PGA Championship preview: The contenders
All of which will surely have Rory McIlroy licking his lips. While the Northern Irishman is perhaps not quite officially in-form, he certainly seems to be going in the right direction.
Exactly four years have passed since his fourth and most recent major. He looks well placed to add a fifth with his most recent finishes since a missed cut at the US Open reading T12, T28, T2 and T6.
One concern is that he failed to capitalise on a place in the final group in both The Masters and last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
It wasn’t so much that he failed to win either event as his final-round scores of 74 and 73. They were his worst of the week by three and six shots respectively.
Another is the pressure, much of it self-imposed, of another season inhis prime passing him by.
Nevertheless, his game appeared in very good order at Firestone and the examination paper seems likely to be very similar at Bellerive, some 500 miles west.
That brings us on to the defending champion and winner last week – the World No. 2 Justin Thomas.
Forget his missed cut at Carnoustie, Thomas is the real deal. All that counts against him is that very players either a) successfully defend a major title – though it didn’t stop Brooks Koepka at the US Open – or b) win in successive weeks.
The only player above Thomas and McIlroy in the betting is the World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who has already won three times this year. Again, forget the missed cut at The Open. Focus instead on his top 10s at the first two US majors of the season as well as the three most recent WGC strokeplay events. He is favourite for a reason.
Without wishing to state the obvious, the winner seems even more likely than usual to come from these three favourites in the betting. There may be no need to look any further for our champion.
If the European challenge does not come from McIlroy then who else? In terms of form, look no further than Thorbjorn Olesen and Ian Poulter.
Both arrive on the back of top-10s at Firestone. Olesen is playing the best golf of his life generally. He was also T12th at The Open and T6th at the Irish Open.
One more big finish for both would also earn them automatic spots on the European Ryder Cup team.
For the final time, then, it’s Glory’s Last Shot. Come May, the PGA will need a new strapline for their flagship tournament.