Sean Dougherty spends a lot of his time helping others improve their golf game as head professional at Oakwood Country Club in Kansas City. But this week Dougherty will test his game against the best players in the world.
Dougherty is set to compete in the 97th PGA Championship, which starts Thursday at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.
“Any time you compete it is fun,” Dougherty said, “but to play against the best players in the world will be special.”
Dougherty qualified for the PGA by tying for fifth place at the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship last month in Flourtown, Pa.
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It will be Dougherty’s second appearance in the PGA Championship. He also qualified in 2011 but shot 74 in each of the first two rounds and missed the cut.
“I think that first trip to the PGA will help me this time because now I know how to plot out the week,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll have some family and some friends up there, so I’ll get them situated and just have a good week.”
Dougherty said that experience will also give him an idea of how he needs to play to be successful this time.
Dougherty has never been in the state of Wisconsin, let alone at Whistling Straits. Dougherty also doesn’t have much experience playing links-style courses, so he will get a caddie with knowledge of the course and talk to as many people as possible who are familiar with it and can give him some tips.
“It will be like taking a test in school but being excited to do the preparation,” Dougherty said.
97th PGA Championship
▪ WHEN/WHERE: Thursday through Aug. 16 in Kohler, Wis.
▪ SITE: Whistling Straits (Straits Course), 7,501 yards, par 72.
▪ FIELD: 156 players (136 tour pros, 20 club pros).
▪ PRIZE MONEY: $10 million, $1.8 million to winner.
▪ DEFENDING CHAMPION: Rory McIlroy.
▪ TV: Thursday and Friday, noon, TNT; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m., TNT, and 1 p.m., CBS.
Five players to watch
▪ AGE: 26
▪ WORLD RANKING: No. 1
▪ 2015 WINS: Dubai Desert Classic, World Golf Championship-Match Play, Wells Fargo Championship
▪ FACT FACT: McIlroy suffered a serious ankle injury July 4, but he played a practice round Saturday at Whistling Straits. If he does play in the tournament, the question is how he will fare after missing so much time because of the injury.
▪ AGE: 22
▪ WORLD RANKING: No. 2
▪ 2015 WINS: Valspar Championship, Masters, U.S. Open, John Deere Classic
▪ FAST FACT: No golfer has ever swept all three U.S. majors in the same year. Spieth has finished within 2 shots of the lead in five of his last six tournaments, so he should be a factor as long as he keeps making putts.
▪ AGE: 27
▪ WORLD RANKING: No. 4
▪ 2015 WINS: Farmers Insurance Open, Canadian Open
▪ FAST FACT: Day left a birdie putt short on the last hole of the British Open that would have put him in a playoff. The irritation over that putt, and his win the following week in Canada, might be evidence that the Aussie is ready to break through in a major.
▪ AGE: 31
▪ WORLD RANKING: No. 7
▪ 2015 WIN: World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship
▪ FAST FACT: Johnson would have been in a playoff with eventual champion Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson in 2010, the last time the PGA was played at Whistling Straits, but he grounded his club in an area that he didn’t know was considered a bunker on the final hole and was given a 2-shot penalty.
▪ AGE: 39
▪ WORLD RANKING: No. 262
▪ 2015 WINS: none
▪ FAST FACT: Woods has won 14 career major championships, but none since the 2008 U.S. Open. At age 39, Woods is running out of time in his bid to match Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.