The fourth and final Major of the year gets underway this week on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on Kiawah Island, SC. The course is most remembered as the host site of the 1991 Ryder Cup where the US and European teams battled down the stretch until the final hole, where ultimately Bernard Langer missed a six foot putt to hand the Cup to the US. Plenty of bad blood ensued during that week, so much so that those matches are now forever known as “The War by the Shore”.
The Pete Dye designed course is one of the most beautiful in the entire country, as well as one of the most difficult. It was rated as the most difficult in the United States by Golf Digest in 2010. Because of the unique topography of the course and all the natural sandy areas, the PGA has ruled that there will be no bunkers on the course and all of these areas will be treated as waste areas. Apparently they didn’t want another “Bunkergate” from 2010 at Whistling Straits on their hands.
A Group – At age 45 Steve Stricker is still in search of that elusive first Major victory. He’s been close many times, and his game still looks sharp enough to take one home. After a closing 64 last week at Firestone, where he ultimately finished tied for 2nd, he’s coming in to Kiawah with a lot of momentum. Stricker has six top 10s in just 14 starts on the season, including a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. I think this week is going to be all about making pars on a tough golf course and Stricker ranks 2nd in bogey avoidance on TOUR.
B Group - Lately, Tiger Woods seems to come out strong on the opening rounds and then fade on the weekends. This was the case at both the US Open as well as the British Open. However, last week at Firestone Woods went 68-66 on the weekend to finish T8. Historically, nobody thrives better under tough conditions on really tough golf courses, so I’ll be starting Tiger this week along with Dustin Johnson. Johnson, a South Carolina native and Coastal Carolina alum, should do well in the familiar surroundings. He’s coming off of a good showing at the British Open (T9) and his length off the tee will be a big bonus on the very long track.
C Group – The C group presents some very tough decisions. There are three solid guys that I like, but obviously can only choose two. I’ll be starting 2011 PGA Championship runner-up Jason Dufner, and will have Louis Oosthuizen on the bench. The player I was on the fence about is Graeme McDowell. You really can’t go wrong with McDowell who’s name seems to consistently be up on the leaderboard at Major Championships, including top fives in each of the last two. Dufner gets the start though, as he’s only finished outside of the top 10 twice since mid-April. He ranks fifth in bogey avoidance, 1st in scoring average before the cut, and sixth in GIR.
Starting Foursome: Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner
On the Bench: Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen