FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Main into the PGA Championship, one participant was the subject of dialog. That may be Tiger Woods. As soon as play started, one participant was the subject of dialog: Brooks Koepka.
So, after watching Koepka defend his PGA Championship for his fourth main in his previous eight tries, it is honest to ask: What’s his ceiling? And what to anticipate from Tiger going ahead — extra like what we noticed on the Masters, or extra like what we noticed on the PGA?
Our specialists each look again on the PGA and into the longer term:
1. Brooks Koepka threw it on the market at the start of this week that ‘double digits’ was in play for him for profession majors. So, what number of majors does he win?
Bob Harig: Seven. He’s making it look simple proper now, however everyone knows that it isn’t. Rory McIlroy appeared destined for double-digit majors 5 years in the past and is caught on 4. Jordan Spieth, identical factor. It is onerous to win them, and whereas he is obtained an incredible formulation, stuff occurs. And for instance he does get seven. That’s nonetheless phenomenal.
Michael Collins: Twelve … if he stays wholesome. I feel his philosophy on the way to strategy tournaments is working fairly rattling effectively to date. Why would he change something? As an example he has 10 extra “stable” years — that is 40 main probabilities. What has he proven that will make you imagine he cannot go Eight-for-40?
Ian O’Connor: I like the truth that Koepka is gunning for 10 or extra and, in line with his former faculty coach, gunning for Tiger’s 15 and Jack’s 18. However since his nice uncle Dick Groat was buddies with one other slugger with blacksmith arms, Arnold Palmer, I am going to give Brooks Arnie’s seven.
Mark Schlabach: If Koepka stays wholesome, I feel he’ll have an opportunity to achieve double digits, however that is a tall order for anybody. Let’s not overlook that there are solely three males in historical past — Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11) — who’ve reached double digits. Whereas Koepka is aware of he is the man to beat each time he exhibits as much as a significant and is not afraid to say it out loud, he has proven some nerves on Sunday in back-to-back majors on the Masters and PGA Championship. It value him a inexperienced jacket and practically value him a second Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
Kevin Van Valkenburg: Ten majors is such an insane climb, it feels ridiculous to counsel he’ll get there. I will say there isn’t any means he will get there, simply so that somebody can quote this out of context, selectively enhancing it and letting it function motivation for the subsequent 20 years. Have you ever stopped studying, Brooks? Good. As a result of I am truly bullish on his probabilities. Yeah, it is onerous to maintain this sort of play, however there are no flaws in his recreation. His swing is so in stability. He would possibly win 10 majors simply by profitable U.S. Opens and PGAs.
Nick Pietruszkiewicz: So, we should always strategy this one cautiously. And Bob’s argument is the right one. A participant has one or two nice, nice years and we predict he is headed for historical past, forgetting essentially the most primary rule: Golf is tough. Granted, Koepka has energy and may dismantle programs — greater than Rory and far more than Spieth — however an extra two or three feels extra affordable than (a minimum of) six extra.
2. Who (or what) might be Koepka’s greatest hurdle this 12 months? Subsequent 12 months? Subsequent 5 years?
Regardless of taking pictures Four-over within the last spherical, Brooks Koepka (Eight-under) holds on to repeat as PGA Championship winner.
Harig: Golf. The final word recreation of frustration. It might be venue does not go well with him; or that any person will get scorching; or that he even blows an enormous likelihood. No person made a problem of it, however Koepka had an incredible likelihood to win the Masters. Hit a ball within the water on 12. Missed two very makeable putts on 17 and 18. He couldn’t pull that one off, and it is onerous to knock him for it.
Collins: Time administration. The extra you win, the extra folks need your time, the much less time you must be the participant you’re/had been. He’ll preserve the chip on his shoulder for loads of time to return, however in about 4 years with a few extra majors beneath his belt, there might be a brand new, youthful technology of tour execs who can do what he is doing now, they usually would be the second-biggest hurdle for him.
O’Connor: Making an attempt to enhance his performances within the non-majors to boost his historic standing within the recreation. It may be bizarre 5 years from now if Brooks has seven majors and solely, say, 12 or 13 complete victories. Sooner or later, the man dominating the majors wants to determine the way to win some minors.
Schlabach: Is it his ego? Can he turn out to be too overconfident? He looks like a man who’s going to do the whole lot possible to maintain his physique and recreation in form on the highest ranges, however how lengthy can it final? How lengthy can he keep his laser focus at majors? We noticed Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and others slip after comparable streaks. Is Koepka actually that a lot completely different?
