The PGA Championship is being played at Bellerive Country Club in suburban St. Louis. Bellerive is named after the last French Governor of Illinois Country which was a vast region of New France which is now the Midwestern part of this country…which is now called the United States of America.
Whew! I for one say thank you to Louis Groston de Saint-Ange de Bellerive for both presiding over a strategic land mass and giving us a pretty freaking cool name for a country club. The course itself is not getting rave reviews from the players but I’m sure it’s nicer than any course us rubes have ever played. That’s why it’s annoying to hear these pro golfers complain about a golf course. Does it have ball washers and water available on the course? Can you tell the difference between the fairways and the greens? Am I allowed to play the course? If the answer is “yes” to all three; then that’s a great golf course.
St. Louis has had heat waves all summer and some of the greens are burned out. They have been watering them heavily so they don’t get dried out and stop growing. So far, only the outer edges of about six greens have burned up and the rest are fine but it’s definitely something to keep your eye on.
Bellerive hosted the 1965 US Open where Gary Player and Kel Nagle finished tied after four rounds and ended up in a Monday 18-hole playoff. The playoff was marred by Nagle hitting a female spectator on the fifth hole. No word on whether the spectator was severely injured but since this took place in 1965, she is probably dead now. Nagle was so affected by hitting the woman that he hit another spectator on his next shot! Not surprisingly, he would go on to double-bogey the hole and lose to Player by 3 shots.
The only other major at Bellerive was in 1992 and won by Nick Price of Zimbabwe. It was a nondescript tournament where Price pulled away from the field on Sunday and won by 3 shots but more importantly no player hit a spectator on consecutive shots.
But now the PGA Championship is back in St. Louis where the crowds for the practice rounds have been enormous and they expect record attendance for the tournament. St. Louis has always had great sports fans that appreciate the game and are exceedingly polite. In short, don’t expect to hear “Bababooey” after any tee shots.
Here is my list of players with a realistic expectation to win:
Tommy Fleetwood- This guy is going to win a major in the near future and it may be at this PGA. He’s a great ball striker and excellent putter. Good guy as well. When other players were complaining about the greens at Bellerive, Fleetwood said, “they’re fine, we’re just spoiled.”
Brooks Koepka- Why doesn’t this guy get more recognition? Phenomenal player and proven to be clutch in the big moments. I think it’s because he’s a tough-looking guy who reminds most golf journalists of the countless times they were bullied in high school.
Rory McIlroy- he could win this by 5 shots easily. The course sets up perfectly for him with driver being used often and soft greens so he can take direct aim at the pins. All four of his majors have come on courses softened up by the rain. Also, in my travels as a golf writer I have befriended Gerry McIlroy, Rory’s dad. Insider info – Gerry told me Rory’s favorite courses are tree-lined like Bellerive. Don’t be surprised if Rory runs away with this.
Justin Thomas- Has to be the favorite. The winner of last year’s PGA Championship, Thomas is coming off a dominant performance winning last week at Firestone. He has no weakness in his game.
Dustin Johnson- Don’t forget about the #1 player in the world. He can crush drives and fire at pins as well as anyone. If his putter is on, he could win easily. Been a tad inconsistent of late though and has struggled in majors when the pressure is on.
Jordan Spieth- everyone is saying this course isn’t great for him and he’s not playing well coming into the event. Still, it’s Jordan Spieth in a major. Would it surprise anyone if he has the lead on Sunday? Also, he is going for career grand slam which would be amazing at 25 years of age.
Jon Rahm- I’m not a fan of this guy because he’s too much of a hot head. Has tendency to meltdown and slam clubs if things aren’t going his way. That said, still kills the ball of the tee and has a ton of talent.
Patrick Reed- he’s a bulldog who will not falter down the stretch. Playing well coming in and is flying under the radar. Bookend majors would be pretty sweet for Captain America.
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