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While the PGA Championship may rank fourth on most people’s lists of golf’s major championships, the event has done nothing but deliver over the past handful of years. And there’s no reason to believe it won’t do the same this week.
We’re likely not going to see another 50-year-old hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday like Phil Mickelson did in 2021, but that’s not to say we aren’t in store for another epic PGA Championship week as the tournament’s recent history speaks for itself.
As per usual for every major, the 2023 PGA Championship does not lack intriguing storylines. Let’s take a look at the biggest stories to follow heading into the year’s second major championship at Oak Hill.
Can Jon Rahm Complete Half Of The Grand Slam?
The last time we actually had a chance at witnessing a player win the Grand Slam in one season was Jordan Spieth back in 2015 after he won the Masters and U.S. Open. His bid was spoiled at The Open where he finished in a tie for fourth.
While Rahm is just one-fourth of the way to the seasonal Slam after his win at Augusta National last month, it certainly feels like he could reel off a win this week and officially start the conversation about him potentially pulling off the sport’s tallest feat.
Is it ridiculous we’re even talking about him winning the next three majors on the calendar? Yes, but that’s what we do with sports, we over-romanticize things and talk about the what-ifs.
Nobody would be surprised to see the Spaniard win at Oak Hill this week.
Will Rory McIlroy Show Up With A Pulse?
Rory McIlroy recently admitted that he got way out ahead of himself in the lead-up to the Masters, which resulted in him missing the cut. He was in stellar form prior to his disastrous two days at Augusta National, but golf is a fickle game that makes no sense, and will even mess with some of the best players in history when they least expect it.
McIlroy has made just one start since missing the cut at the Masters which was a T-47 finish at the Wells Fargo Championship. It would be unfair to say he’s out of form given he’s played exactly four tournament rounds since April 10, but there’s also no reason to believe his game is in stellar shape.
Granted Oak Hill has undergone renovations since 2013, but the last time the PGA Championship was contested at the New York course, McIlroy had a strong week finishing T-8 a decade ago. Since winning his second PGA Championship in 2014, McIlroy has finished inside the Top 10 in the tournament in his last eight appearances.
An Injured Jordan Spieth Vying For The Career Grand Slam
Here we are, yet again, with Jordan Spieth attempting to complete the career Grand Slam and the hype is nowhere near what we see each time McIlroy tries to do the same at the Masters.
This time around, however, there is very real cause for concern about Spieth’s chances this week.
READ: PGA CHAMPIONSHIP 2023 PREVIEW: BETTING ODDS, COURSE AND EVENT
The three-time major winner is dealing with a wrist injury that forced him to skip last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. The severity of the injury? Well, that’s what nobody seems to know.
While he hasn’t won this season, Spieth has been consistently solid all year with seven Top 25s and five Top 10s in just 13 starts.
Scottie Scheffler’s Ridiculous Form
While Rahm is the favorite heading into the week, the more honest headline would be Scottie Scheffler and Rahm being co-favorites given just how ridiculously great Scheffler has been this season.
Over the course of his 10 starts in 2023, the 26-year-old’s worst finish is a tie for 12th at the Genesis Invitational. During that same stretch, he’s found the winner’s circle twice and earned three other Top 5 finishes.
Putting has been his lone issue this season, if you want to call it an issue, as he ranks 102nd on Tour in strokes gained. Having said that, he’s second on Tour in strokes gained: total and first in both tee-to-green and off-the-tee metrics.
As long as Scheffler is rolling the rock at an average rate he will be in contention on Sunday.
As He Always Does, Brooks Koepka Will Show Up
If you’re still questioning whether or not Brooks Koepka will show up to a major championship and make serious noise, that’s on you.
His two PGA Championships and two U.S. Opens speak for themselves, but when it comes to recent form he finished T-2 at the Masters and has won two LIV Golf events already this year. If you need more major championship-specific numbers, he’s finished inside the Top 10 in 16 of his last 30 major appearances.
The course fit seems to be very real this week as well. We could be looking at a bomb-and-gauge type setup with an emphasis on pumping drives and seeing whose putter gets warm. Koepka doesn’t mind that sort of game one bit.
Could American Dominance Run Out This Year?
The last seven PGA Championship winners have been American. Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka are responsible for four of those wins, but the statement is still true: Americans have owned this championship for quite a while.
Interestingly enough, five of the seven prior PGA Championships (2009-2015) were won by international players with Jason Day being the last non-American to hoist the trophy in 2015.
Heading into the week, nine of the Top 20 players in the world are international players with Jon Rahm leading the way as the No. 1 ranked player on the planet.
The streak of American winners extending to eight given just how much talent there is within the game seems incredibly unlikely, then again, nothing on paper regarding this game makes too much sense.
Follow Mark Harris on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris