Imagine this: Jordan Spieth, this year’s Masters and U.S Open champion, Zach Johnson, the winner of this year’s Open Championship, and Rory Mcilroy, the world’s number one ranked player, all playing together on the first day of a major championship.
It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Well, tomorrow that day will come as the 2015 PGA Championship gets under way. Remarkable.
That, however, is not the only luxury triumvirate that will be gracing the menacing Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin tomorrow.
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Three of the other top ten players in the world, namely: Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have also been matched together to produce a group that is likely to produce some scintillating golf.
The six golfers aforementioned are all capable of producing the kind of golf necessary to conquer the Whistling Straits course. With this in mind, however, it is now worth looking in more depth at the severe challenges that this 17-year-old course will present to the players.
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The course was designed by Alice and Pete Dye, the legendary creative duo who were also the brains behind other legendary courses such as the TPC at Sawgrass.
This year’s PGA Championship will be the third time in the course’s illustrious history that it has hosted the season’s final major. The prior two occasions – 2004 and 2010 – saw Vijay Singh and Martin Kaymer emerge victoriously.
The 2010 tournament, however, became synonymous for one of the most bizarre moments in recent golfing history. It involved Dustin Johnson, who at the time was in contention to win the tournament.On the 18th, though, he grounded his club before playing, what he thought was a regular shot, and received a two-shot penalty.
The reason? Johnson was, in fact, playing a shot from a bunker. The area he played his shot from was sandy, although the position was ridged and the boundaries unclear. There were also members of the crowd seated in the supposed “bunker”.
Fast forward five years and it seems as though sand could play another significant role in this season’s Championship. The course, according to Ron Whitten of the Golf Digest, has over 1,000 bunkers, 1,012 to be exact.
Like many of the great links courses, low scoring will be difficult. After numerous hours of reading up on the course’s terrain, the most common adjectives that surfaced were “rugged”, “open”, and “windswept”.
These are common words used when describing links courses, but Whistling Straits has its own unique beauty. The course is formed on two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline; it is golfing masterpiece.
1. Jordan Spieth (odds 13/2)
What a year this young man is having. Spieth has already won the Masters Tournament and the U.S Open in 2015, and is bidding to become only the third player in history to win three major tournaments in the same year (1953: Ben Hogan - Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship. 2000: Tiger Woods - U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship).
On the PGA Tour this season, Spieth has played 20 events and made 18 cuts. Of those 18 cuts made, Spieth has recorded 16 top 25 finishes, 13 top 10 finishes and has won four events. Although Spieth is not the biggest hitter, he is currently the number one putter in the world. His reliable long game and pinpoint short game give him a brilliant chance.
2. Jason Day (odds 12/1)
One of the top young players, along with Rickie Fowler, who is still without a major championship. It surely won’t be long before Day adds a major title to his nine other career wins.
Unlike Spieth, Day is renowned for being a long driver. He currently sits third in the list of longest average drivers on the PGA Tour. This should help Day set up plenty of approach shots from good positions which could lead to birdie opportunities. He also possesses terrific mental toughness which stands him in good stead to challenge this year.
3. Rory Mcilroy (odds 12/1)
The world’s number one player is being overlooked by many observers because he has only just returned from an ankle ligament injury.
Write him off at your peril, though. Mcilroy is a two-time winner of the PGA Championship (2012 and 2014) and believes that he is fit and ready to go. If he stays straight off the tee, keeps focused and reaches his top form then he will be very difficult to stop.
4. Bubba Watson (odds 14/1)
The big hitting Florida fan favourite was runner-up the last time the PGA Championship was held at Whistling Straits (2010). His form this season has been good on the PGA Tour (winning twice and amassing seven top 10 finishes), although he is yet to make the top 10 in the season’s first three major tournaments.
If he drives straight and finds some magic around the greens, then Watson is in with a real chance.
5. Dustin Johnson (14/1)
What a story it would be if Dustin Johnson could win at Whistling Straits, the site of one of his biggest “nearly” moments of his nine-year professional career.
He’ll be careful around the bunkers, that’s for sure. Johnson is also the PGA’s biggest hitter this season, so he, like Day, will look to give himself many good opportunities to create birdie opportunities.
Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th August 2015.
Live on Sky Sports from 4 pm on all four days.
Mcilroy, Spieth and Z. Johnson (7.20 pm BST)
Fowler, Day and D. Johnson (13.05 pm BST)