PGA Championship 2021 – What to Look Out For
Golf expert Luke H. overviews the golfers to look out for, as well as his pick for dark horse and the holes that will ultimately decide the winner.
The second major of the 2021 golf calendar has arrived! The PGA Championship is being contested this week from Thursday, May 20th through Sunday, May 23rd. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island will play host to this year’s event for the second time. The course recently underwent a renovation and has been lengthened to 7,876 yards (nearly 5 miles long!), making it the longest course in major championship history – more on that later!
The PGA Championship is a unique major in that it hosts 20 club pros every year. Since the Professional Golfers Association also manages golf instruction around the country, local pros that are PGA-certified swing instructors are eligible to compete in the Associations Championship. You might recognize some of these names as it is possible that they could be some of your neighborhood pros!
In addition to the twenty PGA professionals playing, there will be 136 of the world’s best golfers, including 2020 defending PGA Champion Collin Morikawa who hoisted (and dropped the Wanamaker Trophy) last year.
Rory McIlroy is the defending PGA Champion at Kiawah Island. He cruised to an 8 shot victory the last time the tournament was held here in 2012.
Players to look out for
Here is a quick look at our top ten players to watch out for at this week’s event!
1. Jordan Spieth – Spieth has been for all intents and purposes the best golfer on the planet for the last 90 days. He has been in contention on Sunday in multiple events and enters this week’s PGA Championship with his best odds yet of completing the career Grand Slam (he has won the Masters, US Open, and Open Championship previously). In his last 4 starts, his lowest finish was a tie for 9th. He won the Valero Texas Open and followed that victory up with a tie for 3rd at the Masters.
2. Rory McIlroy – Rory emerged victorious last week at the Quail Hollow Championship (his 3rd win at the venue), which was his first win in almost two years. He loves Kiawah Island and has won this championship at this venue before. He is one of the longest drivers on tour and the extreme length of this golf course should play into Rory’s favor.
3. Justin Thomas – Justin won the Players Championship back in March at TPC Sawgrass. Both Kiawah and TPC Sawgrass were designed by Pete Dye, and JT loves Pete Dye courses. He has been playing solid golf all season and is always in the mix on Sundays at the majors. He won the PGA Championship (his only major so far) back in 2017.
4. Dustin Johnson – Don’t need to say much about the world’s #1 golfer. He won the Master’s back in November, finished tied for 2nd multiple times at the PGA, and his length off the tee should also be a great strength for him this week.
5. Bryson DeChambeau – Bryson is the PGA Tour’s longest hitter statistically. He won the US Open in 2020 with the same style of bomb n’ gauge off the tee. He should be in contention if his putter cooperates.
6. Jon Rahm – Scorched Augusta on Sunday at the Masters with a -6 under par 66 to finish in a tie for 5th. He is extremely consistent, only missing two cuts in the last 12 months. Right now, he has the dubious title of “World’s Best Player to Never Have Won A Major”. Could this be the week he finally breaks through?
7. Will Zalatoris – Zalatoris came out of nowhere to shock the golf world at Augusta. He got into the Masters in April through a late withdrawal of another player, then proceeded to finish second – 1 shot behind Hideki Matsuyama. He missed the cut two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, but he has the mentality to win a major. This is his first PGA Championship.
8. Xander Schauffele – After having a shot to win the Masters last month before an unfortunate ball that landed in the water at 16 on Sunday, Xander is chasing Jon Rahm as “World’s Best to Not Win A Major (yet)”. His game has everything to win a major, he just needs to crack that mental code to make it happen.
9. Tony Finau – Tony has more 2nd place finishes on the PGA Tour than any other active player. He is up there with DeChambeau as one of the Tour’s longest hitters and this course should set up perfectly for him. He has too much talent to not break through with a win one of these days.
10. Sam Burns – Sam is chasing Jordan Spieth in terms of best golfer in the world for Spring 2021. He has been on absolute fire the last three weeks. Tie for 4th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, a win at the Valspar Championship, and a solo 2nd place finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson. The only knock-on Mr. Burns this week is he hasn’t played in a major since 2019.
Abraham Ancer – Abraham has been playing well all season. Seems to be in the mix at nearly every tournament he plays in. His best finish in a major was at the Masters in 2019 where he finished T13.
Here are some of Thursday’s tee times that we are looking forward to the most (all times are EST):
7 AM – Patrick Rada, Adam Long, Cameron Tringale
- The kickoff group, 4 AM on the West Coast – it is time to go!
7:44 AM – John Daly, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner
- A group full of personality, and, oh yea, they all are Wanamaker Trophy winners as well.
8:33 AM – Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka
- 9 major championships in one group, need we say more.
8:44 AM – Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama
- The winners of the last 3 majors.
2:09 PM – Dustin Johnson, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia
- All major winners and sure to be some fireworks from this group the first 2 days.
A look at the course
As mentioned earlier, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. This is the third major event hosted at the course, the others being the 2012 PGA Championship and the 1991 Ryder Cup. It will play to the length of 7,876 yards – for a detailed hole by hole look at the course you can check out Golf Channel’s course tour. Some holes that will ultimately decide the winner this year:
- Number 4 – 484-yard par 4. The hardest hole on the front 9. Depending on the wind, players may be hitting as much as a fairway wood into the green – other days it could be an 8-iron.
- Number 7 – 579-yard par 4. A par 4 that is the same length as some of the par 5s with a tight fairway. There could be some big numbers on this hole.
- Number 12 – 484-yard par 4. One of the holes that received a larger renovation, it was extended 72 yards since the 2012 PGA Championship. Long and left with their approach shots will result in a lost ball in the greenside pond.
- Number 17 – 223-yard par 3. Water guards the green short and the green is narrow. With a lot of pressure come Sunday this is sure to cause some fireworks.
- Number 18 – 505-yard par 4. No casual stroll home for the eventual winner on this closing hole; it’s 505 yards and primarily plays into the wind. It’s going to take 2 (or 3) excellent shots to get on this green.
Stay tuned for post-round updates each day of the competition, and we will take a look at the awesome equipment the winner played after the trophy has been engraved! And in the meantime, if you have any questions on finding the right golf clubs for your game, reach out to me or one of my fellow Golf experts here on Curated and we'll be happy to help you out with free, personalized recommendations (in between watching the PGA!)