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Pro Tip: PGA Championship Preview

Pro Tip: PGA Championship Preview

This year’s PGA Championship is the closest in recent memory to be played near Canada. Oak Hill Country Club, in Rochester, New York, will play host and there is a trio of Canadians looking to breakthrough for a major triumph – 20 years after Mike Weir’s Green Jacket victory.

Adam Svensson, Mackenzie Hughes, and Corey Conners are the Canadians who have already qualified for the second major of the year.

Svensson made his Masters debut in April after his victory at The RSM Classic last year. When he teed it up at Augusta National, that was his major-championship debut.

It was an uncharacteristic week at Augusta National for Conners, who ended up missing the cut. The two-time PGA Tour winner (Conners won the Valero Texas Open the week prior to the Masters for the second time in his career) had come into the Masters with three top-10 finishes in a row in Georgia. He was a little off with everything, he admitted, and found himself having an early exit.

Still, Conners’ all-around game and elite ball striking should serve him well at a place like Oak Hill.

Hughes was the lone Canadian to make the cut at the Masters and finished tied for 29th. It was Hughes’ best-career Masters result, and it came thanks to an impressive second-round effort. Hughes, also a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, shot a 4-over 76 in the first round but he bounced-back to fire a 3-under 69 in the second round.

Hughes played a usual practice round with the fellow Canadians, including Weir. The way the cookie crumbled during the tournament itself, Hughes ended up playing alongside two other Green Jacket winners – Fred Couples and Zach Johnson. He took plenty away from being grouped with those guys – major champs, all.

“It gives me some hope and – nothing against those guys – but I feel like, if those guys can do it, then I also believe that I can as well,” Hughes said Sunday at Augusta National.

With the Masters firmly in the rear-view mirror, however, we pivot to the second major of the year.

Recently restored, Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course will play host its fourth PGA Championship. Jason Dufner won his maiden major title the last time the PGA came to Oak Hill, in 2013.

The restoration project was completed in May 2020. It was a ten-month effort, completed by Andrew Green, with an aim to bring back Donald Ross features to three holes “where the original design had been lost,” according to Golf Course Architecture. Work was also put in on the greens, with new drainage technology installed at Oak Hill for the first time in a century. Significant tree removal was also done to open up vistas and improve the spectator experience.

Justin Thomas will come into the 2023 PGA Championship as the defending champion after his dramatic, come-from-behind victory last year at Southern Hills. Thomas fired a final-round 67 to get to 5 under for the week – enough for a playoff when Mito Pereira, who had never trailed all day, drove into a creek, and made double bogey on the 72nd hole to finish one-shot back.

Thomas, who came from seven shots back Sunday, defeated Will Zalatoris in a three-hole aggregate playoff. In a somewhat stunning manor, Thomas never actually led the championship until there was one hole remaining in the playoff.

“I was asked early in the week what lead is safe and I said, ‘No lead,’” Thomas said. “I can’t believe I found myself in a playoff.”

Thomas won his second major at the PGA a year ago. Now there are a few Canadians with two PGA Tour wins looking for their breakthrough major triumph.

And they’re looking to do it as close to home as they’re going to get.

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