A look at the leading chances for this year's PGA Championship.
The final men’s golfing major of the year, the PGA Championship begins on August 10th at the Quail Club in Charlotte in North Carolina, a venue that has previously held PGA Tour events over a long period of time but now the outstanding layout gets the chance for even greater profile and accolades by hosting this truly world event.
The layout has undergone some significant changes since an event was last played there in May of 2016, greens re-grassed, a lot of trees removed and essentially four new holes built.
Given the volatility amongst the leading five or six world ranked players, the event remains perhaps the most open major of the year although many are considering three players amongst those most likely to do well namely, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Rory McIlroy.
Spieth appears to have returned to the level of form that he displayed for much of the last two years prior to February of this year, his recent wins in Hartford and at Royal Birkdale further confirming such. Solid week last week when a last round 68 saw him finish 13th. The 24-year-old is chasing a career Grand Slam having previously won the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship and so has added pressure but pressure has never really bothered him.
McIlroy has a stunning record at Quail Hollow, this the site of his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and he has gone on to win one more, be placed second on one other occasion and record several other top tens. His record at Quail Hollow is second to none and he arrives at one of his favourite venues with a 4th place finish at the Open Championship and another good week when 5th at the WGC Bridgestone last week.
Matsuyama is destined to win a major championship and this week might just be a great opportunity to do just that. The Japanese star finished runner-up to Brook Koepka at the US Open and has continued to play well since including his brilliant win at last week’s WGC Bridgestone and he does own two solid if unspectacular finishes at Quail Hollow. His credentials stack up this week.
Given his standing as the game’s leading player, Johnson is playing below that level at present despite a final round of 66 last week. He has seldom played at Quail Hollow and has not done well when he has so there is concern for his chances this week. Champions should never be dismissed but on paper it is hard to see him winning.
Garcia has not played Quail Hollow a lot of late but earlier in his career he did and on one occasion finished runner-up after a playoff. Since his Masters win in April Garcia has played solidly enough without contending other than in a European Tour event in Germany. He has had a lot going on off the golf course since Augusta National including getting married recently so with that now behind him he may well focus in on a second major with this week. A last round of 67 in Akron suggests he is getting his focus back.
Rahm is the rising star in world golf and having won twice already in 2017 in San Diego and in Ireland he is playing well enough to take yet another step this week. This will be his first PGA Championship and his 6th major but he has little fear and his lack of experience at this level should not faze him. He recovered from a second round 77 last week with a strong weekend so appears to be on track.
After a few indifferent weeks, Day showed signs, especially early, last week that his game was perhaps improving and as a former world number one and PGA Champion he deserves respect. He still needs further improvement to contend however. Day has not played this venue for several years but did finish 9th here in one of his starts at Quail Hollow.
Koepka’s win at the US Open took him to a new level amongst the game’s elite but many felt it was always going to happen at some stage and now that he has another major could come quickly. He took a month off between his US Open win and a 6th place at the Open Championship and after a slow start last week in Akron he made his way through the field to finish inside the top twenty.
Noren is another big mover in world golf in the last twelve months and although his form has been a little bit of a roller coaster in recent weeks he did finish 6th at the Open Championship and played very well early in Akron last week before finishing midfield.
Kuchar perhaps carries the tag of the best player without a major to his name but it might just be that he can get rid of that this week. His brilliant play at Royal Birkdale was bettered only by a Houdini act by Spieth over the closing stages and he closed off well at last week’s WGC event after a slow start.
Stenson is certainly not playing at the same level he was last year but that was an exceptional year and he has still been playing reasonably well. He finished 11th at the Open Championship and improved over the weekend in Akron to finish 17th there.
Fowler is another in that category of fine players without a major and, in the manner in which he is playing at present, he stands a very good chance of making this his major breakthrough. Importantly for his chances this week is that Fowler has won at Quail Hollow. He did well last week after a relatively slow start to the WGC Bridgestone and there is a lot to like about his chances this week.
Casey has missed only one cut in the last twelve months and amongst those finishes there have been a number of times in contention. Casey played very well last week to finish in a share of 5th with McIlroy and like Kuchar and Fowler surely he is due a major championship.
Scott has been skirting the fringes of contention for much of this season without threatening although he did lead during the opening round last week in Akron. If all the elements of his game come together Scott is capable of winning anything and if he was to do so this week it would be no real surprise.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
The Spaniard has played very well this season, winning in Scotland three weeks ago and finishing 4th at the Open Championship. He has also played very well in several events in the US this season also including when 4th at the Players Championship. He might be one for longer odds for a top five although a poor week in Akron is a concern.