson +3 (Through 5) I’m doing it again.
You’d think I’d learn. You really would. Lefty hasn’t been the same player since he threw away the Open at Winged Foot. He’s found new ways of choking for two years since then, none more recent that just last week at Firestone. He very well could be the new Greg Norman, and dang it, I’m still going with him.
But in watching two solid days of play, nobody has played better stretches of complete golf than Lefty (aside from Romero on Saturday). That said, his final five holes on Friday, with three bogeys, were hideous.
That’s been the problem, though. Mickelson keeps going back and forth from being in total control to total chaos. And yet he’s right there in the thick of it with the most major championship experience in the field of contenders.
Lefty has a 10-foot eagle try on the drivable sixth hole when play resumes Sunday morning. That moves him to at least +2 right there. And while he’ll probably give that back on the seventh hole — that’s his M.O. — as long as he hangs around, he’ll be the most formidable name on the board. And this is a similar situation to how he won his second Masters when he needed to complete his third round on Sunday.
Now, if he reverts back to Terrible Decision Phil, where sweeping cuts under a cluster of trees from 4 inches of rough with a hybrid are his choices over punching it back into the fairway and using his stunning wedge game to try to save par, then all bets are off.
And I’ll be back to being a moron.