The 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow: My Preview

It seems like just yesterday I was watching Jason Day annihilate the field while marshaling at the 2015 PGA Championship at Wisconsin’s own Whistling Straits.

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Marshaling the 14th hole at Whistling Straits for the 2015 PGA Championship

A lot has happened over the past two years, though! Since that great tournament my wife and I have bought a new house, I started a new role at work, got married and we now have our first child, our son Charlie.

Time sure flies, and in the blink of an eye both the PGA Tour and Wisconsin golf season have sped along at breakneck speed. It’s August, and we’re suddenly one week from the fourth and last major of the Tour’s championship schedule: The PGA Championship.

While Jason Day’s record-setting performance at Whistling Straits is not likely to repeat this year at Quail Hollow, expert odds-makers are still showing him love with 19/1 odds to win.

Fresh off a remarkable finish at The Open, Jordan Spieth opens as the PGA Championship favorite at 8/1, just ahead of Rory McIlroy at 9/1. Spieth enters this week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational with a slight edge over Dustin Johnson for first place on the Tour’s money list with almost $6.8-million in earnings.

It’s hard to argue with Spieth as the favorite, and honestly I think he’s really good for the game when he wins.

Spieth, McIlroy, Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Day, the US Open champ Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm round out the favorites.

My picks for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow:

  • Favorite# 1: Jordan Spieth
  • Favorite# 2: Justin Thomas
  • Long-shot# 1: Jason Dufner
  • Long-shot# 2: Patrick Cantlay

For the most part, I like the younger guys in this tourney and don’t see McIlroy or Day running away with it. More than anything, like with any major championship, I’m hoping for a great finish.

The entire field for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow

 

* Quail Hollow header image credit to http://www.quailhollowclub.com

Introducing the Next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

The past week and a half has been very busy for my wife, Kelly and me – on Friday, July 7 at 1:05 in the afternoon we welcomed our first child, Charlie James.

Charlie was born 7 lbs 5 oz and 20 inches tall, and we couldn’t be happier to announce that he and Kelly are both healthy and so far he’s a wonderful baby boy.

A couple pictures of our little guy:

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Just-born picture – welcome to the world, Charlie!

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First family picture of Charlie, Kelly and me in the recovery room

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7/7/2017: The birth of our first child and the next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

Charlie watching golf

Charlie watching Mark Mulder win the American Century Championship with Dad

Golf Equipment Review: Snell My Tour Ball

During last year’s Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, Wisconsin, I was introduced to a new golf ball that I’d heard of in passing: Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball.

The brainchild of Dean Snell, the MTB is a top of the line Tour ball at direct to consumer pricing. As the company says on their website:

“The team at Snell Golf has one solitary mission: To bring tour caliber equipment to the amateur golfer at an affordable price.”

Snell owns 40 patents in golf ball technology and is revered as one of the premier minds in the industry. During his seven years with Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide, he co-designed the original ProV1, Titleist Professional, Tour Prestige, HP2 Tour and HP2 Distance before moving on to Vice President of Research and Development for TaylorMade. While at TaylorMade, he designed the TP Red, TP Black and Penta (golf’s first five-layer ball), as well as the Noodle, Burner, RocketBallz and Project (a) lines.

All this to say Dean Snell knows golf balls better than probably anyone else in the world.

I cannot claim to know a half percent of what Dean does about golf balls, but I do know the results of playing the Snell My Tour Ball. I have shot all my best rounds over the past two years with them and the control, distance and feel have all been as good or better than anything else I’ve been playing. Their performance has been most commonly compared by those more in the know to the Titleist ProV1 (comparable specs) and the Callaway Chrome Soft.

ProV1’s list for $47.99/dozen, though, and Chrome Softs for $39.99/dozen. The My Tour Ball, on the other hand, ships free for $31.99/dozen.

Affordable top-of-the-line golf balls are not a new concept these days – Snell, Vice Golf and Kirkland have all made recent headlines – but Snell has made solid progress in the market and looks to continue growing.

