Damien Kayat previews the Palmetto Championship as the event makes its PGA Tour debut this week.
2021 US PGA Tour
Congaree Golf Club, South Carolina
I don’t know exactly how to feel about last week’s melodrama in Ohio. On one hand, you have to say that medical precautions have to be followed to the hilt- no exceptions. But it’s not exactly like golf is a full-contact sport. Jon Rahm had just tied the 54-hole scoring record and held a four-stroke lead going into Sunday. He had just played one of the most memorable rounds in recent PGA memory. But the burly Spaniard was forced to withdraw due to a positive Covid test. Surely, he could have played Sunday in a socially distanced bubble. The asymptomatic Rahm not only coughed up a substantial payday, he lost the chance to win an event in resounding fashion just two weeks prior to the US Open (should he be cleared to play next week). I don’t know, it just seems like some minor compromise could have been reached, especially considering how Rahm was lighting up Muirfield Village.
This week is something of a hatchet job for the PGA Tour. The Canadian Open was cancelled for the 2nd consecutive year due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic. The PGA Tour hasn’t missed a beat, organizing this glorified warm-up to next week’s US Open. Torrey Pines is clearly at the forefront of many player’s minds as only a handful of the golfing elite tee it up this week. But perhaps it will be the likes of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka who will come up aces next week. The tour has chosen a brand-new course ahead of next week’s test at Torrey Pines. Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina could end up being the ideal test ahead of next week’s histrionics in California. This Tom Fazio design is an absolute behemoth. This is why it may turn out to be an ingenious move to get some practice here ahead of the formidable South Course at Torrey Pines. Length off the tee will likely be essential while the tricky green complexes will repel any errant approach shot. This could be the ideal test leading into a Major Championship.
Only six of the world’s top 30 will be in attendance this week. They include World Number One Dustin Johnson, who hasn’t posted a top 10 finish since February. Furthermore, Johnson has missed the cut in both Major Championships played this year. Brooks Koepka looks more appealing in the upper reaches of the betting market. He has returned from complicated knee surgery with authority, ultimately finishing in a tie for 2nd at the PGA Championship at Kiawah. The English trio of Hatton, Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick will look to iron out some kinks ahead of next week. They will be looking to impress European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington, who himself recently defied expectations with an epic top 5 finish at Kiawah.
This will be the first staging of this event
To Win Outright:
Dustin Johnson 8/1
Brooks Koepka 8/1
Tyrell Hatton 14/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick 18/1
Sungjae Im 20/1
Ian Poulter- To Win (35/1)
I’m opting to swerve the trio of more fancied Englishman and opt for the 45-year-old veteran Ian Poulter. The Ryder Cup stalwart may be eager to prove to Harrington that he still has what it takes. His form has also been excellent in recent weeks. He stood on the podium just two weeks back at Colonial (granted that was a completely different test to what this is likely to be). He also had top 30 finishes at Augusta and Kiawah, highlighting his ability to play on these longer layouts. I think he’s a sound bet in the place markets, especially with his magnificent scrambling ability.
Doc Redman- To Win (66/1)
The 23-year-old Doc Redman has been quietly going under the radar in recent weeks, consistently producing solid results. He has made five of his last six cuts with two top 20’s in the mix. The highlight in that spell was a T9 at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He has come so close to making that PGA winning breakthrough. He had a runner-up finish at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic and a few other 3rd place finishes. He should be another who will benefit from low expectations and a significantly depleted field.
The Man to Beat Keith Mitchell- To Win (45/1)
This one is begging to be played, especially in this weaker field. Mitchell has just one PGA Tour title to his name- the 2019 Honda Classic. But the powerful ball-striker recently contended for his 2nd title at the Wells Fargo, ultimately settling for a T3. He followed that up with a T26 at the AT&T Byron Nelson and a missed cut at the Memorial. But those were considerably stronger fields and he should thrive on this course. He is currently averaging 0.46 Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. Furthermore (just for a little bit of extra hot sauce) both Congaree and PGA National- where he won the Honda Classic- were designed by Tom Fazio.