Pairings to watch on moving day at the 2020 PGA Championship
Do pairings matter?
Of course they do, no matter what some pros may try to tell you.
“It shouldn’t matter,” two-time major championship winner Zach Johnson once said. “It shouldn’t, but it does.”
Pairings can be especially important in majors, when pressure’s the greatest, when the smallest of things can turn momentum.
“You can either pull each other along or hold each other back,” Henrik Stenson said about the terrific final-round duel he waged with Phil Mickelson when Stenson won The Open at Royal Troon in 2016, shooting 63 to Mickelson’s 65 over the final 18 holes.
It’s only Saturday at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, but “moving day” may be the next most important pairing of the week, after the final round, for players trying to position themselves for a run at glory.
So, in Stenson’s words, who might pull each other up this week?
Or hold each other back?
“It can be tough, but I’ve had some really good rounds with some great friends,” Justin Thomas said earlier this year.
Thomas shot 59 playing with Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger at the Sony Open three years ago. Thomas and Spieth go way back as boyhood pals, and, notably, they’re paired together Saturday at the PGA Championship.
Here are some pairings where chemistry may prove important:
Justin Thomas (+1) and Jordan Spieth (+1), 8:40 a.m. ET
They have known each other since they were 13, playing big-time junior events together, coming together as teammates when they were 14 at the Evian Junior Masters in France. While Spieth hit the PGA Tour first, becoming a sensation while ascending to world No. 1 and winning three majors, it’s Thomas who is enjoying the best run now, currently holding the world No. 1 ranking while seeking his second major. How do they do together as pros? They’ve been paired together 33 times in PGA Tour stroke-play events, with Spieth holding a 16-15-2 mark in those head-to-head matchups.
Bryson DeChambeau (-2) and Patrick Reed (-2), 12:40 p.m. ET
There may not be two more polarizing stars in the game at the moment, with both players evoking strong emotions from fans. There’s apparently some empathy there, based on DeChambeau’s comments after Reed beat him by a shot at the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year. With a buzz still following Reed over his controversial moving of sand in a waste area at the Hero Challenge, DeChambeau said he understood the challenge of playing with a target on your back, with DeChambeau’s pace-of-play issues bringing him his share of backlash.
“I feel like unfortunately sometimes we get quite a bad rap,” DeChambeau said. “He’s a great player, and he’ll be a great player for a long time, and I have a lot of respect for his game.”
Phil Mickelson (+1) and Ian Poulter (+1), 9:30 a.m. PT
Veterans with big personalities, Mickelson and Poulter are two of the most entertaining players in the game, whether you love them or not. Mickelson’s 50 and Poulter’s 44. They’ve got a lot of ground to make up on Saturday, with a lot of youth to overtake.
Brooks Koepka (-6) and Justin Rose (-6), 2:40 p.m. PT
They know what it’s like to navigate major championship pressure on the weekends, with Koepka seeking his fifth major championship title, his third consecutive at the PGA Championship, and with Rose seeking to add to his U.S. Open title. They’ve both held world No. 1 rankings and competed in Ryder Cups. This may be the best pairing of the day.