I wholeheartedly recommend trying out the My Tour Ball. For additional information and to purchase your own (including their new limited edition run with American Flag logos), visit Snell Golf’s website here.

The 117th US Open at Erin Hills: Preview

When shovels first entered the ground that is now Erin Hills Golf Course in 2004, a long and tumultuous journey was initiated that was aimed at one goal: Hosting a US Open.

After thirteen years, multiple changes in routing and hole designs, new ownership and many, many demands met, one of Wisconsin’s newest and greatest golf destinations is finally fit for the prime time. The entire golf world is converging on small-town Erin, Wisconsin, and the course and America’s heartland are ready for their moment in the sun.

The journey that has gotten Erin Hills to this point has been well-documented, but never as well-written as it was recently by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Columnist Gary D’Amato in his recent 7-part series, “The Making of a US Open Course: Erin Hills,” linked here:

The Making of a US Open Course: Erin Hills, by Gary D’Amato (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Only two days remain until the opening round of the 117th US Open, and I am excited to spend tomorrow there watching practice rounds as well as Friday to witness round two.

I have been actively involved with Erin Hills throughout the years, including several media days and playing a number of other rounds to review and photograph the course (my number one course in the state of Wisconsin) and of course to enjoy challenging rounds with friends on what is certainly one of the country’s greatest golf courses.

A few links to articles I’ve written on Erin Hills include:

Recap of the 2015 US Open media day at Erin Hills

 

 

 

Still looking for tickets to this year’s US Open? There is still limited availability to be had on the US Open website. Gallery tickets (allowing basic access to the event) start at $60 for Wednesday’s practice rounds, and are going for $110 for Thursday and $125 for Sunday. Friday and Saturday are already sold out.

There are several other, slightly more expensive, ticket options available for Wednesday’s practice rounds, as well as for the final round on Sunday, but they have been selling out quickly and are sure to be gone soon.

This is the first time the US Open has ever been played in the great state of Wisconsin, and I couldn’t be more excited to be there to watch the action and cheer on state competitors Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge.

Will Phil make it to Erin by his 2:20 tee time on Thursday? Will Stricker or Niebrugge represent Wisconsin well on the leader board? Will Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Jon Rahm or any other huge hitters be able to overpower the shear length of the nearly 8,000-yard course?

Weather will certainly be a factor, with rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for much of the coming week. It is my hope that the weather will not define Erin Hills’ chance to shine, although high winds in otherwise dry conditions would make for amazing theater – players looking to score will need to avoid the long, thick fescue at all costs.

My top three picks for the 117th US Open: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia

My underdogs: Steve Stricker, Peter Uihlein, Kevin Chappell

My top amateur prediction: Brad Dalke

Keep an eye on my Twitter (@wissportsaddict) and Instagram (WiscoGolfAddict) feeds for on-location photos from my time at the US Open, and let’s all pray for the rain and thunderstorms to stay away.

AmFam Championship Countdown: Less than 3 Weeks!

Last Tuesday, WiscoGolfAddict contributing writer John Ziemer and I were at University Ridge Golf Course for the PGA Champions Tour American Family Championship media day in Madison, Wisconsin.

PGA and now Champions Tour legend Steve Stricker was mid-photo shoot when we arrived, leading up to the best interview panel I’ve seen in years: Stricker, last year’s event champion Kirk Triplett, two-time US Open winner and all-around world-class ambassador to the game of golf and the state of Wisconsin Andy North, American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel, and Tournament Director Nate Pokrass.

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Steve Stricker leaving the 9th green to join the AmFam Championship media day panel at University Ridge in Verona, WI

Staged questions to this prestigious panel were fairly quick and poignantly directed, allowing ample time for questions from the assembled media members.

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Nate Pokrass, Andy North, Kirk Triplett, Steve Stricker and Jack Salzwedel on stage for the AmFam Championship media day at University Ridge

Just over a week from the first US Open in the state’s history, much had been made about Stricker’s then-ineligibility for the country’s premier pro and amateur championship.

