PGA Championship Power Rankings
The weather in Dallas created some soggy conditions that paved the way for some low scoring to take place at the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest last weekend. Sung Kang emerged victorious for his first-ever PGA Tour title at a whopping 23 under par. He shot a course record 61 on Friday and cruised to a fairly stress-free title, as cameras caught him napping an hour before his final group afternoon tee time on Sunday.
The field is set for the year’s second major as we head to Upstate New York and the vaunted Bethpage Black course. Past major champions here include Tiger Woods (2002) and Lucas Glover (2009). The course, which will also host the 2024 Ryder Cup, is a par-70 but is a country mile at 7,432 yards. Brooks Koepka will defend his title, and Woods will seek major number 16. All but forgotten is Jordan Spieth, who could claim the grand slam this week as well. Conditions are looking a bit brisk, so grab your raincoats and settle in for some major championship golf.
15. Henrik Stenson
King Henrik continues to flash the form that has won him major championships in the past. He will fly relatively under the radar entering this week, as so many of the world’s top-25 players are playing well heading into the year’s second major. Ranked 40th, Stenson has finished 36th or better in his last six events and has five top-10 placings at the PGA Championship dating back to 2008. He ranks second on tour in SG (Shots Gained): Approach the Green and second in Driving Accuracy Percentage. He has seen this course prepped for a major championship before and will be ready to roll.
14. Tony Finau
Fresh off of another top-five finish at the Masters, Finau has show golf fans that he can get up for the big events. The man known for hitting the long ball will be in good shape at Bethpage, too, as this course notoriously favors the big hitters. Finau ranks sixth on tour in driving distance, 24th in birdie average, and 20th in scoring average. His prowess off the tee should prove even more important if the cold, damp weather that is forecasted comes to fruition. Finau will surely be in the mix this weekend, but will he finally seal the deal on a meaningful win?
13. Bryson Dechambeau
The Mad Scientist has scuffled as of late with his last top-10 stateside being at the Sony Open in January. He has slid to eighth in the world golf ranking and 24th in the FedExCup after a hot start to the 2018-2019 season. All that said, Dechambeau is a gamer and has a reputation for getting up for big events. Despite his recent form, he still ranks sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee and third in birdie average. The man can flat out ball when it all comes together.
12. Matt Kuchar
The FedExCup leader will head to the year’s second major looking for another top-15 finish. Kuchar has been as consistent as ever during the 2018-2019 campaign with top 12s in his last four events. He ranks ninth in SG: Approach-the-Green, 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 14th in SG: Total, and second in Greens In Regulation Percentage. There truly doesn’t appear to be too many holes in his game and too many courses that he cannot conquer. He will very likely be in the picture come Sunday.
11. Tommy Fleetwood
Fleetwood just hoisted his first successful British Masters and will head back to the United States to see if he can continue the hot form that has had him in the conversation for most majors. He will be looking for his fifth top-10 outcome of the PGA Tour season and his first ever at a PGA Championship. He’s another player to keep an eye on off the tee, as he also ranks inside the top five in SG: Off-the-Tee. His bag really is well balanced, and he is able to use his driving prowess to rank fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green and fifth in SG: Total. His game has translated well in the U.S., so don’t be caught off guard when he finally breaks through.
10. Jason Day
The former PGA Champ has started to heat up as of late. With a T5 at the Masters and another top 25 at the Wells Fargo a few weeks ago, Day will head to Bethpage looking to add to his major resume. He has shown in the past that his ability to control his tee ball and his mastery as a putter is a winning combination at the PGA. Day ranks fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee, eighth in SG: Total, and 11th in SG: Putting, all stats that will serve him well this week. Day will need a hot start if this is going to be a special week.
9. Rickie Fowler
Fowler has been humming along since finally getting the monkey off his back in Phoenix. While having never won a major championship, Fowler has been a consistent performer and someone worthy of building your team around for the big events. While he hasn’t proven able to overcome the odds and win one a major, his improvement as of late shows that perhaps the breakthrough is coming. He lines up well for Bethpage, as he ranks 30th in Driving Distance, 7th in SG: Putting, and 12th in SG: Total. I am confident he will be around come Sunday but continue to wonder if he has the moxie to finish one of these big events.
