Hong Kong (AFP) – Thursday’s US PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco, the first major of the coronavirus-reshuffled season, is the focus for AFP Sport’s talking points in golf this week:
– Koepka’s history shot –
A couple of weeks ago, Brooks Koepka’s chances of winning a record third consecutive PGA Championship looked to be fading after a string of poor results and a recurrence of his niggling left knee injury.
But the big man from Jupiter, Florida, tends to lift off when the majors come into orbit, and his tied second place in Memphis at the WGC St Jude Invitational was a typical, timely return to form.
“I feel like my game’s right there. This is where we wanted to be, peaking for the PGA,” Koepka said, having registered just one top 25 in 10 prior starts.
“I feel like my game’s right there, everything’s solid.”
No player has won the US PGA Championship three years in a row since it became a stroke play event in 1958.
The great Walter Hagen is the only player to have achieved the ‘threepeat’ in history.
And he went one better, lifting the Wanamaker Trophy four years in a row from 1924, but it those days it was a match play tournament.
– Justin time for Jim –
While new world number one Justin Thomas will be chasing a second PGA Championship to go with his 2017 crown this week at Harding Park, his veteran stand-in caddie has the chance of an unexpected second title of his own.
Jim “Bones” Mackay caddied for Phil Mickelson for 25 years, and was on the bag when Lefty won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, New Jersey.
Bones parted ways amicably with Mickelson in 2017 and picked up Thomas’s bag for a tournament in Hawaii 2018 when regular caddie Jimmy Johnson was injured.
He again answered the call on Tuesday last week when Johnson was suddenly taken sick and the pair gelled instantly with Thomas sweeping to victory in Memphis.
“I honestly was 50/50 on thinking if it would work out with this short notice,” said Thomas. “I was very lucky.”
A second PGA Championship for both would cap a fairytale fortnight.
– What price a Spieth slam? –
He may not have won an event since his 2017 Open Championship triumph, but Jordan Spieth can this week become just the sixth player in history to secure the career grand slam by winning all four majors.
Like Koepka, Spieth tends to save his best for the majors.
Despite having a torrid season in 2019 where he could hardly find a fairway, Spieth still ended up in the final pairing with Koepka on the Saturday of last year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York, and eventually finished tied for third.
He’s playing more consistently since then with two top 20s and only one missed cut since the restart.
At a generously priced 50-1 with the bookmakers, he could be a decent bet to add his name to legends Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen on the all-time slam list.
– World’s top 20 –
Men’s Official World Golf Rankings for week beginning August 3, 2020:
1. Justin Thomas (USA) 9.00 (+2)
2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.88 (-1)
3. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 8.40 (-1)
4. Webb Simpson (USA) 6.99
5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.93
6. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.69
7. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 6.00
8. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.86
9. Adam Scott (AUS) 5.58
10. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 5.52
11. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.51
12. Collin Morikawa (USA) 5.04
13. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 4.89
14. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 4.76
15. Tiger Woods (USA) 4.58
16. Justin Rose (ENG) 4.39 (+1)
17. Tony Finau (USA) 4.38 (-1)
18. Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 4.35 (+2)
19. Marc Leishman (AUS) 4.26 (-1)
20. Daniel Berger (USA) 4.25 (+8)