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Can an Okie capture the Wanamaker Trophy this week?

Jason Getz / USA Today Sports
Rickie Fowler, who won this year’s Honda Classic, is one of the favorites to win the PGA Championship this weekend.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City native Jimmy Walker is the defending champion of the PGA Championship. He became the first Okie connection to win a major golf title since Todd Hamilton won the 2004 British Open.

Walker was born in OKC and played college golf at Baylor University. Hamilton, born in Illinois, played at the University of Oklahoma. OU won this year’s national championship, only the second in school history. The Sooners boast 57 All-Americans in school history.

Oklahoma State is known as a powerhouse in men’s golf—10 national championships and 176 All-Americans. Bob Tway was the last Cowboy golfer to win a major, but that came 31 years ago at the 1986 PGA Championship.

There is no real explanation as to why OSU golfers haven’t won many majors. So, I turned to Stan and Steve Ball, both PGA professional and co-owners of Ball Golf Center in Oklahoma City.

“(I) don’t think there is any reason except the depth of tour, you have to be fortunate to play really good on the right week,” Stan Ball said. “It is very difficult to win any tourney on PGA Tour, let alone a major.

“Several Okies have threatened, and I think Rickie (Fowler) will win more than one, he has contended often.  I really think he will win more than one major.”

Fowler is the hottest Oklahoma State golfer on Tour with four victories. He also has finished in the top five six times and placed 10th once in the majors since joining the PGA Tour in 2009. Four of those top five finishes came three years ago when he was runner-up in the U.S. and British Opens, fifth in The Masters, and third in the PGA Championship.

“Anthony Kim I think would have if not for injury, Charles Howell has fallen short of expectations,” Ball noted. “Brian Watts lost in a playoff at the British Open. Scott Verplank had a very good career. Hunter Mahan contended.”

Kim, an OU grad, showed promise when he entered the Tour in 2006 with three non-major victories, and a seventh-place showing at the 2008 British Open, followed by third place at the 2010 Masters and fifth in the British Open. He hasn’t played on the Tour since injuring an Achilles Tendon in 2012.

Watts, who played for OSU in the 1980s and was a constant on the Japan Tour, lost to Mark O’Meara by two strokes in a playoff in the 1998 British Open. Verplank, of OSU, finished in the top ten of seven majors. Howell, another Cowboys golfer, tied for 10th in the 2003 PGA Championship. He hasn’t won a Tour event in 10 years but finished second in this year’s Quicken Loans Invitational.

“No doubt if you took any small sample size and paired it with that question it would be a long shot—any school, state…would only have a small number of major winners,” Steve Ball said. “More likely to point out how many golfers from OSU have gotten a PGA Tour card. That is probably a pretty high percentage.”

This year’s PGA Championship begins Thursday at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. The course has been a regular stop on the Tour, but this is the first time hosting a major golf event. Fowler won his first Tour title here five years ago when it was known as the Wells Fargo Championship. After shooting 14-under to tie Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points, Fowler birdied the first playoff hole and pocketed $1.17 million.

Rickie also has had two good finishes on the course with a sixth-place showing in 2010 and fourth last year. VegasInsider lists him at 14 to 1 to win this weekend. Rory McIlroy, who has won on this course twice (2010 and 2015) is the favorite at 7 to 1.

Most of the experts predict McIlroy or Jordan Spieth to win the tournament. Jeff Ritter of Golf.com, James Hickey of PGATour.com, and Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com pick Fowler to emerge with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

“I think it’ll be a big hitter since the course has been strengthened and it’s supposed to rain off and on all week,” Ritter explained. “Maybe this is Fowler’s time—he has a title at Quail from the Wachovia/Wells Fargo. I also like Rory, Belgian Bomber Thomas Pieters and dark horse Tony Finau to contend.”

“Rickie made a run at removing himself from the ‘Best player to never win a major’ list earlier this year at the U.S. Open (fifth place),” Ritter said. “This time he finishes the job.”

“He’s No. 1 on the tour in strokes gained putting, and if it comes down to a showdown with Rory, he’s the one with a more consistent game on the green and the previous experience of besting McIlroy on this course in a playoff five years ago,” Patterson said.

 

Odds for Okies in the 99th PGA Championship

Rickie Fowler (OSU)                        14/1

Alex Noren (OSU)                           50/1

Jimmy Walker (Oklahoma City)       100/1  

Charles Howell III (OSU)                  200/1

Peter Uihlein (OSU)                         200/1

Robert Streb (Chickasha)                 250/1

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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