Although it feels like we just finished celebrating all things Masters, the second major championship of the season is upon us as the 2023 PGA Championship makes its return to Oak Hill Country Club in Upstate New York.
When the PGA Championship was played on Oak Hill’s East Course in 2013, Jason Dufner orchestrated an under-the-radar, ball-striking exhibition to outlast everyone, including Jim Furyk and Henrik Stenson.
A lot has changed in those 10 years since the PGA last visited Oak Hill. That edition was played in August, while this year’s version is in May. With a steady diet of rain and sun this spring, the rough will be thick and lush meaning a premium will be placed on ball striking.
The course has gone through a number of changes since then, with hundreds of trees removed, reshaped bunkers, and new strands of grass on the greens which may have the players second-guessing their reads.
The 2023 PGA Championship also heralds in a (mostly) fresh crop of young talent, eager to pad their major championship resume or breakthrough for a life-changing victory.
Here are several under-the-radar players to keep an eye on at the 2023 PGA Championship.
2023 PGA Championship: Four to look out for at Oak Hill
Cameron Young checks all the boxes of a player who should do well at Oak Hill. The 26-year-old, 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has never won on tour, but he possesses the strength, ball-striking ability, and grit needed to hang around and give himself a chance come Sunday. Not only that, but the native New Yorker should have a strong cheering section thanks to his ties to the state, having been born in Scarborough, NY.
With a proven history like Morikawa has, it may seem strange to include him on a list of under-the-radar players. The 26-year-old already boasts two majors, including the 2021 Open Championship and the 2020 PGA Championship.
That early success sent expectations skyrocketing for the California native, and he admirably lived up to most of them. A world-class iron player, the putter has always been the Achilles heel for Morikawa.
He showed improvement during those major wins, but has taken a step backward in 2023, ranking 161st in SG: Putting and 178th in Total Putting. If he can find a spark with the flatstick on Oak Hill’s undulating greens, Morikawa could find himself raising the Wanamaker Trophy Sunday afternoon.
Ever notice that there always seems to be a couple of names you see lurking around the top of leaderboards, week-in, and week-out? Corey Conners is one of those names and there is no mistake why he’s in the mix every week – his razor-sharp ball-striking skills make him a threat on any course.
He hasn’t fared all that well at the PGA Championship with just two made cuts out of four attempts, but he should feel right at home having been raised in nearby Listowel, Ontario. If he can maintain a steady putter and that impeccable iron play, we should see Conners once again making his presence felt.
Since his departure to the rival LIV Golf League, Brooks Koepka has found himself in relative anonymity – out of sight, out of mind. However, ignore him at your own peril.
Koepka’s PGA Championship record is phenomenal, having won back-to-back Wanamaker trophies in 2018 and 2019, not to mention a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson in one of the wildest scenes you will see on a golf course during the 2021 PGA at Kiawah.
Koepka is coming off a win in April at LIV Golf Orlando and a T2 at this year’s Masters. Koepka’s immense strength should be an advantage in the penal rough around Oak Hill and his run at the Masters shows he still has the mental fortitude to compete at the highest level.