PGA Championship Preview
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When observers predicted that an Irish golfer would be entering this week’s PGA Championship in a rich vein of form and off the back of a stunning tournament win, the name Shane Lowry was not the moniker on most lips.
Rory McIlroy’s long-time friend and playing partner emerged from the shadow of his compatriot last week, taking the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to claim his first ever PGA tour title. It was an impressive performance, holding off Bubba Watson and Justin Rose to become the first non-PGA Tour member to win a WGC event since Martin Kaymer in 2011. But can he back that up this weekend at Whistling Straits? He can be bought on the Leaderboard Index at 6, but while Lowry has enjoyed his moment in the sun and is now in the world top 20 for the first time, back-to-back wins in golf is always a big ask. A defence of his crown might also be a bridge too far for current PGA champion McIlory, who returns after the best part of a month out with an ankle injury. He’s in good spirits and appears confident but, without any competitive golf to bounce off, it could turn out to be a challenging week for ‘Supermac’. He’s only missed one cut in the PGA all year, but injuries can play on the mind.
His rival for top spot in the rankings, Jordan Spieth, is strong favourite to prevail in Wisconsin, and for good reason. With his time already taken up polishing two Major trophies in 2015, he was a gettable birdie away from shining up a third and continuing his quest for the golfing Grand Slam. The legend was not to be, but Spieth can still confirm his place alongside the greats with victory this weekend. Only Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan have held three titles in a calendar year, which would put the 22-year-old in illustrious company. He may not be the longest hitter on the course, but he’s the most consistent by some stretch and it’s unlikely that he’ll drop shots in the same way he did during The Open second round. However, due to his consistency, Spieth hasn’t had a real chance to demonstrate his recovery game.
The Pete Dye-designed course is littered with bunkers and it will be fascinating to see how he handles them. Australian nearly-man Jason Day might have been sporting a Green Jacket and drinking from a Claret Jug were it not for Spieth. The amiable Aussie, who couldn’t fight back the tears on the 18th at St Andrews after falling agonisingly short in The Open, went on to claim the Canadian Open a week later. He’s on an upward trend following a T9 at the US Open and then T4 in Scotland. Of the other markets, American hopeful Dustin Johnson is notoriously quick out of the blocks and could be an early leader here.
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