Jordan Spieth has a chance to complete golf’s career Grand Slam at the PGA Championship this week. With his stirring victory at last month’s Open Championship etched into everyone’s memory, the spotlight couldn’t be brighter.
But Spieth won’t be the only player vying for the Wanamaker Trophy. Dozens of other talented golfers are also in the Tar Heel state, and they all have the same goal: getting a taste of major glory before the year is out.
The course, Quail Hollow, is getting its first shot at a major after years of hosting the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship. While most PGA Tour regulars are familiar with the track, it did undergo some significant renovations in preparation for this week, including new bermudagrass, the removal of hundreds of trees and some new and redesigned holes.
Given those changes, as well as some dicey weather in the weekend forecast, anything can happen this week. Here are ten players who could spoil Spieth’s shot at nabbing the career Grand Slam in 2017.
World ranking: No. 4
Best PGA Championship finish: Win, 2012, 2014
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T5 / Open Championship - T4 / Scottish Open - MC
Why he can win: With back-to-back top-fives against world-class competition, McIlroy's form is tantalising enough on its own. It doesn't hurt that he's owned Quail Hollow over the years, notching a pair of victories and four other top 10s in his career. Length off the tee is always a huge plus at this course, and if the rain falls, he'll be at an even bigger advantage.
World ranking: No. 3
Best PGA Championship finish: T4, 2016
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - Win / Open Championship - T14 / Irish Open - T14
Why he can win: Just when it looked like Spieth was the biggest threat to dethrone Dustin Johnson as the game's No. 1 player, Matsuyama went bananas at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, shooting a Sunday 61 to earn a decisive win. He ranks second on the PGA Tour in total strokes gained.
World ranking: No. 1
Best PGA Championship finish: T5, 2010
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T17 / Canadian Open - T8 / Open Championship - T54
Why he can win: Johnson has faded from his superb springtime form, but he's still posting positive results more often than not. He also hits the ball longer than just about anyone, and this week's weather forecast should only amplify that strength. A win would be sweet redemption after his nightmare 72nd hole at the 2010 PGA took him out of a playoff and into a share of fifth place, his best finish at the event to date.
World ranking: No. 10
Best PGA Championship finish: T3, 2014
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - 9th / Open Championship - T22 / Scottish Open - T9
Why he can win: He hasn't won since February, but Fowler has been ridiculously consistent this year, piling up 12 top-25 finishes in just 16 worldwide events. His Sunday fade at the U.S. Open will leave a scar, but at this point, the 28 year old is used to not getting his way at the majors. If he keeps knocking, the door will eventually open.
World ranking: No. 5
Best PGA Championship finish: 2nd/T2, 1999, 2008
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T39 / Open Championship - T37 / BMW Int'l Open - T2
Why he can win: Clearly, this has been a career year for Garcia, yet it's also been a puzzling one -- his victories at Augusta and Dubai, along with his share of second place in Germany, are his only top 10s. But no matter how you look at it, the Spaniard has had three good opportunities to win this season, and as the PGA Tour's third-ranked player in strokes gained: off-the-tee, he may have another this week.
World ranking: No. 12
Best PGA Championship finish: T7, 2015
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T17 / Canadian Open - T32 / Open Championship - 2nd
Why he can win: Kuchar has finished inside the top 20 in seven of his last eight starts, peaking with a heartbreaking loss to Jordan Spieth at the British Open. Quail Hollow is known as a bomber's course, but with his enviable short game and even more enviable grit, he could be in for some sweet revenge this week.
World ranking: No. 18
Best PGA Championship finish: T10, 2016
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T5 / Open Championship - T11 / Travellers Championship - T5
Why he can win: With just one stateside victory on his resume, Casey isn't a household name on this side of the pond. That's too bad, because the Englishman has been a steady presence on some of the world's most prestigious leaderboards for years now. The PGA Tour's third-ranked player in strokes gained: approach-the-green should be able to give himself plenty of birdie chances this week.
World ranking: No. 30
Best PGA Championship finish: Win, 2005
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T39 / Open Championship - MC / Greenbrier Classic - T20
Why he can win: The five-time major champion isn't exactly in peak form at the moment, but with three top-fives in the past four years, Mickelson's track record at Quail Hollow speaks for itself. He's not the greatest driver of the ball these days, but he makes up for that by being one of the PGA Tour's very best ball strikers.
World ranking: No. 14
Best PGA Championship finish: T18, 2015
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - T28 / Open Championship - MC / Quicken Loans National - MC
Why he can win: This young gun hit the skids around the time of the summer solstice, but last week's top-30 finish at Firestone represents an encouraging rebound. While Thomas still hasn't quite figured out how to stay consistent, his talent is certainly major-worthy. The course should set up nicely for his surprising length.
World ranking: No. 20
Best PGA Championship finish: T40, 2013
Recent results: WGC-Bridgestone - 3rd / Canadian Open - 2nd / Open Championship - T20
Why he can win: It's time to do away with the 'dark horse' label -- Hoffman's recent form demands his inclusion on any shortlist for this week. He's already had a productive major season, finding the top 25 in all three events, and that was before he caught fire with back-to-back podium finishes in Canada and Ohio. He's always great off the tee, and he ranked third in strokes gained: putting at Firestone last week.
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