PGA Championship Fact or Fiction: Eyeing an Early Winner, John Daly Is Still Here

The SI Golf staff debates three hot players against everyone else (including Xander), and the makeup of the PGA Championship field.
John Daly is a fan favorite at the PGA Championship but not exactly competitive.
John Daly is a fan favorite at the PGA Championship but not exactly competitive. / Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal / USA

Welcome to the PGA Championship edition of SI Golf’s Fact or Fiction. We’ll be here after every round with a series of statements for writers and editors to declare as “Fact” or “Fiction” along with a brief explanation. Responses may also (occasionally) be “Neutral” since there's a lot of gray area in golf.

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know on the SI Golf X account.

With one round in the books we’ll revisit a statement from earlier this week: Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy all arrived at Valhalla off wins and one of them will win this PGA Championship.

Pat Forde: FICTION. As the lone selector of Xander Schauffele to win this tournament, there is zero chance I’m getting off that bandwagon after an opening 62 and a three-shot lead. I know Xander has to show the staying power to hold off those multi-time major winners, but he is way overdue to win one of these. If he keeps his swing loose and putter hot, he can go wire-to-wire.

Bob Harig: FACT. They are all right there, with plenty of time to make up some ground on Xander Schauffele. The key on Day 1 was to stay within range, and they did that. Schauffele looked great, but that’s why they play four rounds.

John Pluym: FACT. Scheffler, Koepka and McIlroy know what it takes to win a major golf tournament. We’ve yet to see that from Xander Schauffele, who was overtaken by McIlroy last week at the Wells Fargo and collapsed at the Masters against Scheffler. Schauffele was the best player in Round 1, shooting a 62. But he also shot a 62 in a major before and didn’t win. And he won’t win this one, either. 

Jeff Ritter: FACT. Xander was awesome on Thursday, but we’ve also seen this from him before. (He shot a 62 at last year’s U.S. Open which, according to tournament archives, he did not go on to win.) He’s due for a major breakthrough, but each of the Big Three had a solid round and remain right in this.

John Schwarb: FICTION. I’m on record for Max Homa so not abandoning that after one day, plus it’s still golf. Taking three players—even these three studs—against the field isn’t a play I’m willing to sweat. 

John Daly last made the cut at the PGA in 2012, and he shot 82 on Thursday. Rich Beem has missed cuts in eight of the last 10 PGAs (the other two finishes were T73 and T80) and shot 79. The PGA of America should revoke lifetime exemptions for winners into the championship.

Pat Forde: FICTION. John Daly is a draw, period. Some of it may be prurient interest, but Daly brought a different demographic of fan to the game and earned a forever niche in the sport. I’m fine with the Rich Beems of the world still playing as well. Honoring past champions with a place in the field is a good way to reinforce the tradition of the PGA, and it’s not like they’ll be cluttering things up past Friday.

Bob Harig: FICTION. It’s a tough look, but like the Masters, having the past champions return is one of the charms of the tournament. Given the overall strength of the field, it’s good to have them here with the opportunity they are presented. Individual cases can be debated, and the players have to know when. But they earned that invite. It’s up to them to decide.

John Pluym: FICTION. Jack Nicklaus wasn’t competitive in most majors late in his career, especially after 50. But he earned the right to get all of those special exemptions into majors. His contribution to the game of golf is unmatched. And John Daly is a major attraction in any golf tournament. We should honor these past champions such as Daly and Beem by allowing them to play. It’s never a bad thing for the game.

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. It’s a treat to see past winners tee it up in their respective majors. Daly is part golfer, part cartoon and 100% entertainment. Let the past champs play until they’ve had enough. 

John Schwarb: FACT. I don’t know what the perfect solution is, but I also don’t think every player knows when it’s time to step away from a major. And I say that while believing John Daly is a national treasure—but I can see him on the PGA Tour Champions. 

On a day with record low scoring, 18 of the 21 PGA professionals shot over par (20 qualifiers plus 2023 T15 finisher Michael Block). The PGA of America should reduce the number of club professionals that qualify.

Pat Forde: FACT. There should be some club pro representation, for sure. But those guys don’t have the name recognition or fan resonance as the former champions who are in the field. Slightly cutting down the number of club pros would be fine with me.