Van Valkenburg: Juggling household life and put on and tear on his physique. Life comes at you quick once you get married and begin a household. If Koepka needs both of these issues, it would finally create an emotional tug-of-war between that stuff and golf. There simply aren’t sufficient hours within the day to follow as a lot as you need, get your exercises in to keep up your physique and be a gift father and husband. Everybody thinks they will match all of it in, and everybody struggles. What if he chooses household life and follow and has to neglect some exercises? Does his physique begin to break down? Does his recreation slip as a result of he cannot follow as a lot? How he handles these complexities in all probability determines how excessive his ceiling is.
Pietruszkiewicz: It is onerous to choose one or two. There’s damage and life and expectations and stress. There’s additionally, , Rory and DJ and Tiger and Rose and … you get the purpose. Majors have huge fields, with loads of gifted gamers and extra on the best way.
three. What do you make of Tiger’s week? Trigger for concern? No huge deal?
Harig: It is someplace in between. Tiger earned himself the advantage of the doubt with the Masters win. Bouncing again from that and getting re-energized once more was by no means going to be simple. However what the PGA did present was that he must put in additional preparation to win these huge tournaments, and he will not be capable of do it with a lackluster recreation. Woods constructed his means towards the Masters; he’ll must do the identical factor heading into Pebble Seashore.
Collins: No huge deal. That is the mattress the PGA Tour and PGA of America made after they modified the schedule. Sleep effectively … ‘trigger Tiger won’t ever contend in a PGA Championship coming off per week wherein he performs nice on the Masters. The brand new Tiger body-recovery schedule does not match the “let’s have a significant each 4 weeks” schedule.
O’Connor: Not an enormous deal. Deep down, he knew he had nearly no likelihood at Bethpage. He had no post-Masters reps, obtained sick Wednesday, and obtained paired with a fire-breathing dragon in Koepka. If Tiger misses the reduce on the Memorial after which does not contend at Pebble Seashore, then will probably be time for Tiger followers to fret a bit.
Schlabach: I am undecided if we may have anticipated far more after he didn’t play competitively after profitable the Masters. Not even Tiger can try this at age 43. He did not even play a full follow spherical and got here down with an sickness earlier than the primary spherical at Bethpage. I feel he’ll should play on the Memorial in preparation for the U.S. Open, and he’ll should work his means in form bodily and mentally like he did earlier than Augusta.
Van Valkenburg: Not a priority. To be frank, I do not suppose he is going to have the ability to compete on programs like this in his 40s. They require an excessive amount of uncooked energy, and his energy, particularly over 4 days, goes to be his artistry. I truly suppose the “rust” stuff is overrated. Even when he was wholesome and rested, I do not suppose he’d have been within the combine right here. However Pebble and Royal Portrush require much more shot shaping and pondering, and I feel he’ll be a consider each if he can get unfastened and the climate cooperates.
Pietruszkiewicz: No huge deal in any respect. The mixture of all of it — the emotional Masters, the dearth of preparation earlier than he obtained right here after which when he obtained right here, the size of Bethpage Black — was an excessive amount of. It was predictable earlier than it began. Really, it might need been the one factor I mentioned earlier than this occasion that I obtained proper. Count on him to be within the combine once we get to Pebble Seashore in a month for the U.S. Open. This was a blip, a passing thunderstorm that’ll transfer out in a day or two.
Four. Increased hopes for the U.S. Open: Tiger or Phil?
Harig: Tiger. Strategic programs are going to be Tiger’s finest wager going ahead. Locations the place you must play chess all through the event. Putting photographs within the appropriate spots. Hitting irons or fairway woods off tees. That helped Tiger at Augusta and can at Pebble Seashore. Phil can actually play that recreation, however even he admits he can’t simply bomb drivers like he did when he received the tour occasion in February. It is a completely different course for the U.S. Open. You must be extra defensive. That’s extra suited to Tiger.
Collins: The final time it got here all the way down to Tiger and Phil at Pebble Seashore, Phil kicked Tiger’s behind … however that is the U.S. Open, so it will be a completely completely different beast. Nonetheless, Tiger obtained his comeback win of the ages on the Masters. It might be cool to see Phil lastly full the profession grand slam at Pebble Seashore. That may give Pebble the 2 best U.S. Open’s ever — and we lived by way of them each!
