No sooner did the world’s greatest golfers get home and unpack from the British Open, than they had to head back out for another major championship. They had a lot of unpacking to do, too. They won’t need the ski caps, heavy gloves and winter-resistant rain gear for the PGA Championship this week in New Jersey, which will feel like a different world.
“I’m pumped to get back to some 90-degree weather. Don’t have to wear three or four layers every day,” said Jason Day, the defending PGA champion, who made a stop this past week to try to defend his title at the RBC Canadian Open.
So it will be three big tournaments (the Canadian Open is a stalwart on the PGA Tour) in three weeks in three different countries for Day and numerous other golfers. It is part of a dramatically compressed schedule set up this year to accommodate golf’s return to the Olympics, which has itself created unexpected drama because the top four men’s players all have pulled out of the Games in Rio.
Nick Faldo, the six-time major champion who will be the lead analyst for CBS this week, downplayed the crowded itinerary. Many golfers do take private jets and a number of them chartered a plane to Canada. “You set your schedule at the beginning of the year. You know what you’re going to do,” he said. “It’s no problem at all.”
Still, the whirlwind has the makings of a totally unpredictable PGA, capping a totally unpredictable major season. While golf observers figured this year would be a competition among emerging dominant champions, the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open all were won by a golfer who never had won a major before. The last of those was Henrik Stenson, who held off Phil Mickelson in an epic showdown last Sunday at Royal Troon.
Mickelson shot 65 and lost. Three days later, he was doing a clinic in Jersey City, then it was off to practice at Baltusrol, where he won the 2005 PGA in its usual August spot.
Before he left Scotland, Mickelson agreed. “It doesn‘t give me a chance to take time off, per se. It forces me to keep my game sharp,” he said. “I‘ve got a lot of special memories going back to Baltusrol, and [the fact that] we don‘t have a month to wait between majors is probably a good thing for me. I‘ll try to look at the positives and take that into Baltusrol.”
He and everyone else also will have to carry a different mindset and skill set than they had at Troon. Baltusrol’s lower course will be a big, humid, tree-lined beast, with fast greens and back-to-back finishing par 5s.
“It’s completely unlike anything they’ve seen in the past few weeks,” said Dottie Pepper, who will be doing on-course analysis for CBS this week.
That could qualify as good news for last week’s non-contenders, such as Jordan Spieth. “It‘s got a lot of length, with that, you need to strike a lot of iron shots really well,” he said. “As with a lot of the great American golf courses, the center of the green is always going to be OK, but if you‘re not [leading], it kind of forces you if you fire at the flagsticks. And if you miss and you‘re short-sided, you can‘t really get it close.”
It seems like only yesterday, though, that he was preparing for a whole different set of conditions. “It will be odd,” he said. “It will be odd to have played two majors in three weeks. I‘m sure that will be a different feeling. But, again, I think it‘s a good feeling if you can ride any kind of momentum.”
PARKING AT THE PGA
Public parking for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey,. will be at Oak Ridge Park in Clark. Shuttles will leave from there. Organizers also are recommending that spectators take public transportation. Shuttles also will pick up ticket-holders from the Summit train station.
Weekend tickets sold out early. Tickets for Thursday and Friday and practice rounds are expected to sell out (pga.com).
NEW YORK, OF COURSE
The PGA will be the first in a series of major championships — and one Ryder Cup — within range for Long Islanders in the foreseeable future:
2018 U.S. Open
Shinnecock Hills, Southampton
2019 PGA Championship
2020 U.S. Open
Winged Foot, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
2024 Ryder Cup
2026 U.S. Open