2023 PGA Championship Preview, Picks, Analysis, TV Guide
IF THE Masters was anything to go by, you can be sure that we are in for a treat when the PGA Championship tees off at Oak Hill this week.
The second major of the year kicks off with most of the world’s best golfers in sensational form as they do battle for the Wanamaker Trophy. Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland and Cameron Young for starters, but more of them later.
There is also optimism about the form of English pair Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. And, of course, a number of LIV Golf players will be in attendance, with Brooks Koepka looking to go one better than he did at The Masters and Phil Mickelson aiming to prove that his play at Augusta wasn't a one-off.
There are some questions surrounding the form of Rory McIlroy. Having failed to make the cut at Augusta, the Northern Irishman withdrew from the RBC Heritage and finished 16 shots behind winner Wyndham Clark at the Wells Fargo Championship staged at his beloved Quail Hollow.
By his admission, McIlroy is a streaky golfer. It is now almost nine years since he won the last of his nine majors - this very championship. At the start of this season many pundits believed that this would be the year he would finally add to that tally but he is clearly struggling with both his game and his confidence. It would, however, be entirely typical of McIlroy to go ahead and win this week.
Far more likely is another tussle between Rahm and Scheffler, who seem sure to be trading places at the top of the world rankings for the rest of the year.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
Rahm has been in simply incredible form since winning the Open de Espana and DP World Championship in Dubai last year. He has since added the Tournament of Champions, the American Express, the Genesis Invitational and, of course, The Masters. But that’s not all - he was in position to win the Farmers Insurance Open until shooting a final round of 74, was third at the Phoenix Open, tied 17th at the RBC Heritage the week after Augusta and then very nearly made a successful defence of the Mexico Open.
In 12 starts he has won four times, had eight top 10 finishes and pocketed nearly $14.5m in prize money. He is first in strokes gained, birdies per round, second in greens hit in regulation, second in approaches from 200-225 yards, second in approaches from 100 yards and has the leading stroke average of 67.93. These are mind-boggling statistics.
But Scheffler is running him a pretty close second. Just 17 months ago he was still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour. He now has six victories in 100 starts, five runner-up finishes five third places and a staggering 24 top-five finishes, along with $34m in prize money.
He won the Phoenix Open and the Players Championship, was second at the Hero World Challenge, seventh at the Tournament of Champions, tied fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, fourth at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, tied 10th at The Masters and tied 11th at the RBC.
So who is most likely to upset the applecart?
Young has made a sensational start to his PGA Tour career and has every shot in the book. Remarkably, he is still searching for his first victory on the PGA Tour but he is a big-time player who finished second behind Cameron Smith at The Open in 2022. In 39 appearances on the PGA Tour, Young has finished runner-up six times, third on two occasions and has had eight top-five finishes. This is a major champion in waiting.
The PGA has a knack of producing surprise winners and Sahith Theegala would definitely fit that bill. He started the 2022-23 season with a tie for sixth at the Fortinet Championship and then missed the cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship - his sole missed cut of the season. Since then there has been a tie for second at the RSM Classic, a tie for fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied sixth at the Genesis, tied ninth at The Masters and tied fifth at the RBC Heritage. Still looking for his first PGA Tour victory but you can bet your mortgage on him putting that right soon.
And don’t be surprised to see Hatton in the mix if he can keep his temper in check. Oak Hill is a tough track with some punishing rough and lightning-fast greens so you can be sure there will some bad breaks along the way. How will Hatton handle them?
He has decent form on challenging layouts this season, finishing tied fourth at Bay Hill, second at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and tied third at the Wells Fargo Championship.
He is comfortably inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings and is ranked 17th in the world.
If Spieth wins he will complete the career Grand Slam and he demonstrated at Augusta that he is once again near his best. The same applies to Schauffele, who played some wonderful golf at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
It was won in 2015 by Jason Day, in 2016 by Jimmy Walker, in 2017 and 2022 by Justin Thomas, in 2018 and 2019 by Brooks Koepka, in 2020 by Collin Morikawa and in 2021 by Phil Mickelson.
It is hard to see beyond Jon Rahm, the joint-tournament favourite on Betway, who has become a serial winner in 2023, adding The Masters to his US Open title. The Spaniard is a brilliant ball striker and a sensational putter under pressure. This could also be a course that suits England’s Tyrrell Hatton if he can keep his temper in check. It could also be the week that Cameron Young wins his first tournament - and that would surprise nobody.
See 10 Players to Watch and 9 Outsiders to Watch.
Oak Hill was originally designed by the legendary Donald Ross and has been updated by Robert Trent Jones Sr and Tom Fazio. Water comes into play on nine of the 18 holes. It is a par 70 measuring 7,390 yards. It has hosted the Ryder Cup, US Open and PGA Championship. It is tree-lined, well bunkered and features lightning fast greens.
Jon Rahm. Has already won four times in 2023, so why not a fifth title? (13/2)
Cameron Young. A big-time player with a big-time future (22/1)
Scottie Scheffler. Determined to give Rahm a run for his money (13/2)
Five to Follow:
Jon Rahm. Having the year of his life (13/2)
Cameron Young. Ready to win on the biggest stage of all (22/1)
Scottie Scheffler. Impressive in everything he does (13/2)
Tyrrell Hatton. Needs to keep calm but definitely good enough to win (33/1)
Rory McIlroy. Which version of McIlroy is going to turn up this week? (10/1)
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Steven Alker. Playing sensational golf on the Champions Tour (1500/1)
Matt Wallace. Won the Corales Puntacana Championship to revive his career (300/1)
Chris Kirk. The comeback story of the year (175/1)
Lucas Herbert. A hugely underrated golfer (200/1)
Kurt Kitayama. Winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational so knows how to play tough courses (175/1)
Thursday, May 18 First round, Sky Sports Golf, 1pm
Friday, May 19, Second round, Sky Sports Golf, 1pm
Saturday, May 20, Third round, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm
Sunday, May 21, Final round, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm
This 2023 PGA Championship preview article was written in collaboration with Betway
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