Each day from Bellerive, four of the NCG team get together to ask each other the pressing questions on the fourth major. In this edition of Fourball, Alex Perry, Dan Murphy, Steve Carroll and James Savage take to the tee to discuss PGA Championship qualification and the much-maligned live coverage…
Alex: A few big names in contention after day one. We all said DJ or Rory before the tournament started. Sticking with those or care to venture elsewhere?
Dan: Isn’t it funny, Rickie Fowler normally gets quite a lot of airtime in a major week but I’m not sure I’ve seen his name mentioned, let alone tipped in any of the 25 betting previews I can’t resist drinking in, this time. So far this season, he was second in the Masters, never contended in the US Open and was well-placed at halfway in the Open before taking an eight at Hogan’s Alley on Saturday and never recovering.
The only problem is, he’s been here before. At Erin Hills in last year’s US Open, he led after the first day. He was a shot back at halfway, two back with a round to go and eventually finished six back of Brooks Koepka in fifth. Will it be this week, Rickie?
Steve: Rickie’s still got to prove he can do it in these sorts of tournaments on a Sunday and nothing that I’ve seen on the first day gives me any reason to doubt my pre-match pick of Dustin.
James: Ian Poulter has had a great year and was right in the mix at the US Open. He’ll have the added motivation of all but securing his place at Le Golf National with a win here. This feels like a decent opportunity for him to break his major duck and after a good opening round he’ll have the bit between his teeth for the rest of the tournament.
Dan: They said to expect a birdie-fest. The average score was more than a full shot over par. What happened?
Steve: The rough is absolutely tortuous and I’m not sure I expected it to be that juicy before the tournament. I’ve never seen so many top quality players producing the kind of shots that are regularly part of my weekend medal so conditions off the fairway must be extremely testing. That’s putting an absolute premium on driving, to the point where Tiger actually ditched the big stick for a while just to make sure he got the ball in play. It feels like the US Open rough we haven’t had in June for a couple of years.
James: The course was wet and long? The greens were possibly a bit slower than what they were used to? It’s not a course that too many of the players are overly familiar with? It’s a bit hot and humid? I’d expect to see lower scores as the week wears on and the players adjust to the course and the conditions.
Alex: It’s a major championship setup and the rough is looking brutal. The conditions can’t help either – it’s horribly hot and sticky out there.
So is it time to change the qualification system for the PGA Championship? And how has the live coverage gone down with our team? Find out on the next page…