O’Connor: I might nonetheless say Tiger. He had his most dominant efficiency at Pebble, and although that was practically twenty years in the past, that has to depend for one thing. If he will get locked in on the Memorial, I am going to really feel higher about this name. If he does not play at Jack’s place or misses the reduce, I will not.
Schlabach: Tiger. Despite the fact that Phil received at Pebble Seashore earlier this 12 months and has a mighty good monitor document there, his recreation hasn’t been excellent since his final win. He is lacking too many fairways and, frankly, his placing has been fairly subpar, as effectively. There’s going to be a lot stress on Phil to finish the profession grand slam after so many near-misses on the U.S. Open. At age 48, he is aware of his window is closing quickly. How a lot does he press?
Van Valkenburg: Tiger. Phil is extra prone to miss the reduce at Pebble than he’s to drag off a miracle win. The explanation Phil was so dejected at Merion in 2013 is he knew — deep down — that was his final actual likelihood. For all of the discuss of how far he is hitting it in his 40s, he is 94th on Tour this 12 months in strokes gained off the tee. He is 127th in strokes gained placing. We consider Tiger as being a bit of wild off the tee at occasions, however Phil is without doubt one of the least correct gamers on Tour this 12 months, hitting barely 50 % of his fairways (212th on Tour). As a lot as I might like to see it, he is not profitable at Pebble.
Pietruszkiewicz: I will say it is the identical, as a result of each can (and can) play effectively at Pebble. It is a much smaller ballpark than Bethpage Black. They know the place so effectively, every having received on it greater than as soon as. (Granted, a type of for Tiger was a significant.) Wouldn’t it shock me if each had been within the prime 10 at Pebble? No, in no way. Similar to it would not shock me if Tiger received. I do not see Phil profitable — although, wow, that will be some story: He completes the profession grand slam by lastly profitable a U.S. Open, on his birthday, on Father’s Day, 20 years after his emotional second with Payne Stewart at Pinehurst.
5. Who had essentially the most disappointing week?
Harig: Rory McIlroy. Give Rory credit score for grinding to make the reduce on Friday when he appeared means out of it. However Rory is not about making cuts, and Bethpage appeared excellent for him: lengthy course, mushy as a consequence of rain. That is been the setup for every of his 4 main championship victories. And but McIlroy, regardless of enjoying effectively this 12 months, appears to get in his personal means on the majors. It’s a irritating interval for him.
Collins: Tony Finau. Straight and lengthy with an incredible perspective. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black was arrange completely for an additional first-time main winner to take his place among the many elite. As an alternative, Finau ended up being ranked 38th in strokes gained off the tee and 79th in strokes gained placing. Saturday’s 1-under 69 was the one spherical he may handle beneath par. Coming off the fifth-place end on the Masters there have been excessive hopes for Finau. Bethpage Black crushed these.
O’Connor: Rory McIlroy. When he received The Gamers in March, I figured this is perhaps the 12 months Rory turns into Rory once more within the majors. However he was a nonfactor at Augusta, and a nonfactor right here, and now I am pondering he’ll be a nonfactor at Pebble, too. Will golf’s Misplaced Boy lastly make it dwelling on the Open in Northern Eire?
Schlabach: I am not going to pile on McIlroy, so I am going to go along with Bubba Watson. He has been one of many longest hitters on the Tour this season, however he did not even make the reduce at Bethpage. He has two inexperienced jackets, however Augusta looks like the one place he performs effectively in majors anymore. He has missed the reduce in 5 of the previous seven majors.
Van Valkenburg: Here’s a enjoyable train: When is the final time Bryson DeChambeau was in rivalry at a significant on the weekend? It is the 2016 U.S. Open, when he was an novice. I like DeChambeau’s character, even when the science behind his strategies typically does not maintain as much as even the slightest scrutiny. However it is time to begin contending in majors if he needs to be within the recreation’s prime tier. You possibly can say, “He is solely 25!” however by that age, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy had every received three majors. (DeChambeau has by no means completed within the prime 10 at a significant.) Lacking the reduce right here and grumbling concerning the setup wasn’t the perfect look.
Pietruszkiewicz: Tommy Fleetwood. We preserve saying one in every of as of late Fleetwood goes to win a significant. Effectively, he opened with 67 and was inside shouting distance of Koepka. Then he went 71-72-78. And this was after he was a nonfactor on the Masters, the place he completed 36th. Perhaps issues will get higher at Pebble Seashore.