‘Glory’s Last Chance’ is once again upon us as a field of 156 descend on Louisville aiming to conquer Valhalla and lift the PGA Championship. That field is currently due to feature 99 of the world’s top 100 golfers, it would have been all 100 but Dustin Johnson’s much discussed hiatus prevented that first in major championships for occurring. Johnson has been a favourite of mine for many years and his absence for the game will, I hope, be a positive for his long term career and he can put to bed the personal challenges he faces. Valhalla looks likely to provide an exciting challenge, it’s typical of PGA Championship course in the past 10 years bar last year in that long hitters may well flourish on it, That was the case prior the amendments made to the course by Jack Nicklaus in preparation and I’ve seen little to suggest the changes will alter that dynamic.
One of the traditional marquee groups during the opening two rounds is that of the year’s three major champions. This year sees McIlroy, Kaymer and Watson in that spotlight having won The Open, US Open and Masters respectively. All three have realistic chances of adding a second major of the year this week but clearly McIlroy rates the likeliest of the them to do so. He has four victories in the past nine months and seeks a hat trick of wins following his back to back wins at Hoylake & Firestone. His all round game looks at it’s very best and he’ll be very tough to beat. Watson is a hard player to assess and much depends on how the course fits his eye, Pinehurst was a classic of how Watson can instantly take a dislike to a course to the determent of his tournament performance. Kaymer has shown little positive form since his US Open win but he shouldn’t be underestimated this week on a course that will suit his game.
The current field likely to have further changes with Tiger Woods extremely unlikely to be fit to compete this week following his final round withdrawal at Firestone. The discomfort and pain he looked in makes it hard to imagine he will be teeing it at the venue he won his third successive major in 2000. His absence will be a blow to the event as regardless of his level of play, Woods is the biggest draw in the sport. His slow return to form since his comeback from back surgery has thankfully coincided with Rory’s purple patch. However, with the likes of Garcia, Scott, Stenson, Fowler all showing good recent form and an encouraging final round by Mickelson at Firestone, this tournament is wide open. Talk of it being a shoe in for Rory McIlroy to win his fourth major is far from the mark and an exciting and wide open event looks likely. Four players who I think will be worth keeping an eye are below