4 golfers to watch at Southern Hills
Southern Hills Country Club may be hosting the PGA Championship for the fifth time this week, but the iconic venue has seen many changes since the last time the major took the trip to the Oklahoma course.
Gil Hanse was tasked with restoring the course in 2019, bringing it closer to Perry Maxwell's original 1936 design. With the changes, the world's top golfers face new challenges this week. Here are four of the world's best golfers whose games are either well-suited for the course or may find Southern Hills challenging.
Viktor Hovland is one of the best players in the men's game right now. Ranked No. 6 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the 24-year-old already has three victories on TOUR and two on the DP World Tour.
However, on Tuesday, Golf Digest's Dan Rapaport posted on Twitter that the "early chatter" from players out on the course is that chipping will be a key factor in producing low scores at Southern Hills.
The Norwegian golfer is ranked No. 210 out of 210 players in the TOUR's strokes gained: around the green with an -.838 average. He's ranked 202nd in sand save percentage on TOUR and 68th in scrambling. Hovland's biggest challenge this week will be finding his way out of some inevitable tricky shots around the green.
Shane Lowry already has one major win under his belt after winning the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush, and this week he might grab a second.
The 35-year-old is one of the best in the men's game around the green, ranking second in both sand save percentage and scrambling on TOUR. With plenty of bunkers in and around the greens and slopes that can direct shots into less than ideal positions, Lowry may have one of the best-suited games on TOUR to navigate Southern Hills this week.
Sitting at No. 4 in the world, Cameron Smith is the highest-ranked player without a major win to his name. But that could all change this week - Smith, who most recently won the Players Championship in March, excels on courses that utilize his putting.
Maxwell's greens are a key characteristic of his courses, with the undulations known as "Maxwell Rolls," according to Golfweek's Jason Lusk. If players aren't careful at Southern Hills, Maxwell's design will have missed putts rolling off the edge of the green.
Smith is currently ranked fourth on TOUR in strokes gained: putting and first in putting average at 1.648. He's ranked seventh in 3-putt avoidance, meaning when he does miss his first attempt, he usually drains the second. Safe to say, if the Australian's putter is hot this week, he could claim his first major victory.
While the 37-year-old is currently one of the most dominant players on TOUR with 24 wins - including two major wins - he might run into some challenges at Southern Hills.
We know that both chipping and putting will be crucial to low scores in Oklahoma this week, and for Johnson, that tends to be where his game falls short. Johnson is ranked 207th in sand save percentage, 99th in scrambling, 138th in strokes gained: putting, and 194th in 3-putt avoidance on TOUR.
While Southern Hills is certainly not designed around Hovland or Johnson's style of play and seems to give Smith and Lowry a bit of an edge, Maxwell's design and Gil Hanse's restoration will surely task the world's best with producing exciting shots from all over the course.
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