Players to watch at the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship
The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship returns this week after being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From one iconic venue in 2019 (Oak Hill’s East Course) to another in 2021, Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club is ready for some of the best golfers in the world to take on its challenge.
Southern Hills, which hosted the 1970, 1982, 1994, and 2007 PGA Championship – as well as the upcoming 2022 PGA Championship – will now host the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship for the first time.
But who are some of the players to watch this week? Here are five to keep an eye on.
The Ryder Cup captain comes to Southern Hills after finishing tied for 44th last week at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
“It can carry over,” said Stricker of his game from last week into this week. “I felt like I struck the ball really nicely, so I can carry that over for sure, and I've got some work to do with the putter. Hopefully I'm not going to carry that over. But yeah, I can definitely take away from last week and some of the good things that I did or doing, and hopefully make a few more putts.”
Stricker’s game is in form and he’s been an absolute force on the PGA Tour Champions so far this season. His last three results? T3-1-2. That’ll work.
Bernhard Langer has been one of the PGA Tour Champions’ most steady competitors for years (including notching a victory at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in 2017) and he’s shown no signs of slowing down of late as Langer has finished inside the top 20 in all but two events in this wraparound PGA Tour Champions season. Although he has just one victory, he’s in the top 3 in Greens in Regulation, Putting Average, Birdie Average, Ball Striking, and Scoring Average – plus he leads the Tour’s money list. At majors, especially those hosted at a venue as difficult as Southern Hills, it pays to be steady. And for now, Langer is the steadiest of all. If he were to win Sunday it would be his 42nd career PGA Tour Champions win.
Jim Furyk rocketed out of the gates after turning 50, winning his first two starts on PGA Tour Champions. Although he hasn’t found the winner’s circle since then – and he missed the cut at the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills – this is the kind of place where someone with Furyk’s game could absolutely thrive. Despite no victories since last September Furyk has still notched six top-10 finishes in just 10 tournaments on the over-50 circuit and has found the weekend in more than half of his PGA Tour starts this season as well.
He admitted he’s been working hard on his game since he’s just not been feeling himself of late, but there are reasons to be excited this week.
“I’m optimistic,” said Furyk, “I feel like I’m going in the right direction.”
Certainly one of the golfers riding a hot streak into this week, Alex Cejka is looking to add another major championship trophy to his collection this week. Cejka, who won the Regions Tradition earlier this season in a playoff over Steve Stricker, also has a runner-up result in his last three tournaments. He’s got a lot of confidence heading into this week at Southern Hills.
“I'm having a blast,” said Cejka of his season. “I've been playing great, I see a lot of guys, a lot of idols I had when I was young, when I was a teenager, and I'm just honored to be part of this tour and seeing all those Hall of Famers and great players, so I'm very happy right now.”
Someone who can’t be ignored this week is Retief Goosen, who won the 2001 U.S. Open contested at Southern Hills, and who finished tied for 23rd at the 2007 PGA Championship in Tulsa, won by Tiger Woods.
Although the golf course has undergone an impressive renovation since Goosen’s major triumph and his fine result nearly a decade later, it’s still a club where good vibes exist for Goosen. In his last 10 starts on PGA Tour Champions Goosen has six top-10 finishes. He hasn’t won on PGA Tour Champions, however, since July of 2019, but what better place to break that winless drought than at a major championship – and at a major venue he’s already had success at?