The second Major of the year begins at Southern Hills on 19 May, and while the field won’t be finalised until 10 days before it starts, there will be some standout candidates for the Wanamaker Trophy.
Two players who could be in contention are not confirmed to play. However, while four-time winner Tiger Woods appears in the preliminary field as he assesses his fitness and holder Phil Mickelson apparently chooses between the tournament and the LIV Golf Invitational, there are plenty of other outstanding players with a realistic chance of winning. Here are five of them.
After finishing third at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic in January, there were only glimpses of McIlroy’s best form in the months before The Masters. He finished a creditable tie for 10th at February’s Genesis Invitational and shot a seven-under 65 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before finishing tied for 13th. However, he was just as likely to disappoint, including a missed cut at the Valero Texas Open.
Then came the final round of The Masters, where McIlroy reminded everyone of his almost otherworldly abilities. The round included an eagle, a chip-in for a birdie and holing a bunker shot for his best-ever Masters finish as runner-up.
McIlroy has won the PGA Championship twice, in 2012 and 2014 – the last year he won a Major. If he can recapture the form of the final round at Augusta National, anyone will struggle to keep up with him.
Southern Hills is known for its many doglegs. Therefore, with iron play likely to be a significant part of any winner’s success, the 25-year-old is undoubtedly one of the best placed to take advantage. Morikawa excels with his approach play, meaning the course is highly likely to suit his game and keep him in contention.
Form-wise, Morikawa’s year is yet to take off, with a runner-up at the Genesis Invitational his best finish so far. Nevertheless, he posted an impressive final round of 67 at The Masters to finish 5th. That gave him a top-five finish in each Major after just nine appearances. The first of his Morikawa's two Major wins came in the 2020 PGA Championship, while he finished tied for 8th last year. Considering the course, it’s hard to see how he won’t be in contention again.
The Spaniard is having a mixed 2022 by his high standards. That said, he’s still had four top 10 finishes, including runner-up at the Sentry Tour of Champions. The consensus is that Rahm’s long game is as strong as ever, but his short game – and most alarmingly, his putting – is letting him down. If he can address that issue before he tees it up on 19 May, he could add to his one career Major, last year’s US Open.
Rahm has come relatively close at the PGA Championship before. He tied for 4th in 2018 and tied for 8th last year. He’ll be as determined as anyone to quell any suggestions he’s in a slump by going all the way in 2022.
Like Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler has hit the ground running in his professional career. Since turning pro in 2018, the American has top 10 finishes in five of the 10 Majors he’s played, and won 2022 The Masters.
That was just the latest triumph in what’s becoming a dream year for the 25-year-old. In the months before The Masters, he also won the WM Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the WGC-Match Play. Scheffler's PGA Championship record is impressive, too, albeit from just two appearances. He tied for 4th in 2020 before finishing tied for 8th last year.
Also like Morikawa, Scheffler’s approach play is solid, although it’s hard to see any area of his game that’s not firing (four-putting the final hole at Augusta National notwithstanding), making the unassuming American one of the big favourites at Southern Hills.
Smith is having a fantastic 2022, with two wins and two top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at The Masters. One question mark is that Smith’s never won a Major. However, he won the year’s unofficial fifth Major, the Players Championship, at TPC Sawgrass in March, suggesting he has the temperament for the big occasions.
To date, Smith’s PGA Championship performances have been underwhelming, with a tie for 25th his best finish so far. Still, the World No.4 has never been in better form, so if a Major win is around the corner for the Australian, it’s likely to come sooner rather than later.
Others to look out for include 2017 winner Justin Thomas, who will be determined to build on his his tie for 8th at The Masters after a disappointing run in Majors, and Brooks Koepka. He was the last player to successfully defend his PGA Championship title, in 2019. However, four missed cuts since the turn of the year suggest he may not have the form to win it for a third time in 2022.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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