By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Rory McIlroy, recent off a drought-busting win, is taken into account by many to be the person to beat on this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in South Carolina the place he romped to an eight-shot victory in the identical major 9 years in the past.
The Ocean Course, which boasts essentially the most seaside holes within the Northern Hemisphere, could seem serene given its scenic vistas nevertheless it exposes golfers to usually robust winds and this week will play because the longest major in historical past at 7,876 yards.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, one of many longest drivers on the PGA Tour, snapped an 18-month dry spell along with his victory eight days in the past at Quail Hollow to sign that his recreation is lastly in robust type proper in time for the 12 months’s second major.
“Rory, you knew he was going to figure it out,” mentioned ESPN golf analyst Andy North. “And (now) he’s going to a golf course that he’s played well before…
“The man is among the two or three most gifted gamers we have within the recreation. When he is at his greatest, you’ll be able to argue that he is nearly as good as anyone.”
The 32-year-old McIlroy has not triumphed in one of golf’s four blue-riband events since he picked up his fourth major at the 2014 PGA Championship.
Among the other favourites are world number one Dustin Johnson, who cited knee discomfort for his decision to sit out last week’s warm-up event, Spaniard Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau.
The PGA Championship will be something of a home event for the long-hitting Johnson but the South Carolina native has not exactly been tearing it up of late and also missed the cut in his title defence at the Masters in April.
“Any time Dustin Johnson steps on the golf course, he is a menace,” said ESPN golf analyst Curtis Strange.
“DJ is a type of guys, together with Rory, that may win tournaments by many photographs, and so subsequently he would not have to… be hitting on all cylinders to win.”
For Jordan Spieth, this will mark his latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam and his game is trending in the right direction as he boasts seven top-10 finishes in his last nine starts, including a win six weeks ago in Texas.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa will quickly find the Ocean Course presents a totally different challenge to TPC Harding Park but he could still be a threat given the remarkable control of his ball flight, distance and spin.
As for U.S. Open champion DeChambeau, while most of the talk centres around his prodigious length off the tee, he has put in plenty of work on his short game and putting which could prove an unbeatable formula at Kiawah.
“Obviously he is a tremendous expertise, however if you’re launching it up there and it stays within the air for eight, 9 seconds, the wind goes to have an effect on it sooner or later in time,” said North. “Judging that’s going to be tough.”
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, in solely his second begin since he turned the primary Japanese man to win a major, arrives at Kiawah recent off a share of thirty ninth place final week.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)