Quick look at the PGA Championship
August 08, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
2018 PGA Championship preview
ST. LOUIS – Usually by the time the PGA Championship comes around the talk of PGA TOUR Player of the Year is settling into a tight race.
Headlined by those who have multiple wins on TOUR, have won the opening three majors and THE PLAYERS.
Last season four players had three wins at this stage but only Jordan Spieth had a major meaning he led the charge.
Justin Thomas won at the PGA to go to four wins and ultimately won the FedExCup after a five-win season making him the easy choice.
The season before the battle was basically down to Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Rory McIlroy made a late charge for consideration by winning the FedExCup.
In 2015 it was Day or Spieth in the shootout with Spieth’s FedExCup triumph and two majors making it clear by season end.
And in 2014 McIlroy won two majors and looked unlikely to be threatened.
But this season – the race is wide open and this week at Bellerive will go a long way to setting up what shapes as an amazing, exciting and pivotal FedExCup Playoffs.
We have had four separate winners of the PLAYERS (Webb Simpson), Masters (Patrick Reed), U.S. Open (Brooks Koepka) and Open Championship (Francesco Molinari).
Only Molinari has another PGA TOUR win this season. He also took out the Quicken Loans National.
Joining Molinari with two wins are Justin Rose, Jason Day and Patton Kizzire.
Above them Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson all have three wins.
A win for any of these players would put them in front of the race heading towards the blockbuster Playoffs where winning a FedExCup could be a likely clincher.
Johnson, the current leader in the FedExCup and the world No.1, is looking to turn his good year into a great one over the next six weeks or so.
While he certainly wants to win the PGA Championship he says the FedExCup Playoffs and FedExCup give plenty of chances to be labeled the best.
“It's definitely something that I really want to do is get that second major,” Johnson said.
“This week would mean a great deal, especially I've had a really good year so far, I think it would make it into a great year.
“But I can still have a great year, absolutely (without winning this week),” Johnson, who has won the RBC Canadian Open, the FedEx St. Jude Classic and the Sentry Tournament of Champions, added.
“So far it's been pretty good. Obviously it can get a lot better. I got four pretty big tournaments coming up and the Ryder Cup, which is another big one, so technically five big tournaments coming up (after this week). I can still make it a great year.”
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
Coming off victory at the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational the defending PGA Championship winner has to be considered as one of the men to beat on a course demanding length.
Has won four majors in his career and three of those came on tracks that were long and wet. Conditions are pointing towards him contending heavily.
The 2015 PGA Champion has won twice this year and leads the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting. Erratic driver won’t be punished as heavily at Bellerive as long as he keeps his distance up.
The penultimate hole at Bellerive is a 597-yard par-5 that will potentially provide late fireworks in the tournament. It is your typical risk-reward hole where a good long tee shot allows you to take on the creek down the right side and go for the green in two. If the chasing pack needs to make something happen here will be the place to have a crack. Of course with two options for a tee box this will be dictated by set up. The green is sharply designed in three sections making for some interesting in placements.A scenic view of No. 17 at Bellerive Country Club. (PGA of America)
The opening two rounds should be devoid of the rain that has dumped on the Bellerive area in the lead up to the tournament with partly cloudy or clear conditions set for Thursday and Friday. Both days are predicting a high of 79 degrees and less than 20 percent chance of rain. Winds are due out of the WNW but should not be a major factor at less than 10 miles per hour. Currently the weekend has a much higher chance of rain at 60percent chance of thunderstorms – the electrical activity could halt play at some point. Humidity will also rise to 69percent Saturday and 77 percent Sunday.
For the latest weather news from St Louis, Missouri, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKYou just have to turn up to the next tournament, and it's a fresh start. And even this week's a fresh start for me after what happened on Sunday. It's another chance to give myself a chance to win a golf tournament.
Another reminder that you're getting older and you played for a long, long time.
I definitely forgot to pack them.
BY THE NUMBERS
100 – This is the 100th playing of the PGA Championship. It has evolved from a Match Play event to the Stroke Play major you see today. It is also Davis Love III’s 100th major championship. He won the 1997 PGA Championship.
1 – The number of major wins that half of the world’s top-10 players have each. Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Jason Day are all primed to add to their tally. Two of the top 10 – Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler – are yet to claim a major championship.
-20 – The major championship record for a winner under par could be under threat this week if conditions stay soft. Jason Day (2015 PGA Championship) and Henrik Stenson (2016 Open Championship) share the record mark.
Tiger Woods hasn’t played the PGA Championship since 2015 and hasn’t made a cut in the event since a T40 in 2013. But the four-time winner of the event is hopeful of a better outcome this time around now he has overcome injury and comes off a T6 in his last major championship. “Just the fact that I'm playing the TOUR again… it's a dream come true. I said this many times this year, I didn't know if I could do this again, and lo and behold, here I am. So just coming back and being able to play at this level and compete -- I've had my share of chances to win this year as well, and hopefully I'll get it done this week.”
The Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari is not about to give up the PGA Championship to the bombers despite the thought it will be a long hitters paradise. “If I can play my A-game, if I can play as good as I want to, I can compete on most golf courses,” Molinari says. The Italian ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and is 42nd in driving distance at 302.7 yards. Rory McIlroy leads the TOUR at 319.8 yards.
“Obviously, big hitters will have an advantage, but that was true at Carnoustie with the bunker positioning and many other things,” Molinari added. “So I think in general, major championships are a test of every part of your game. Hopefully I can be in contention on Sunday.”
Jordan Spieth will look to become just the sixth man to claim the modern career grand slam this week behind Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. He is aware of the magnitude of the possible achievement but is trying to stay on top of his emotions. “Certainly emphasis in my head on it, but nothing overpowering, nothing that takes over once I start on the first tee, just more going into the week,” Spieth said. Spieth has been in contention at two of the three majors this year. He was the 54-hole leader at The Open before a Sunday fade and he made a Sunday surge at the Masters to ultimately be third.
WHERE TO PLAY
Must-play courses in the area include Tapawingo National Golf Club (St. Louis), Missouri Bluffs Golf Club (St. Louis) and Aberdeen Golf Club (Eureka, Missouri). Click here to book your tee time on www.teeoff.com.