2022 PGA Championship Preview
THE second men's major of the season takes place at Southern Hills this week. And the bad news for his rivals is that the venue for the PGA Championship is world number one Scottie Scheffler’s favourite golf course.
The American has already won four times this year, including that magnificent victory at The Masters, and he is chomping at the bit as he attempts to win his second major.
“Obviously Augusta is incredible, but I have always been a huge fan of Southern Hills in Tulsa,” Scheffler explained. “I haven’t had a chance to play it since the renovation yet, but I really liked it before.”
And Scheffler will be absolutely delighted to learn that Tiger Woods has confirmed his entry because it will mean that, for the first 36 holes at least, the veteran will be stealing the limelight.
And even though defending champion Phil Mickelson has opted not to play, he is also sure to continue to dominate the headlines. Lest you have forgotten, Mickelson achieved the most unlikely of victories at the fearsome Kiawah Island 12 months ago, when he became the oldest ever winner of a major. The past year should have been the most enjoyable of his career. It has been anything but.
He has made headlines for all the wrong reasons and has not played competitively for months after criticising both the PGA Tour, whom he accused of greed, and the Saudi money men behind the new breakaway series - a serious gaffe because he had been signed up as their headline act.
It is not the first time Mickelson has put his foot in it but despite everything he remains a much-loved individual and you can be sure that he would have received a hero’s welcome at Southern Hills. But he would also have had to face the media and answer some difficult questions. And he has clearly decided he is not ready for that.
Woods made his latest comeback from injury at The Masters and astonished everybody by making the cut. Woods has paid a couple of visits to Southern Hills and, by all accounts, looked fit and well. He has won the PGA Championship four times. And his last success? At Southern Hills in 2007, when he was still in his prime.
It is impossible to write off Woods, of course, but he was clearly struggling during the latter stages of The Masters and Southern Hills will provide him with another huge physical test.
So by the time we get to Saturday, all eyes are likely to be on Scheffler. Can he win again? There is no doubt. Will he do so? It is difficult to bet against him, but he will have to be at the absolute peak of his powers if he is to land his second major.
And the likes of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Sam Burns, Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas will be determined to have a say in the outcome.
McIlroy finished runner-up to Scheffler at Augusta after a sensational final round of 64. And he continued his excellent form at the Wells Fargo Championship where, for three rounds, he played like the world-class golfer we all know him to be. But yet again he threw a poor round into the mix on day two.
If the Northern Irishman is to have any chance of finally winning his first major since 2014 then he will know that he needs to get off to a good start and maintain it for four days. The most encouraging aspect of his current good form is that he finally appears to have sorted out his issues with the putter. Now if only he can keep the ball in play from the tee.
Homa is now seen as a genuine contender after his stellar play in challenging conditions at the Wells Fargo as he recorded his second win of the season. The American has a wonderful golf swing, with a rhythm that is reminiscent of Ernie Els in his prime. He hits the ball a long way with what appears to be the minimum of effort.
Crucially, he is also one of the straightest drivers of a golf ball on the PGA Tour. And when things go wrong he is able to shrug it off and carry on.
The same cannot be said of Jon Rahm. The US Open champion is one of the most volatile characters in the game but insists that it is the only way he knows how to play. It was due to his putting that he won the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2021 and he will know that he has little chance of securing victory this week unless he can get the putter working again.
There is a good case to be made for Jordan Spieth, whose powers of recovery are quite remarkable. He is a winner again this year and although he still finds the rough more often than he would like, he continues to waft his putter like a magic wand. He loves tough golf courses, and they don’t come much harder than this one.
Don’t be surprised to see Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton in the mix at the business end. Both men are quietly going about their business on the PGA Tour this season and Fitzpatrick is getting ever closer to that elusive maiden success. Make no mistake - he is good enough to win on any course, against any calibre of field. He finished joint second at the Wells Fargo. It is surely only a matter of time before he takes the next step.
Southern Hills is a course that is likely to test the patience of the entire field, and that will provide a special challenge for Hatton. But if he can keep his temper in check he could also surprise a few people.
It was won in 2015 by Jason Day, in 2016 by Jimmy Walker, in 2017 by Justin Thomas, in 2018 and 2019 by Brooks Koepka, in 2020 by Collin Morikawa and last year by Phil Mickelson.
Scottie Scheffler has already won four times this season, including his maiden major victory at The Masters. He is the favourite with Betway. It would be a huge surprise if he is not there or thereabouts on Sunday. Jordan Spieth is back in the top 10 in the world rankings and missed the cut at Augusta. However, he won the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, one of the tightest courses on the planet. He is, of course, one of the best putters on the planet. Rory McIlroy finished second at The Masters and fifth at the Wells Fargo and is long overdue a fifth major. This could be his week.
Southern Hills is a par 71 measuring 7,4812 yards. It was designed by Perry Maxwell in 1936 and was updated by Gil Hanse. It features relatively small greens and tight, tree-lined fairways.
Rory McIlroy. It’s now or never Rory (14/1)
Scottie Scheffler. Bound to be there or thereabouts (11/1)
Jordan Spieth. Victory will give him the career Grand Slam (18/1)
Five to Follow:
Rory McIlroy. Finally enjoying his golf again (14/1)
Scottie Scheffler. A phenomenon (11/1)
Jordan Spieth. Brilliant short game (18/1)
Jon Rahm. Needs to get that putter working (12/1)
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Can compete with anybody (40/1)
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Garrick Higgo. Trying to rediscover his best form (250/1)
Tiger Woods. It’s going to be a tough challenge for him (50/1)
Richard Bland. Finally mixing it with the big boys (300/1)
Jason Day. All depends on his fitness (66/1)
Adri Arnaus. Looking to prove he belongs at this level (250/1)
Where You Can Watch The 2022 PGA Championship:
Thursday, May 19. Sky Sports Golf, 1pm, first round
Friday, May 20, Sky Sports Golf, 1pm, second round
Saturday, May 21, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm, third round
Sunday, May 22, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm, final round
This 2022 PGA Championship Preview was written in collaboration with Betway
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