7 Players to Watch at the US PGA
Who is going to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday at Bellerive? Golfshake's Derek Clements has picked out key names to watch - including one outsider - for the 2018 US PGA Championship.
The world number one missed the cut at The Open at Carnoustie when he attempted to overcome the course and paid the price, but that is the only early exit he has made from 14 events in 2018 and he bounced straight back to claim a third win of the season in the Canadian Open. In 12 completed strokeplay events the former US Open champion's worst finish is a tie for 17th. In anybody’s language, that is impressive form.
McIlroy has won the US PGA twice, although his dramatic victory in the dark at Valhalla in 2014 remains his last major title to date. However, the former world number one finished second in The Open and his game should be suited by the conditions in St Louis. He needs to find the putting touch which fired him to victory at Bay Hill earlier this season. And if he can do so, everybody else should head for home. He putted dreadfully at Carnoustie but ended up two behind the winner.
Fowler is fast becoming the most frustrating player on the planet. How is it possible that somebody who possesses so much talent can keep coming up short so many times? When he came within a whisker of winning The Masters in April many thought it would make a turning point in his career, but his performance at The Open was hugely disappointing. Having played himself into contention, he let one bad hole midway through his second round derail his entire challenge. You begin to get the sense that if he doesn’t land a major soon then he may never will.
It is hard to believe that Rose’s runner-up finish at Carnoustie was his best at The Open since his debut at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old. The Englishman has been in sensational form for well over a year now and it can surely only be a matter of time before he adds a second major to his US Open. The most impressive aspect of his performance at Carnoustie was that, having made the cut by making a birdie on the 18th, he came within two shots of winning the tournament without being at his best.
Molinari's tie for second in last year's US PGA went largely unnoticed despite a brilliant second round of 64, the Italian eventually finishing alongside Patrick Reed and Louis Oosthuizen, two shots behind Thomas. It was the moment that the little Italian finally started to believe in himself. Since missing the cut at the Players Championship, Molinari's form has been reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his prime - first, second, 25th, first, second, first. He crowned it all with that amazing victory at the Open, making him the first Italian to win a major.
The double US Open champion has also compiled a consistent record in the other majors, his tie for 39th in The Open marking the first major since the 2016 Masters that he had not finished 13th or better. The big-hitting American has also been 15th or better in the past four US PGA Championships, including top fives at Whistling Straits (2015) and Baltusrol (2016). There are many who believe that Koepka is just a bomber - nobody wins the US Open twice unless they also possess a masterful short game. And Koepka does, in spades.
Speaking of bombers, not many people would believe that Finau is the only player to have finished in the top 10 in all three of the season’s majors to date. He was 10th at the Masters despite injuring his ankle in the par-three contest, fifth in the US Open and ninth in The Open. He is a hugely underrated player who is surely on the verge of making his Ryder Cup debut for the United States, and it would be no surprise if he were to land his first major.
AND A DARK HORSE TO FOLLOW…
Daniel Berger is an outsider with the bookies. The American has not had the best of seasons, but he is a fabulous young player who has every shot in the book. He would be the first to admit that inconsistency is his biggest problem but when he is at his best he is easily as good as the likes of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
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