The second major champion of 2023 will be crowned this weekend. Who will it be? Whoever does will be in for a stern test at the revitalized and revamped Oak Hill Country Club for the 2023 PGA Championship? As always, here is an early preview of the 2023 PGA Championship and a preview of how to bet.
2023 PGA Championship Preview
The PGA Championship boasts the strongest field of all the major championships. And in 2023, that is no exception. 99 of the Top 100 players in the world will compete for the Wannamaker Trophy at the 2023 PGA Championship. Every big name you would expect to compete at Oak Hill will tee it up on Thursday. Jon Rahm. Scottie Scheffler. Rory McIlroy. All the big guns are at Oak Hill to compete for their slice of glory.
The only question seemed to be how many LIV players would be eligible to play. Only nine of them, on December 31, 2022, had an automatic exemption into the tournament. They were the following players:
- Martin Kaymer (past champion)
- Brooks Koepka (past champion)
- Phil Mickelson (past champion)
- Dustin Johnson (recent Masters winner)
- Bryson DeChambeau (recent U.S. Open winner)
- Cameron Smith (recent Open Champion)
- Mito Pereira (Top 15 at 2022 PGA Championship
- Abraham Ancer (Top 15 at 2022 PGA Championship)
- Brendan Steele (Top 15 at 2022 PGA Championship)
Unlike the USGA, the PGA of America has the power to invite whomever they want. The precedent suggested that special invitees would be utilized using the OWGR. As such, several other LIV players were extended invitations. They were the following:
- Dean Burmester
- Paul Casey
- Talor Gooch
- Sadom Kaewkanjana
- Anirban Lahiri
- Joaquin Niemann
- Thomas Pieters
- Patrick Reed
- Harold Varner III
In all, 18 LIV golfers will compete at Oak Hill for the 2023 PGA Championship.
For the full field, click here.
The Golf Course
The 2023 PGA Championship returns to Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY. Donald Ross designed the original East Course at Oak Hill. Over the years, the East Course has seen renovation done by the likes of Robert Trent Jones and Tom Fazio. It has also hosted several major championships, including, most recently, the 2013 PGA Championship won by Jason Dufner.
Below are three videos with everything you need to know about Oak Hill. These are vital to watch because Oak Hill Country Club is vastly different than what you saw in 2013.
The first video is a 15-minute video interview with Oak Hill members and architect Andrew Green, detailing all the changes made in the recent renovation and restoration. It also has a great video of all the major excavating and tree removal on the golf course:
The second video is from Golf Digest, which gives a drone flyover and a full description of each hole at the new East Course at Oak Hill Country Club:
The third video is from The Fried Egg, which gives a more thorough background about the history of Oak Hill Country Club, as well as further commentary from Andrew Green about the new challenges players in the 2023 PGA Championship will face at the newly restored East Course:
Here is the executive summary of the changes made to the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club:
1. Hundreds of trees were cut down.
Not only does this open up the golf course to potentially be more aggressive off the tee, but it’ll also promote healthier turf.
2. The goal of the restoration was to return Oak Hill Country Club to its Donald Ross roots.
That included a complete overhaul of every fairway and greenside bunker on the golf course. The bunkers now have a much more rugged look than the perfectly manicured circular shapes they were before the renovation. Unfortunately, the bunkers are also very penal. They have very steep faces. In the video above, Andrew Green speculates players will not be looking to bail out in bunkers during the tournament.
In addition, the greens were expanded, rebuilt, and squared off at its edges. Over time, the greens became circular and had buildups around their edges from bunker sand flying up. These were all removed and allowed for the greens to roll off at its side, which they were intended to do. Lastly, the greens were transitioned from a bentgrass/poa mix to 100% bentgrass.
3. The East Course’s layout was changed. Here are the following changes:
- Hole No. 5 – This is a brand-new hole. A former practice green near the entrance was restored to the original design of the former 6th hole. This 175ish yard Par 3 features a small, multi-tiered tabletop green with bunkers guarding the front and each side.
- Hole No. 6 – Former Holes 5 and 6 were combined into one hole. This allows Allens Creek to terrorize the player from tee to green. The former green of the Par 3 6th now serves as the green for new Hole No. 6. Allens Creek bisects the fairway and winds its way around the left side of the green. All while playing over 500 yards. This hole will be a nightmare.
- Hole No. 15 – The pond was removed, and the green and bunkers were completely rebuilt. The tabletop green now is a small postage stamp target with bunkers set well below the green in front and on the left. There’s also a grass bunker to collect shots on the right side of the green.
4. The golf course was lengthened in the following ways:
- A new tee box on the Par 3 3rd. In 2013, it played at 214 yards. In 2023, it will play at 230 yards.
- A new tee box on the Par 5 4th. In 2013, it played at 570 yards. In 2023, it will play at 615 yards.
- Combining former Holes 5 & 6 allows new Hole No. 6 to play at 503 yards.
- A new tee box on the uphill Par 4 9th. In 2013, it played at 452 yards. In 2023, it will play at 482 yards.
- A new tee box on the Par 3 11th. In 2013, it played at 226 yards. In 2023, it will play at 245 yards.
- A new tee box on the Par 4 12th. In 2013, it played at 372 yards. In 2023, it will play at 399 yards.
- A new tee box on the Par 5 13th. In 2013, it played at 598 yards. In 2023, it will play at 623 yards.
- A new tee box on the Par 4 16th. In 2013, it played at 439 yards. In 2023, it will play at 458 yards.
Overall, the 2023 PGA Championship will play about 230 yards longer than the 2013 PGA Championship. This might have major repercussions on what the optimal strategy will be to do well at Oak Hill. It also might dramatically shift the type of player one would want to bet to win the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. For more commentary on this, read below.
