The final major of the year takes place and Jordan Spieth has the chance to become a true legend of the game by completing golf’s Grand Slam.
Spieth has the chance to join the most exclusive and revered club in golf alongside Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen – the only other players to have won all four majors.
With the Claret Jug landed at the Open at Royal Birkdale last month, Spieth – already has The Masters and US Open successes in his trophy cabinet, which now means only the PGA Championship alludes him.
And whilst there is little doubt that Spieth will one day join the club, he now has one chance to break Woods’s record of being the youngest ever player to do it, having just turned 24 last month. If he wins at Quail Hollow this week – he would break Woods’s mark by six months.
Spieth himself does not seem to bothered about breaking the record and is not putting too much pressure on himself.
“If I’m healthy and playing well, I play in 30 of them,” Spieth said about the PGA.
“I believe I’ll have plenty of chances to win them, but it doesn’t have to be this year. If it’s this year and it happens, that’s great, that’s another life-long goal that we’ve then achieved.
“But I believe that I’ll do it someday, so if it happens … then fantastic. And if it doesn’t, then it’s not going to be a big-time bummer whatsoever because I know I have plenty of opportunities.
“Getting three legs of it is much harder than getting the last leg, I think. Although I’ve never tried to get the last leg, so it’s easy for me to say. We’ve had three in two years and so, I mean, if we just continue with the same process, get the right breaks and driving ranges are in play” – feel free to crack a smile here – “then I’ve got a good shot at No. 4.”
Whilst Spieth is one of the favourites this week, the in-form Rory McIlroy is the man to beat according to most.
McIlroy, who is a two time US PGA winner, loves it at Quail Hollow – has won two tournaments at the North Carolina venue and has had four other top-ten finishes, although the course has undergone some changes ahead this year’s big event.
“There are some golf courses you go to that just give you that feeling. It gives you that [feeling that] you don’t really have to have your best game and you still feel like you have a chance to win, and that’s sort of how it feels here,” said the Northern Irish star, who holds two course records at Quail Hollow.
“Obviously there have been a few changes and there’s a couple of holes that look a little different. But for the most part, 15 of the 18 holes are pretty much the same. I just feel good around here. I don’t know what it is.
“I’ve shot a couple of really low scores. I’ve got some great memories. I think once you go back to a place where you do have great memories, all that starts to come flooding back to you and it makes you feel good about yourself. That’s sort of how I feel around here.”
Another who many are predicting a big week for his Japanese world number three Hideki Matsuyama – who triumphed at the WGC Bridgestone last week, which was sealed with a brilliant 61.
And Asian star is hoping he can land his first major this week and said: “Maybe I’ll try to not have high expectations or set the bar too high and hopefully I can win (the PGA Championship),”
For the first time in many majors – world number one Dustin Johnson is not in the top-two in the betting, indeed he is widely rated as fourth choice at 12/1.
But Johnson feels he is getting back to his best after getting over the back injury he suffered on the eve of The Masters earlier this year.
“I feel like the driver is going very well now. I feel like I’ve got a lot of control over it. I feel like I’m hitting good shots with it. They are going where I’m looking. I think this is going to be a very good week,” he said.
“I felt like I got some things worked out in the swing that were just holding me back a little bit. Right now, I feel it’s close to when I was playing really well before Augusta than I have, and you know, since then. The golf swing’s there. I feel good. My body feels great. I’m looking for a really good week this week.”
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 8, 2017
The reigning champion coming into this week is Jimmy Walker – who is also looking to get back to form after struggling for a win since taking the title at Baltusrol Golf Club last year.
Since then he has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, but he is in good health and ready to compete.
“Things are looking good, honestly,” he said.
“We just keep working and we keep moving forward and we keep trying to get as healthy as possible and try to get back to 100 percent and just go from there.
“I’ve got a lot more energy. I’m able to practice more and that’s just been something I’ve been kind of lacking. I do feel good on that front.”
Leading British contender is Justin Rose, who struggled at the WGC last week but many believe he could be one to watch at Quail Hollow.
The pro’s point of view…
Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.
For me it is impossible to look past Rory McIlroy – he loves this course and always plays well, he will be in contention come Sunday – I am almost certain of that.
I also think Jon Rahm will have a good week, although European he is a PGA Tour player and knows it well, and coupled with his form he would be my other pick.
The Bookie says…
We caught up with BetVictor’s Jack Milner – an expert in the golfing markets
We gave Hideki Matsuyama a favourable mention prior to last week’s WGC success at Firestone and the World number 3 has understandably been popular heading into the fourth and final major of the golfing calendar. Matsuyama produced the greatest round of ball-striking of his career on Sunday, shooting 61 in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, and is now 11/1 from 18s with BetVictor for US PGA Championship success at Quail Hollow.
He must go well again but is perhaps now too short in a market dominated by golf’s big players at the front end of the market. Rory McIlroy is BetVictor’s worst result having been laid at fancy prices and boasts a tremendous record around the course; winning the Wells Fargo Championship twice at Quail Hollow. His putting let him down in the final round last weekend, yet again, and he can not be backed at the price of 7/1.
With BetVictor paying six places, and up to ten places elsewhere, I’d throw a few darts at those bigger in the market with Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger both appealing at generally around the 45/1 and 60/1 mark. Thomas has been in sparkling form all season, winning three times at the beginning of the campaign, and shot a record-breaking 62 in the third round of the US Open at Erin Hills. He is one of the longest hitters on tour, 9th to be precise, finished with rounds of 69 and 67 to finish T28 at Firestone and is sure to be suited by the composition of Quail Hollow.
Daniel Berger may rank only 55 on Tour in terms off length off-the-tee but has put together a string of fine efforts and was somewhat unlucky to lose to Jordan Spieth in last month’s Travelers Championship; with the Open Championship producing the most unlikely of birdies at the first extra hole. Despite being just 24 years old Berger is already a multiple winner on tour, going back-to-back at the St Jude Classic, and should eventually join those sitting at golf’s top table.
At bigger prices, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Brendan Steel (150/1), Charles Howell III (200/1), and Sean O’Hair (250/1) perform better than their prices suggest, and it’s no surprise to see Dane Thorbjorn Olesen (150s from 250s) attract support after a fine season on both sides of the Atlantic.
For all the latest odds head to BetVictor.com – Be Lucky!
We also spoke with sports writer Paul Higham
It’s often the forgotten major but with Jordan Spieth chasing grand slam glory and Rory McIlroy desperate to stop him there should be a decent audience tuned in to the BBC to watch them fight it out. And all indicators point to just that. Spieth has won back-to-back in majors before and thrives in the spotlight, while McIlroy has two wins, course and tournament records and is the all-time money leader at Quail Hollow.
McIlroy in this case is a worthy favourite ahead of Spieth. Rickie Fowler’s also won at the venue but you just get the sense that he’s struggling to get over the line in the majors, while despite having length to spare Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have shown flashes of their best but not consistently enough.
Hideki Matsuyama’s Firestone performance was as good as you’ll see anywhere so needs to be respected while at bigger prices Thomas Pieters is showing some form with four top 5s in recent months and Paul Casey has finished in the top 5 in two of his last three events. Both have the game suited to the track and warrant attention.
Record breaker Branden Grace has to be in your thinking at another attractive price given a third and fourth-placed finish in the last two PGA Championships and fine recent major record.
Thinking outside the box, Tony Finau is a huge price, has a power game, good GIR stats and six top 10s this season so might just be worth a sneaky outside bet.