Bob Harig: FICTION. It used to be 25 and it has been reduced to 20. The field is 156. That’s a relatively small number for the major that still gets the strongest field. Perhaps if the overall field size were cut down you’d prefer to see the club pros reduced as well. But this is an opportunity for the PGA of America to distinguish itself, and the club pros are its real mission. It’s understandable why they want them here.

John Pluym: FICTION. I love how the PGA creates opportunities for club pros to play in the championship. It’s no different than club pros trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. And 20 still seems like the right number. It’s still a great field.

Jeff Ritter: FICTION. They were right to chop it down from 40 to 24 in 1994 and to 20 in 2006. But that number is still fine for today—the field is arguably the best of all the majors, and the opportunity for a Michael Block-like story to emerge, rare as it may be, is a special opportunity that’s unique to this major championship. 

John Schwarb: FACT. Club pros are a wonderful part of this championship but comprising 13% of the field is too much. Ten qualifiers sounds like a fair number.

In a Tuesday press conference, Tiger Woods was noncommittal on whether he’ll be the 2025 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. But when the matches begin at Bethpage Black, he’ll have the job. 

Pat Forde: FACT. You want him on that wall. You need him on that wall. Tiger Woods in a leadership role sounds like something the U.S. team could very much benefit from.

Bob Harig: FICTION. His comments seemed to be setting the table to bow out. He offered up the reasons why it might not be wise to do it. I don’t buy all the time commitment stuff anyway. It’s largely ceremonial until six months out and we’re a long way from that. But if Tiger signals he’s not into all the other stuff, then let someone else have the gig and pencil him in for 2027.

John Pluym: FACT. Woods knows how to motivate players. He knows what it takes to win, especially in high-pressure situations at Bethpage Black as a former U.S. Open champion. And we need a winner leading our U.S. Ryder Cup team after last year’s beating in Italy.

Jeff Ritter: FACT. It makes sense that today Woods is mostly focused on his role on the Policy Board while simultaneously attempting to get his game and body ready to compete in the season’s remaining majors. I’d guess Woods will commit to the captaincy shortly after missing the cut at Troon this summer.. 

John Schwarb: FACT. When I read about how the captain is needed for marketing, promotion, etc., my eyes roll back in my head. This is Tiger at Bethpage. He can skip every photo shoot, site visit and uniform-selection meeting and dig into the job next summer. And the PGA of America would be crazy not to let him.


Published
John Schwarb

JOHN SCHWARB

John Schwarb is the senior golf editor for Sports Illustrated whose career has spanned more than 25 years covering sports. He’s been featured on ESPN.com, PGATour.com, The Golfers Journal and Tampa Bay Times. He’s also the author of The Little 500: The Story of the World's Greatest College Weekend. A member of the Golf Writers Association of America, John is based in Indianapolis.

Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.

Jeff Ritter

JEFF RITTER

Jeff Ritter is the Managing Director of SI Golf. He spent more than a decade at Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine, and in 2020 joined Morning Read to help spark its growth and eventual acquisition by Sports Illustrated in 2022. He's a member of the Golf Writers' Association of America (GWAA) and has covered more than 25 major championships. He helped launch SI Golf Plus Digital, Golf Magazine’s first original, weekly e-magazine, and served as its top editor. He also launched Golf's “Films” division, the magazine’s first long-form video storytelling franchise, and his debut documentary received an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Society of American Travel Writers, the MIN Magazine Awards, and the Golf Writers Association of America, among others. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. A native Michigander, he remains a diehard Wolverine fan and will defend Jim Harbaugh until the bitter end.

John Pluym

JOHN PLUYM

John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.

Pat Forde

PAT FORDE

Pat Forde is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covering college football and basketball as well as the Olympics and horse racing. He co-hosts the College Football Enquirer podcast and is a football analyst on the Big Ten Network. He previously worked for Yahoo Sports, ESPN and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Pat has won a remarkable 28 Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest awards; been published three times in Best American Sports Writing; and was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. A past president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and member of the Football Writers Association of America, Pat lives in Louisville with his wife. They have three children, all of whom were college swimmers.