LONG ISLAND, New York – The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. has been the site of six previous major championships, including U.S. Open wins by Cary Middlecoff (1956), Lee Trevino (1968) and Curtis Strange (1989) and a PGA win by Jack Nicklaus (1980). But the last two major winners at Oak Hill came from off the grid as PGA champs, including Shaun Micheel’s lone Tour win in 2003 and Jason Dufner’s shocker in 2013.
Throw in a massive course renovation project by architect Andrew Green that dramatically has transformed the traditional tight, densely tree-lined look the East Course had in those six previous majors, and it becomes more difficult to understand all the demands players will face in the PGA Championship scheduled May 18-21. Green chose to revert to the original more open design by famed architect Donald Ross by choosing to remove enough trees to create wider site lines across the course. The fairways of the 7,360-yard, par-70 layout should be slightly wider and more forgiving, but anyone missing the short grass off the tee will encounter deep rough and steep-faced fairway bunkers that are penal in the extreme.
The obvious favorites to win are the top two players in the world, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, both of whom are in great current form. But I’m going to go just a touch off the grid with my top three selections: 1) Xander Schauffele, 2) Patrick Cantlay and 3) Brooks Koepka. In my view, current Masters champion Rahm, who already has four wins this season, is the fourth pick, but the last player to win back-to-back majors was Jordan Spieth in 2015. For me, Scheffler is the fifth choice even though he has two wins and leads in shots gained tee to green because it’s hard to sustain his current level of excellence and consistency.
Unlike Rahm and Scheffler, Schauffele has yet to record a win in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, but he has been right on the verge recently with five straight top-10 finishes and eight overall for the season. He never has won a major, but his eight world-wide wins include a Tour Championship and Olympic gold medal and he consistently has finished in the top 15 at majors.
Cantlay is another top player without a win this season, but he has finished T-21 or better in his past eight starts, including five top-10s. He has finished top-15 in seven of his 22 majors, including the past three straight. As for Koepka, he largely has been out of sight on the LIV Golf tour, but he was T-2 at the Masters after leading the first three days, and he counts two PGA Championships among his four major titles.
Admittedly, the consistency of Rahm and Scheffler has been overwhelming this season. In addition to his four wins, Rahm has made 16 straight cuts. Scheffler has finished T12 or better in 13 straight events, including seven top-5 finishes. Those are staggering numbers.
Of course, if you are putting together a six-man Draft Kings team, budgetary restrictions make it impossible to pick all favorites. I have five other players you might consider even though all are well-known names. I’m not sure if Tony Finau is ready to win a major, but he has two wins this season and has made all 14 cuts, including four top-10s. Max Homa has two wins and seven top-10s this season, but his record in the majors is undistinguished. Tyrell Hatton has been hot with five top-10 finishes, but he has just one career win and a suspect temperament.
Two others I like are Rickie Fowler, who has eight top-20 finishes in nine events since January, and Sungjae Im, who won the Korean PGA last week and has seven top-10 finishes this season, including six of his past 11 events.
Enjoy the season’s second major championship.