The 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, looks set to be a classic with a revitalised Rory McIlroy heading the line-up of contenders vying to take home the final major of the 2017 season.
Just a week after sacking long-term caddie JP Fitzgerald, McIlroy followed up his tied third at the Open Championship with a solid fifth place finish in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. It signalled a return to form for the four-time major winner. He now finds himself as favourite heading into the US PGA Championship.
It is no surprise that he is now the leading contender—he is, after all, a two-time winner of the PGA Championship (2012 and 2014) and also a dual winner (2010 and 2015) of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow—a course that clearly brings out the best in him.
The man who arguably has most on the line at Quail Hollow is Jordan Spieth, the impressive winner of the Open Championship. He now stands on the verge of a career Grand Slam of majors at the tender age of 24 having completed the first three legs following his victory at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth was runner-up to Jason Day in the PGA Championship in 2015, the epic year that saw the young American win two majors and finish fourth in the other two.
Dustin Johnson has bittersweet memories of the event, but will be among the leading contenders. A win would bring home his second major seven years after the debacle over his grounded club at the 2010 event in which he incurred a two-shot penalty when destined for a place in the play-off.
A second try
Johnson’s fellow American Rickie Fowler has already come close to winning the PGA Championship. He comes into the event following an impressively consistent run of results throughout the year. Fowler would be a popular winner if able to break his major duck at a course on which he has previously won the Wells Fargo.
No one arrives at Quail Hollow in better mood than Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who won the WGC Bridgestone in sensational style after a final round 61 (nine under par) to triumph by five shots from Zach Johnson, a two-time major winner who is yet to win the US PGA Championship.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, fellow major winner Day—who is the 2015 champion and runner-up to Jimmy Walker 12 months ago—and Adam Scott can never be ruled out. Jon Rahm, meanwhile, is a popular pick and an emerging talent who could tame Quail Hollow.
Webb Simpson could be a dark horse being a member of Quail Hollow and a man who lives in a house next to the seventh green. He’ll certainly have home comforts.
It promises to be a thriller of a major—and it wouldn’t surprise if McIlroy ended his three-year wait to add to his major haul. After all, no one has played Quail Hollow better than the Northern Irishman did in 2015 when he set a record 21-under four round score. Having said that, a few changes to four holes mean it will offer a slightly different challenge.
See also: Royal Birkdale Key Holes