By Rahul Lal
The PGA Championship, 2016’s final major, is set to tee off this week at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. The tournament will feature the world’s top three players: defending champion Jason Day, U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Tour champion Jordan Spieth. The rest of the top 10, including two-time PGA winner Rory McIlroy and Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson, will also be on hand.
The last time Baltusrol hosted the tournament back in 2005, Phil Mickelson bested Tiger Woods by two strokes. Woods will not be in the field, but Mickelson will look to follow up his spectacular runner-up performance at the Open. This year’s edition falls two weeks after the Open (and almost a month earlier than usual), thanks to the 2016 Rio Olympics and its inclusion of golf. This scheduling creates a unique situation for golfers like Mickelson.
“It’s important for Phil that he gets the chance to get back on the golf course and doesn’t have to answer those questions about what happened at Troon any longer than those two weeks,” said CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper. “It works to a great advantage for him.”
Scheduling aside, the PGA Championship is a prime opportunity for the new Big Three to redeem themselves, at least in part. The trio of Spieth, McIlroy and Day have not performed up to expectations this year. Each has struggled at various points, surprising many in the golf world.
“It’s either Jordan or Rory that surprised me,” said CBS Sports lead analyst Sir Nick Faldo, “because Jordan hasn’t put his finger on the swing, and he still hits it left or right when he doesn’t want to. And Rory is very emotional. “[Jordan] is not that far off, but the difference — that five or 10 percent — makes an unbelievable difference at the end of the week… Mainly Jordan hasn’t put his finger on swinging [at] the ball right.”
Day’s play in recent tournaments has been suspect too.
“Look at Jason really since the Memorial where he came in playing very well and had the opportunity to really win at home and couldn’t get it done on the weekend,” Pepper continued. “He played very poor on the weekend actually. And then got [off] to such a poor start in the two majors after it. I think that’s the most surprising, the way he has struggled to get out of the blocks and carry the momentum he had at the end of 2015.”
“We felt like that was just an appetizer of what was to come. We thought we were going to be reducing this game to these three guys mixing it up at every major. And truth is, here we come to the final one, and we haven’t had a showdown,” CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz elaborated. “We had Jordan on the precipice of winning a second straight green jacket, and we all know what happened there. And it hasn’t been the major championship season for the other two guys that you would’ve forecasted.”
Dustin Johnson, reputedly not a finisher, has been one of the hottest players in golf. This year’s U.S. Open winner added a WGC-Bridgestone title to his resume a few weeks ago and is now seeking another major at Baltusrol.
“If Dustin Johnson wins the PGA, which I happen to think is set up very nicely for him,” said Nantz. “If he wins this, he’s the player of the year, and we don’t go back to visit this ‘big 3’ storyline anymore. We’re running away from it.”
Baltusrol measures at a long 7,428 yards and is a par-70 course, adjusted for all majors from its usual par-72. Golfers will play for a piece of a $10 million purse; the winner will receive $1.89 million and 600 FedExCup points.
CBS Sports will broadcast live 18-hole coverage of the 2016 PGA Championship on Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31, 2:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST. Early-round highlights will air Thursday, July 28 and Friday, July 29, 12:35 – 1:07 p.m. EST.
CBS Sports Network will feature extended week-long coverage, including live player interviews and tournament analysis. PGA Championship On The Range will air Thursday, July 28 and Friday, July 29, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST. PGA Championship Clubhouse Report will air Thursday, July 28 – Sunday, July 31, 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. EST (or after the conclusion of play).
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.