5 to Watch at the US PGA Championship
All 100 of the Top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking are playing in this week's PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, completing an elite field at the second men's major of the season. Brooks Koepka is defending the Wanamaker Trophy, and he will face a formidable challenge from former winners like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion. Not to mention world number one Dustin Johnson, who will fancy his chances on Long Island, New York.
Golfshake's Derek Clements has picked out five the main contenders for the PGA, assessing their chances of success.
McIlroy’s victory in the Players Championship made him the favourite for The Masters but the four-time major winner was never in contention after an opening 73 and his tie for 21st was his worst finish at Augusta since 2013. McIlroy then finished eighth in the Wells Fargo Championship after a disappointing closing 73 but he should be suited by the damp conditions at Bethpage, which could resemble those during the 2011 US Open which he won by eight shots. The 30-year-old also finished 10th at Bethpage two years earlier in just his third major appearance. And he is desperate to win his fifth major.
Woods’ emotional victory in The Masters last month was his first major title in 11 years and it has inevitably reignited interest and speculation on his quest to match or beat Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18 majors. Woods now has 15. He continues to have to protect his ailing body and has not played a competitive round of golf since that victory at Augusta. The final round of that tournament was a masterclass in how to win a major under pressure, but he also had a lot of luck on his side. A closing 70 was nothing special in terms of scoring, but it was precisely what was needed and similar tactics will be required at Bethpage, where Woods was the only player to finish under par in winning the 2002 US Open.
Defending champion Koepka was one of the three players to finish just a shot behind Woods at Augusta and the big-hitting American continues to impress in major championships. Since the 2016 US PGA, Koepka’s form in majors reads 4-11-1-6-13-1-39-1-2, and the 29-year-old seems to have recovered from a diet which left him feeling “out of sorts” and resulted in a Twitter spat with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who called it “the most reckless self-sabotage that I have ever seen of an athlete in his prime.” Koepka is likely to have the last laugh in that particular debate.
Will barely merit a mention but if he wins he will become the latest golfers to join an elite group to have secured all four of the sport’s majors. He has been playing like a drain since September last year, was sorely out of sorts at the Ryder Cup and his troubles have continued ever since. But he showed signs at the Byron Nelson Classic that his best form may not be terribly far away. Has admitted recently that he has been thinking too much about his swing. Spieth is actually an instinctive player and is at his best when just goes out and plays. And if he can rediscover that amazing putting touch then he could surprise a lot of people.
Johnson moved to the top of the world rankings for the first time in February 2017 and promptly followed it with further success in the WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The big-hitting American has won twice this season and finished joint runner-up behind Woods at The Masters, while he was also third at Bethpage in The Barclays in 2012. Long, straight driving is likely to be key and Johnson is among the very best in that department. However, he does have an unfortunate habit of producing final-round collapses.
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