From Whistling Straits to Southern Hills - Players to Watch at the PGA Championship
By Abby Parsons, PGA
I was lucky enough to be a part of, and witness, the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits as an Assistant Golf Professional. My role included seeing the players both before and after their practice rounds and the matches. It was fascinating to watch the variety of demeanors among the players from both sides. Scottie Scheffler, one of the heroes of the U.S. Team, was visibly nervous. Fellow rookie Patrick Cantlay, showed nothing but calm and focus.
Meanwhile, Team Europe walked through the halls full of energy. Paul Casey actually came up to me and asked: “What’s a cheesehead anyway?” with a smile. They embraced the environment like no other team I have seen before. Every player was so different, and every player was there to win.
The majority of the 2020 Ryder Cup competitors will be taking on Southern Hills Country Club this week. From what I witnessed at Whistling Straits (and since), players to watch include: Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schaffele and Rory McIlroy.
Scottie Scheffler is having the run of a lifetime on the PGA Tour. With an unorthodox swing and a lot of drive, Scheffler is showing no signs of slowing down. Scottie Scheffler still exemplifies the exciting and terrifying nerves of winning. With a prime example being his entertaining 72nd hole of The Masters, Scheffler is still very human. Even as a Masters Champion, Scheffler will continue to get on the first tee with the same nerves he had as a junior golfer, and that is why he is a player to watch this week. Just because he is number one in the world does not mean he will play like he has the championship in the bag. Scheffler will play knowing everyone around him is trying to win as well.
When will Viktor Hovland win his first major? There is a great chance it could be this weekend at Southern Hills. Sitting comfortably in the top ten World Golf Rankings for weeks, Hovland continues to prove he is playing better than most. With three wins in his last twelve starts, his next win could be coming soon, and it could be a Major Championship. Hovland showed a lot of heart during the Ryder Cup. and the experience he gained at Whistling Straits can help his competitive edge in majors. Keep an eye out for Hovland.
Coming off an incredible weekend of shooting 65, 61 at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Xander Schauffele’s game is looking Major Championship ready and Southern Hills could be the perfect spot for Schauffele. Xander Schauffele was one of the most reliable players during the Ryder Cup. Winning 3 of his 4 matches, his game thrives under pressure. It is about time for Schauffele to add a Wannamaker trophy beside his Olympic gold medal.
Finally, we have Rory McIlroy. A four-time major champion, McIlroy’s recent starts have shown signs of a win in the near future. It is hard for a golf course not to fit Rory McIlroy’s game, and if he is playing well- he can be unbeatable. Everyone saw a different side of McIlroy in the 2020 Ryder Cup when he shed tears over how much he loves his team and how much he loves the event. He is hungry for a major win again, and when he didn’t get to hold the Ryder Cup trophy in September, no doubt it added fuel to the fire.
I can’t wait to see the Whistling Straits talent take center stage at Southern Hills Country Club beginning Thursday morning.