Nick Bonfield looks at some USPGA Championship favourites to ignore ahead of the final Major of the season at Quail Hollow Golf Club in North Carolina
USPGA Championship favourites to ignore
The USPGA Championship represents the season’s last chance for Major glory before the eight-month dark period (in Major terms) sets in.
Quail Hollow in North Carolina, the regular host of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship, will be the stage as the world’s best compete to turn an average season into a great one, or a great one into an historic one.
However, the nature of professional golf means only a handful names will be in contention come Sunday evening. Below, I’ve highlighted four USPGA Championship favourites to ignore. I’m not suggesting they have no chance of success; merely that other world-class players are in better position to strike.
Dustin Johnson’s long-game statistics this season are absolutely ridiculous, but I’m slightly concerned about his health. He fell down the stairs ahead of The Masters and injured his back, and I’m not convinced he’s 100 per cent. He may be fine physically, but you always hear professional athletes talk about how difficult it is mentally to trust everything has healed. He hasn’t finished inside the top five since May – a long time for a player of his calibre given how he fared in the early portion of the season – and his record at Quail Hollow is indifferent to say the least.
The Masters Champion hasn’t recorded a top ten on the PGA Tour since his triumph at Augusta in April. He also got married last week, so golf probably isn’t the first thing on his mind at the moment. For someone who has produced some memorable moments at the USPGA Championship over the years – that shot from under the tree at Medinah in 1999 and his painful loss to Padraig Harrington in 2008 spring instantly to mind – his recent record is surprisingly poor. In fact, he hasn’t registered a top ten since losing out to Harrington and he hasn’t finished inside the top 30 since 2011. Plus, he currently ranks 174th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting.
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Henrik Stenson hasn’t been content with his ball striking for the last few weeks – something that’s typically vital in the USPGA Championship – and his record at the Wells Fargo Championship is poor. He’s played the event five times since 2011 and missed four cuts, with his best finish a tie for 58th in 2015. In addition, he’s only recorded one top ten on the PGA Tour this season, which came back in March at the Valspar Championship. He’s missed five of his last seven cuts on the circuit.
Justin Rose has played some decent golf at times this season – most notably a fine performance at The Masters – but it’s now been more than a year since his last victory, at the Olympics. He hasn’t triumphed on either the PGA or European Tour since back in November 2015. He’s very consistent, but he sometimes lacks a killer instinct and the putter has been a real Achilles’ heel of late.