“This is the first US Open in the history of Wisconsin, and to not have a representative from Wisconsin is not right,” Steve told us. Currently the number 78th ranked player in the world, Stricker said “It’s not like I’m not competitive.”

Stricker has spent 253 total weeks as a top ten player in the official world golf rankings, won 12 times on the PGA Tour and 22 times total as a professional.

Eligible for the first time to play in the Champions Tour event at U-Ridge this year, Steve has been more than competitive over the past month, too, including:

  • The Masters: Tied 16th (E)
  • Zurich Classic: Tied 14th (-17)
  • PLAYERS Championship: Tied 41st (+3)
  • Dean & Deluca: Tied 7th (-6)
  • Memorial Tournament: Tied 40th (+1)

The USGA’s refusal to allow Steve in the tournament has not just annoyed him, but also inspired him – Strick’s last chance was earlier today in Memphis where he shot 67-65 at Ridgeway and Germantown Country Clubs to take first place among all participants in the sectional qualifier.

Also announced today was the celebrity foursome for this year’s Saturday round at the AmFam Championship: Brett Favre, Derek Jeter, Darius Rucker and Andy North.

Rucker, the multi-platinum and Grammy award winning county artist and former front-man of Hootie & The Blowfish, will also be hosting a concert on Friday, June 23rd on-site at University Ridge.

Last year’s celebrity foursome drew huge crowds when Favre and North partnered with ex-Packer and Wisconsinite Mark Tauscher and tournament host Stricker (he was not yet eligible to play on the Champions Tour, but still hosted the event).

If celebrities, great concerts and a beautiful golf course isn’t enough to get you on the road to Madison for the AmFam Championship, then maybe great golf will be. Last year’s winner, Kirk Triplett, fielded questions at the media event about the tournament as well as his final round 65 to win the inaugural event by two strokes over Bart Bryant and Mike Goodes.

While Triplett will defend his title at University Ridge, he will be met by many of last year’s field as well as Stricker and some great notables including golf announcer and one of the game’s all-time greats, Sir Nick Faldo, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Scott McCarron and Tom Lehman. The AmFam Championship will be Faldo’s first Champions Tour event since 2015.

AmFam Championship Media Day Video (John and I are in the crowd)

Tuesday was the first time I had the opportunity to play University Ridge since they renovated the course back in 2012, replacing putting surfaces with 007 Creeping Bent Grass, removing trees to allow for better air-flow and turf growth, adding a world-class indoor practice facility for the University of Wisconsin golf team, and making many other general improvements.

The results of their renovation are terrific. I was fortunate to be in a great foursome, too, including University of Wisconsin golf team head coach Mike Burcin, ESPN Wisconsin Homer & Gabe radio co-host Gabe Neitzel, and WISN Channel 12 Emmy award-winning sports reporter Stephen Watson.

I was the low man on the totem pole on that day, for sure. Neitzel moves the ball well, Watson is a huge hitter with great touch, and Burcin is an unbelievably skilled and well-rounded player. We finished at -9 or -10, which was good for fifth or sixth place. We lost by one stroke to Ziemer and our friends, Jason Kauflin (Wisconsin Golf Trips) and Chuck Garbedian’s (Garbedian on Golf, ESPN) team, which was the one sore spot on a fantastic day spent in Madison.

One of the shots they beat us with: Ziemer’s closest-to-the-pin winner on the par three 5th hole:

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John Ziemer’s closest-to-the-pin winner on the par three 5th at University Ridge GC

For AmFam Championship ticket information, including the Friday Darius Rucker concert, visit here:

2017 AmFam Championship event tickets

For more information on Robert Trent Jones, Jr’s beautiful University Ridge Golf Course, visit the course’s website here:

University Ridge Golf Course website

I’m currently working on updating my review of U-Ridge including new and better photos, and you can also look forward to great pics from the media day event by John Ziemer. For now, here is my 2011 review:

WiscoGolfAddict review of University Ridge Golf Course (2011)