Jason Day defends the USPGA Championship and 97 of the world’s top 100 players will contest the final Major of 2016 at Baltusrol GC in New Jersey.
Just 11 days after the completion of The Open Championship, the USPGA Championship, the final Major of 2016, gets underway at Baltusrol GC in New Jersey. It’s the strongest field of the four Majors with 97 of the world’s top-100 on the start list. The only absentees are Ian Poulter and Charles Howell who are missing through injury and Jaco Van Zyl who is preparing to compete in The Olympics.
After Major victories this year for Danny Willett at The Masters, Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open and Henrik Stenson at The Open, all four Majors are currently held by first time winners. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will be among those looking to change that at Baltusrol.
Owing to The Olympics, the USPGA is being contested outside August for the first time since 1971.
The origins of the USPGA Championship date from 1916 and the founding of the professional golfers’ association itself. The inaugural championship was contested only seven months after the organisation began and a trophy was donated by department store owner Rodman Wanamaker.
Until 1957 the tournament was played to a matchplay format. Dow Finsterwald was the first strokeplay winner in 1958. American players dominated for most of the 20th century but in recent years the list of champions has had a more international feel. Padraig Harrington of Ireland won in 2008 and, since then, South Korea’s Y.E. Yang, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Northern Ireland’s Rory Mclroy and Australia’s Jason Day have been winners.
Last year Jason Day produced a superb performance to win at Whistling Straits. He fired four rounds in the 60s to finish on 20-under-par, three clear of Jordan Spieth.
The PGA of America runs this tournament and as such, there are 20 places in the field reserved for club professionals. Qualifying is via the Club Pro Championship which was held in June, it’s a unique feature of this historic event. This year’s event at the Turning Stone resort in New York was won by Rich Berberian with a four-round total of 11-under-par.
The lower course at Baltusrol has played host to a number of significant tournaments over the years, including five Majors. Most recently, the 2005 USPGA Championship was held here, an event won by Phil Mickelson.
It’s a layout that asks a number of questions of the player. It’s long and the ability to move the ball in both directions off the tee will be an advantage. It’s also a layout that will test the short game – good scrambling skills will be essential.
It’s likely to be hot and humid this week and rain is a distinct possibility.
Venue: Baltusrol GC, Springfield, New Jersey
Date: Jul 28-31
Course stats: par 70, 7,428 yards
Defending Champion: Jason Day (-20)
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There will be a host of favourites this week – the two most recent Major winners Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson are both on scintillating form and both could, and should, contend again. Phil Mickelson, runner-up at Troon, won the USPGA at Baltusrol in 2005. Then there’s McIlroy, Spieth and Day. At the end of last year, most would have been certain that at least one of that trio would secure a Major title in 2016. They have one last chance.
There are plenty of other contenders too, including:
Matt Kuchar – Supremely consistent with six top-10 finishes in his last eight starts.
Sergio Garcia – Still trying to break his Major duck – he’s finished in the top-5 in the last two Majors.
J.B. Holmes – The powerful Kentuckian has enjoyed a good season in the Majors – third at Troon and tied 4th at Augusta. This is the type of track where he could excel.
Key Hole: 17th – This famous par-5 stretches to 650 yards and is one of the longest holes in pro golf. In the 1993 U.S. Open John Daly became the first player to reach the green in two. Incredibly, he hit a 1-iron for his second. This week, it will be a three shot hole for most demanding a clear strategy. If a player gets a good drive away he can carry the cross bunkers on the fairway with his second. A lay-up short of those bunkers will leave a tough third shot, uphill to a target that will be out of sight.