8. Jon Rahm
The fiery Rahm has been streaking as of late with his recent win at the Zurich Classic to go along with his tour-leading eight top-10 finishes. It is only a matter of time before the 24-year-old finds the winner’s circle in a premier event. He is second on tour in SG: Off-the-Tee at an even one shot per round, and he also checks in at ninth in SG: Total. Rahm finished fourth at last year’s PGA Championship and ninth in last month’s Masters Tournament. He’s one of my favorite bets of the week to top 10 at +185. He could crash and burn come Sunday as the experience is lacking, but the talent is undeniable.
7. Xander Schauffele
A big-event specialist, Schauffele has made a career out of stealing the spotlight away from bigger, more popular names. His first major championship will be no different. He comes into the week ranked second in the FedExCup and third in official money. His second-place finish at the Masters was no fluke. You don’t have to look far to find his last runner-up in a major, which came at last year’s British Open. He comes into this week ranked 13th in SG: Total and birdie average as well as 18th in SG: Approach-the-Green. Do not sleep on this budding superstar; you will live to regret it.
6. Francesco Molinari
Molinari has enjoyed one of the more memorable calendar years in recent history. With a win and three other top fives already this season, it does not appear that his hot streak is anywhere near ending. He hasn’t played too much in the U.S. this season, and most of his stats are therefore middle of the road, but educated gamers know better. This is a man who gets up for the big events and has been a regular on major championship leaderboards throughout the previous two seasons. Another well-rested superstar, Molinari will be ready to go in New York this week.
5. Justin Rose
Rose has scuffled a little bit as of late, yielding the world’s number one position back to Dustin Johnson as well as missing the cut at the Masters. A closer look, however, shows the same consistency we are rather used to from the Englishman. Rose has five top-10 finishes already this year and comes into this week ranked 11th in the FedExCup. Ranked fourth on tour in SG: Total and sixth in birdie average, it looks like his missed cut at Augusta was just an anomaly. This would be a good opportunity to make up ground on the uninformed, as many will recall that finish and not the overwhelming consistency that has had him atop the OWGR for almost a year now.
4. Rory McIlroy
Arguably the hottest player on tour as of late, the Irish phenom is looking to add to his major trophy case this week at Bethpage Black. McIlroy has eight top 10s and over $5 million in earnings on the young season, but he is looking to etch his name in the history books once again. He’s first on tour in the following stats: SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green, and SG: Total. He’s second in driving distance, fourth in scoring average, and 12th in Greens in Regulation. The only potential knock would be that he seems to struggle under the spotlight. Perhaps this week, with other names getting a lot of attention, he will lay on the gas and torch everyone.
3. Dustin Johnson
It’s a bit of an upset that DJ comes in third on this list, but if you look at who’s ahead of him, I don’t think I will get too much of an argument. The number one player in the world is having another phenomenally consistent season with a win and six top-10 finishes already to his name. The prolific driver will have an advantage this week as well with chilly conditions expected. Ranked 11th in SG: Off-the-Tee and second in scoring average, Johnson will be looking to take it low. He has proven he has what it takes to win major championships but has also looked sheepish at times. Which version will be in N.Y. this week?
2. Brooks Koepka
Koepka almost beat out Woods for the number one spot on this list, but I am not going to bet against the best of all time again. Brooks has been an absolute beast in majors, winning each of the last two U.S Opens as well as last year’s PGA Championship. Traditionally one might worry about a player defending such a big event, but we all know how that ended for folks who faded Koepka before last year’s Open. With top-five finishes in two of his last three events, it appears the sleeping giant is stirring. I wouldn’t want to be the one to bet against him this week. Ranked 14th in Greens in Regulation Percentage, third in eagles, 12th in birdie average, and 14th in driving distance, he will be ready to roll.
The golf world may end up on its head if the most popular player ever wins back-to-back majors for the first time in almost 20 years. The excitement from his Masters win still hasn’t settled down, and the Tiger roars this weekend are expected to hit an all-time decimal high. Well rested, Woods has been able to make his own schedule since his breakthrough and will likely continue to pick and choose his spots if he plays well. He usually does something special when the whole world is watching, so I expect this weekend to be no different.