The stars are aligned for what could be the best golf tournament in the last 20 years.
The PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, starts Thursday and is the last major championship of the year. A wide array of stars play at their peak with golf history on the line.
Jordan Spieth, fresh off his thrilling win at the British Open, has a chance to become the youngest ever career grand-slam winner and Rory McIlroy, playing on a course that he dominates, will try and stifle Spieth’s quest and maintain his dominance by winning his fifth major championship. As well as Spieth and McIlroy are playing it is Hideki Matsuyama, the phenom from Japan, who rolls into Charlotte with all the momentum. Matsuyama played the golf round of the year on Sunday, shooting a 61 to run away with the WGC Bridgestone Classic.
One of the following eight players will win the 99th PGA Championship:
Dustin Johnson—It was tempting not pick him as he has been a shell of himself after falling down the steps the week of the Masters. That said, this will be a long hitter’s course and when DJ is on his game, nobody is better.
Hideki Matsuyama—Hideki’s ball striking has been amazing and he comes in playing better than anyone. He came close in the U.S. Open but has faltered in other majors. Keep a very close eye on him come Sunday.
Jordan Spieth—This course doesn’t really suit his game because it will be long and wet and more of a bomber’s course. But would anyone bet against him after what he did at the British? Nobody in the world has the short game and putting of Spieth and those skills play on any type of course. I would be surprised if he won but not shocked.
Rickie Fowler—He got his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow defeating Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff. It’s been his time to win a major for about three years though and he has yet to come through. Especially this year, when he had a great chance to win both the Masters and the U.S. Open only to falter on Sunday. The kid has moxie though so he stays on the list.
Henrik Stenson–The sturdy Swede as I call him (but nobody else does) has been flying under the radar after his epic performance at last year’s British Open. Could this be the week he breaks out?
Brooks Koepka—We made a mistake not having his name on the list of eight for the British Open. All is forgiven, though, because we did pick the winner. Koepka hits it far and is putting well. Those skills won him the U.S. Open this year and will serve him well at long and soggy Quail Hollow.
Thomas Pieters—I got him at 75-1 to win this PGA back in March as I knew he was a big hitter who could play under pressure. He showed well at Firestone last week before putting woes wrecked his chance at victory. He needs to get a lot better with the putter but he killed the ball off the tee and is an excellent iron player. A lot of experts think he could be the next superstar in golf. You can still get him at 45-1 to win if you’re so inclined.
Rory McIlroy—He is the odds on favorite to win (6-1) and the pick here as well. Rory’s driver will be the difference and it will give him an enormous advantage coming into greens with the 9-iron while others are using 6 and 7 irons. He loves the course, is a two-time winner of the PGA, and has a real motivation to stop Jordan Spieth from surpassing him as golf’s best player. Hopefully we will see a tension-filled back nine on Sunday with Rory being tested down the stretch.
Also rans (people who will not win):
Jon Rahm—I may be jumping off his bandwagon. Too hot-headed and I didn’t like his rules violation at the British in which he escaped penalty after a dubious explanation.
Sergio Garcia—Still enjoying his green jacket. Check back with him in 2019
Justin Rose—I don’t see enough fire out of this guy. Throw a club Justin!
Matt Kuchar—Sadly, I think the British is the closest he’ll ever get again to winning a major.
Jason Day—It’s always something with Jason Day.
Adam Scott—Still the best-looking man on tour but they no longer give trophies out for that. He lost some fire after winning his first and only major.
Phil Mickelson—I think Phil may be Phinished.
Dan Redmond can be found on twitter @danfromdc