Nick Bonfield analyses the chances of the USPGA Championship favourites ahead of the year's final Major at Quail Hollow
USPGA Championship favourites to consider backing
It’s always a fiercely contested event, with eight months between the USPGA and the subsequent Major, The Masters, in April 2018.
It’s also an intriguing year for the championship, given that Quail Hollow has been on the PGA Tour roster annually since 2003.
But which of the USPGA Championship favourites have the best course form and who does the layout best suit? Below, I’ve looked at the five favourites and assessed their chances…
It might seem odd that Rory McIlroy is favourite with the bookmakers given he recently split with his caddie, he hasn’t won a tournament in 11 months and his last Major triumph came more than three years ago, but he’s the king of Quail Hollow. His won his first PGA Tour title there in 2011 and succeeded again in 2015, when he shot a course-record 61 in the third round. He also lost a play-off to Rickie Fowler in 2012. It’s a golf course made for good drivers of the ball and having a new caddie on the bag could be the fillip McIlroy needs to return to the Major winners’ circle.
It’s hard to make a case against Jordan Spieth. His tee-to-green stats are as good as they have ever been (he’s first in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green), his mid-range putting was exceptional at Royal Birkdale and he’s obsessed with landing the career Grand Slam. However, he’s only played in the Wells Fargo Championship once – a tie for 32nd in 2013. Still, that’s not enough to discourage me.
Related: Jordan Spieth swing sequence
Dustin Johnson has been quiet of late, recording two missed cuts and a tie for 54th in three of his previous four starts. However, he notched a top 10 at last week’s RBC Canadian Open and his ball-striking statistics are absolutely off the charts. He ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee, Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and Strokes Gained: Total and 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach-The-Green. You’d never be surprised by a Johnson victory, but his recent form, his lingering back injury and the fact he hasn’t played at Quail Hollow since 2011 (when he missed the cut) are leading me to look elsewhere.
Hideki Matsuyama will win at least one Major – of that I’m as certain as one can be in this sport. He’s become arguably the most consistent performer in recent years – five top-14 finishes in his last seven Major starts – and his time will come if he keeps putting himself in position. I can’t see any reason why the World No.3 won’t contend in Carolina; he just needs a few more putts to drop if he’s to get over the line.
I think Quail Hollow is an excellent fit for Jon Rahm – an aggressive player who’s long off the tee and makes a high number of birdies. He’s won twice this season, he’s risen to World No.6 from a position outside the top 700 a year ago and his statistics are excellent across the board. Rahm has never played a competitive round at Quail Hollow, but I’m not overly concerned by that as he’s enjoyed great success on new courses during his fledgling career.
If I had to bet my entire life savings on any of the USPGA Championship favourites, it’d have to be Rory McIlroy. His course form is absolutely ridiculous and his tie for 4th at The Open is enough to persuade me he’s turned a corned.