Thursday marks the kickoff of the PGA Championship, the only major golf tournament in the 2019-20 season, and it's happening in San Francisco's Harding Park without any fans able to attend.
Around 90 of the world's 100 best golf players are expected to compete in what will be the last — and only — major tournament in the season, following postponements of other tournaments like the Masters (happening in November and again in April) and the U.S. Open (happening in September and again in June). The scheduling situation, as CBS reports, makes the PGA Championship hold a particularly prominent place for this season's competitors, ahead of what will be an extremely busy 2020-21 season beginning in September — and currently set to have seven majors including two Masters and two U.S Opens.
TPC Harding Park, one of the most celebrated public golf courses in the country, was originally known as Harding Park Golf Course, and sits out by the Pacific Ocean near Lake Merced. It opened in 1925 and was named for President Warren G. Harding, who died of a heart attack at San Francisco's Palace Hotel two years earlier, while in office. The course plays host to the annual San Francisco City Championship, which is the oldest continually-played city championship in the U.S.
And after an abbreviated season in which the top players have been playing in some intense summer heat elsewhere in the country the last several weeks, they arrive in San Francisco for a PGA Championship in Fogust. Longtime golf commentator Dottie Pepper, who will be providing on-course reporting for CBS Sports, tells the network, "This is going to be the toughest test these guys have faced so far." She cites the drop in temperature and the humidity, which will slow down golf balls considerably. And having visited the course this week, she says, "It is mean. It is wet. The rough is extremely long. The greens are firm. The wind did come up a little bit... You’ve got a golf course that’s set up extremely difficult. And it’s just going to be a huge test."
If you have any passing interest in golf, the young player to watch is 27-year-old Jordan Spieth, who could join a very elite club if he were to win the PGA Championship this week. As the Associated Press reports, one more win at a major tournament and Spieth joins the ranks of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, and Gene Sarazen, who all have won four majors since the Masters tournament began in 1934.
Other top-ranked players likely to fare well are 27-year-old Justin Thomas, who is currently the number-one-ranked player on the PGA Tour; 30-year-old Brooks Koepka, who previously held the number-one seed in 2018; and 26-year-old Bryson DeChambeau.
At age 44 and with a troubled back, Tiger Woods is not favored to win the tournament, although he won other tournaments on this course back in his prime around 2005. As he tells the Chronicle, "When it’s cooler like this, I just need to make sure my core stays warm, layer up properly. I know I won’t have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida, where it’s 95 every day. That’s just the way it is."
The purse for the PGA Championship is $11 million.
Photo: TPC Harding Park/Facebook