Nick Bonfield looks at some potential USPGA Championship surprise packages ahead of the final Major Championship of the year at Whistling Straits
Potential USPGA Championship surprise packages
The USPGA Championship is often seen as the least-significant Major and demoted to a position only just above the Players Championship in terms of worldwide stature.
I couldn’t disagree more with those who view it in such light, for a number of reasons – one being the fact it’s a field with the highest percentage of world-class superstars and in-form players.
Another relates to the diversity of the field. The qualification criteria means the world’s top 100 players, or at least the vast majority of them, tee it up, alongside past champions, winners of PGA Tour events over the last year and 20 club professional who qualify through the PGA Professional National Championship.
In short, it’s as complete a 156-player field as you could hope to get. As such, you always seem to get some little-know golfers figuring on the leaderboard, or even contending for the title.
Look back at 2011. How many people expected Keegan Bradley to win? In 2012, David Lynn finished second. In 2013, Scott Piercy finished in the top five and, last year, Bernd Wiesberger led after 54 holes. It’s an event that just seems to produce surprise packages.
The nature of Whistling Straits, an often-windswept layout with a number of water hazard and hundreds of bunkers, will also add to the unpredictability of the tournament.
So, are there any relatively unknown players in decent form who could spring a surprise? Yes, plenty. Below, we pick out four potential surprise packages to keep your eyes on…
The Canadian is enjoying a very consistent season on the PGA Tour, with a number of strong showings over the last month or so. He lost out in a play-off to Danny Lee in the Greenbrier Classic and narrowly missed out on his national open two weeks ago. Hearn is a pragmatic player who manages his way around a golf course – an approach that’s well suited to Major Championship success. He’s also ranked 10th on the PGA Tour in Total Putting.
The American’s name has been plastered all over leaderboards during the last couple of months. He was one adrift heading into the weekend at the Greenbrier Classic, he notched four rounds in the 60s at the John Deere Classic en route to a tie for 8th and he played in the final group on Sunday at the Quicken Loans National. Granted, his closing 77 in Virginia was slightly alarming, but Chappell is in great form and someone who already has a two top 10s in Major Championships on American soil (T3 in the 2011 US Open and T10 the following year). He also registered a tie for 13th in the USPGA at Valhalla last year.
The Argentinian has played some seriously good golf this year and shot a number of rounds in the low 60s. However, he often fails to get the job done over the weekend. Of course, this is a concern, but all elements of his game are there and he’s a real talent. Perhaps he needs the adrenaline rush of a Major Championship to ensure he doesn’t fade on Saturday and Sunday? This year, he’s shot 14 rounds of 68 or better, and he’s finished inside the top 22 in three of his four PGA Tour starts, including a play-off loss at the Puerto Rico Open.
Tringale is someone who’s been playing consistently well over the course of the year, although his results haven’t quite matched up to the standard of his golf. The mild-mannered American recorded a join career-best second-place finish at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in May – one of two top-5s already this season. He experienced a bit of a lull through June and into July, but a tie for 21st at the Quicken Loans national seems to suggest he’s rediscovered some of that early-season form. It won’t be long before he records his first win on the PGA Tour; why shouldn’t it be the USPGA Championship?