The PGA Championship begins Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Club, with the usual suspects expected to contend for the championship, including Phil Mickelson.
“Of the veteran players, I think he might have the best chance, especially the way he played at the Open Championship,” 2003 Masters champion and CBS and Turner golf analyst Mike Weir said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s been working with a new coach down in San Diego for the last bunch of months and it seems to be coming together. His technique looked great at the Open Championship. Obviously (he has) the good vibes of winning in 2005.”
Indeed, Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol 11 years ago. He is coming off a strong showing at the Open Championship, where he lost a highly compelling two-horse race to Henrik Stenson.
While Mickelson’s experience and guile will come in handy this weekend, several younger players – with their athleticism and driving ability – will also be firmly in the mix.
“The way the game has evolved, the longer players really have a big advantage,” Weir said. “And I think on this golf course in particular, some of the longer players – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory, Bubba – (have an advantage).”
The longer players also have to like that both par-5s come on the final two holes.
“The long guys, in particular, have that in your back pocket,” Weir said. “(They know) if you’re a couple over par and not playing your best, you can maybe get those par-5s to finish and salvage the round. If you find yourself in contention Sunday, the longer players can have a bit of an advantage coming into those last couple of holes, especially if it starts to firm up.”
Johnson, who finished fourth at the Masters before winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June, is one of the favorites this weekend.
“Dustin Johnson, to me, at the U.S Open, that was probably the best driving I’ve ever seen,” Weir said. “If he has a driving week like that, he’ll be tough to beat.”
Win or lose, Johnson will not be participating in the Summer Olympics in Rio. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Adam Scott and others have also opted out, citing concerns with Zika, safety and the lack of financial incentive.
“Those are valid issues, I believe,” said Weir, 46. “If I was a young guy and starting a family, those are things you got to think about, dig deep and research. The security issues, the stuff you see in the news, I don’t know. It would be a really tough call. You want to represent your country and you feel proud to represent your country, but at the same time, your family is No. 1 and you got to keep your priorities in order. So yeah, that would be a tough one.”
Golf has not been played at the Olympics since 1904. It is slated to be played in 2016 in Rio and in 2020 in Tokyo, but should golf be an Olympic sport?
“That’s a great debate because there are so many great tournaments now,” Weir said. “We have the FedEx Cup playoffs, four major championships. But the game has grown more globally. I know that Olympic committees look at sports that are growing globally, and golf, I feel like, is. Sometimes we talk about it being stagnant here a little bit, but I think around the world it really is growing, especially in Asia, and in South America it’s growing too. So it’s a great debate. Hopefully it actually comes off well. I think (it will be well-received in) Japan the next time around.”