The PGA Championship Preview
With four wins in the last nine editions of the PGA Championship, the European Players have bucked the trend of their dreadful record in the year’s final major.
Rory McIlroy is responsible for two of those victories and he’s also the only European Player to have experienced victory at this week’s course, Quail Hollow.
Open champion Jordan Spieth is amongst a raft of players, writers, oddsmakers and fantasy players to have pencilled in the Northern Irishman as the man to beat this week and McIlroy is likely to form the bedrock of most fantasy teams.
Some of the Players to look out for
McIlroy owns this course, owns this tournament and has found his form. The most startling thing is that he somehow seems to be improving with the driver in his hands. He putted well enough to win last week at Firestone Country Club, but he was amiss with his approach shots. If he fixes that this week, he’ll lap the field.
A big, modern course should be a great fit for Rahm, who is 16th in Driving Distance and 30th for Greens in Regulation this year. The Spaniard took his first PGA Tour win on another 7,600 track (Torrey Pines South) at the start of the season and, only last month, blitzed the field to win the Irish Open. He is No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee. This course is set up for players who drive it well. That bodes well for the young 22-year-old.
Are we going to get a repeat of the 2014 PGA Championship when McIlroy, Fowler and Phil Mickelson were all in the mix? They all play Quail Hollow quite well, but expect Fowler to be the player to emerge and have a great week rather than Mickelson.
With five-year PGA Championship form of 22-4-24-33-3, Rose has been a solid pick in the year’s final major. He’s also got some eye-catching form at Quail Hollow with third (2016) and fifth (2014) in his last two appearances before the course was revamped. He was runner up in this year’s masters but there is concern in his recent form. He missed the U.S. Open cut, had to settle for T54 in The Open at Royal Birkdale and looked very subdued when shooting 74-71-76-75 to trail in T63 at Firestone CC last week. Rose says Quail Hollow suits his eye but admits he’ll need to drive the ball better to succeed there after recent swing changes to alleviate the pressure on his back.
He’s been as good as anyone over the last three years of major championships, and he has finished in the top 11 in each of the last four majors. He also finished 3rd at last year’s PGA Championship. He could absolutely win his second major here this week.
Five of the Swede’s 11 top 10s in the majors have come in the PGA and that ties in with the idea that he usually plays his best golf in the second half of the season. Stenson has finished 7-25-3-3 in the last four editions of this event and, after a decent defense of the Claret Jug (T11 Open), added T17 at Firestone on Sunday after shooting 70-69 on the weekend. But his course form at Quail Hollow is poor – MC-58-MC-MC-MC-69.
Spieth will be back doing what he does best, hustling his way through the course and the field. Will he be able to do 2 Majors in a row and complete his career grand slam of Majors at the tender age of 24. I, for one would love to see it.
He’s still feeling the glow of Augusta National and his recent marriage but perhaps at the expense of full focus on the course. Sergio could only manage T37 in The Open and just didn’t look sharp enough. He’s good enough to cruise to a top 20 here but that will probably be it. A runner-up at Quail Hollow way back in 2005 but he hasn’t made the top 10 in six starts there since. He’s fourth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee this year! That’s right, it’s Garcia. It would be good to see him win two majors in the same year after going so long until he broke his duck. But it looks highly unlightly.
Johnson for sure has the raw ability to win this but he hasn’t looked right since he returned from his back injury after the Masters. He also seems to lack consistency at the moment. But that said, could be foolish to bet against him.
Pieters should be strong this week on this course. He can legitimately roll with McIlroy, Johnson and Jason Day off the tee, and he may need to this week to win his first major. The big-hitting Belgian, who seems to love the big time. Adding to the feat of being top points scorer on his Ryder Cup debut, Pieters has posted a fourth at The Masters. His T4 at the Bridgestone on Sunday carried an air of disappointment after he co-led through 54 holes but was still another standout performance. Negative? He’s struggled on Bermuda greens this season and that’s what he’ll face at Quail Hollow.
Of the 310 possible golfers who could have beaten him in the last two PGA Championships, only one has. That was Jimmy Walker last year at Baltusrol by one stroke. Day doesn’t have the same form as he had the last two years, but you never know.
And let’s not forget Hideki Matsuyama,current world number 3, who recently tied course record to win WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Will he be there or thereabouts? But he openly admits that Quail Hollow has not been good to him in the past. Runner up in this year’s U.S. Open expect him to be in the mix come Sunday.