Much of the betting strategies for the 2023 PGA Championship, including what types of players have an edge, can be found in my hole-by-hole analysis of Oak Hill Country Club. You can watch that below:
Here is an executive summary of everything in this video:
General Course Information
The East Course at Oak Hill Country Club is a Par 70 and measures 7,394 yards on the scorecard. That’s about 230 yards more than what the yardage was in 2013. In addition, significant lengthening was made on several holes on the golf course.
The fairways will be a combination of bentgrass and poa, while the rough off the fairway will be a mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass and ryegrass. Around the greens, however, a new strain of grass called RTF, which is a strain of tall fescue, was planted around each green. This grass has a thick blade, is dense, and is very drought tolerant. Players will have trouble gauging how the ball will come out of this rough in the tournament. For more information about RTF, watch below:
While the PGA of America has not publicly released the rough length, it is speculated that the primary rough will begin tournament play at around 3.5 inches. Growth through the tournament could allow the grass to grow as tall as 4 to 4.5 inches by Sunday.
In addition, the greens were converted from a bentgrass/poa mix to all bentgrass for the 2023 PGA Championship.
Off the Tee
With the lengthening of Oak Hill Country Club and removing trees to open up the property, the driver is a much more important club than it might have been in 2013. Of the 14 Par 4’s and 5’s, the driver will be the club of choice on 10 of the holes.
There have been several major championships over the years that have heavily favored a longer hitter. The 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot is a prominent example. So too, was the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Oak Hill has characteristics of both of these. But there are also several holes without options off the tee other than hitting it dead straight into the middle of the fairway. This can level the playing field a bit between longer and shorter hitters.
There are also critical tee shots on difficult holes where the optimal shot shape is a power fade. The golf course may now favor a player who hits a powerful left-to-right drive.
This might help explain why Lee Trevino, whose go-to tee shot was a power fade, won the 1968 U.S. Open. So too, might it explain Jack Nicklaus winning the 1980 PGA Championship. The golf course wasn’t as overgrown back then as it was for the 2013 PGA Championship, where the only option was to hit everything dead straight. And with driving distances much lower than, the strategies back then might mirror what we’ll see from the modern player in 2023.
Lastly, players should enjoy some rollout in the fairway because the Rochester area hasn’t seen any rain in the area in about two weeks. While it was a wet spring, things have really dried out here lately. So while the corners of doglegs are pushed out far enough off the tee where a player may not need to worry about a dead straight tee shot running out of real estate and trundling into the rough, there is less margin for error off the tee than if the fairways were soft.
The 2013 PGA Championship played much shorter than what it will play in 2023. As a result, there will be more long approach shots this week.
Below is an estimation of the proximity ranges players will have into the greens:
- <125 Yards – 22.2% (4 shots per round)
- 125-150 Yards – 11.1% (2 shots per round)
- 150-175 Yards – 16.7% (3 shots per round)
- 175-200 Yards – 22.2% (4 shots per round)
- 200+ Yards – 27.8% (5 shots per round)
These ranges all assume one hits the perfect tee shot to the correct area of the fairway. Otherwise, any tee shot that finds a fairway bunker will certainly require a layup where the true shot to the green may be less than 125 yards for their third. Or when a ball finds the rough, it will stop rolling because of how thick the rough is. As such, the approach shot to the green might be longer or, again, maybe less than 125 yards because a player could only lay up out of the rough.
While there is a heavy emphasis on shots over 175 yards (and should be the primary focus for gamblers this week), it’s important not to forget about the short shots under 125 yards either. Three of them will come in a three-hole stretch from Holes 12 through 14 that played under par at the 2013 PGA Championship. Birdies will be few to come by at the revitalized Oak Hill. Anyone who can dial in their wedges and pick up a couple of birdies per round in this stretch might benefit greatly on the final leaderboard.
Lastly, while the greens were expanded and reclaimed, they’ll still be pretty small. They’ll only average about 4,500 square feet in area. And while the 2013 PGA Championship featured smaller greens yet still saw an average field green in the regulation rate of around 60%, expect this number to go down significantly. With much longer approach shots tasked to players, there will be more missed greens this week than there were a decade ago.
Around the Green
As mentioned before, the areas around the green were planted with RTF. This grass might be very difficult to chip out of. A lot of guesswork is involved with chipping balls out of thick rough. Players don’t have a great idea how it’ll come out.
The bunkers also were significantly toughened up. They’re awkwardly shaped, much like an Open Championship bunker. Players might find themselves with very awkward stances in them or might find their ball too close up against a lip to do anything productive with it. It will take a delicate touch to get out of the bunkers, and elite bunker play will be favored. However, there will still be luck involved with these shots. And finding yourself in a bunker is definitely not ideal.
In addition, missing on the wrong place around the green might mean it is impossible to get the ball to a manageable length to try and save par. With how fast and undulating the greens will be, it might be very difficult to get the ball close to the pin to try and save par.
Overall, the ability to get up and down is usually vital for anyone who wants to win a major championship, especially at tough and stern setups like Oak Hill. Therefore, it is definitely advisable to shy away from any player who has shaky abilities around the green.
The greens were converted to bentgrass. Therefore, past bentgrass putting performance is something to consider.
The greens also might run pretty quickly this week. Andrew Green rebuilt the greens and revitalized much of the Donald Ross undulating characteristics of them. In addition, Rochester, NY, hasn’t seen much rain in the area over the last two weeks, and the greens had a new irrigation system installed under them. As a result, putts, especially on anything downhill from the back of the green to a central or front-located pin, might be very delicate.