PGA Tour Picks: PGA Championship

Michael Weinstein photo

By TOM LaMARRE

Jordan Spieth is on a list of golfers who are among the best in the history of the game, having won three of the four major championships.

Spieth (pictured) is one of 12 players on that list, which includes Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Rory McIlroy, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Armour, Raymond Floyd, Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Jim Barnes.

This week in the 104th PGA Tour Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., Spieth wants to put his name on an even more exclusive list, those who have completed the Career Grand Slam.

That list includes Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Woods and Nicklaus have won each of the four majors at least three times.

“This tournament will always be circled until I’m able to hopefully win it someday,” said Spieth, who claimed his 13th PGA Tour victory in the RBC Heritage last month and finished second behind K.H. Lee of South Korea in the AT&T Byron Nelson on Sunday, filling him with confidence heading to Southern Hills. “It will always be circled to complete the career Grand Slam, which will ultimately achieve a life-long goal for me.

“ … I would say tee to green, if you take my last three events, it’s as good as it’s ever been.”

Spieth will be making his sixth attempt to complete the Career Grand Slam and in his last five appearances in the PGA Championship he tied for 28th in 2017, tied for 12th in 2018, tied for third in 2019, tied for 71st in 2020 and tied for 30th last season.

After winning the Masters at Augusta National in 2015, Spieth captured the U.S. Open later that year at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Wash.,  and the Open Championship in 2017 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England.

Spieth was No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, but then went into a four-year slump and slid out of the top 50 in the rankings, before beginning his comeback by winning the 2021 Valero Texas Open and is back up to No. 8 in the world.

Perhaps in Spieth’s favor this week is that he might not be the top story at Southern Hills because defending champion Mickelson withdrew last week after his recent controversy involving the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and the fact that Woods is in the field.

Woods, who tied for 47th in the Masters last month after sustaining serious injuries in an SUV rollover accident in Southern California early last year, played a practice round at Southern Hills recently and then showed up at the site of the PGA Championship and played nine holes on Sunday.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since the Masters,” Woods said as he played the front nine as the temperature surpassed 90 degrees. “We went back to work on Tuesday (after the Masters). Monday was awful, I did nothing and Tuesday was leg day. So we went right back after it. Everything is better.

“I’m excited about (the PGA). I’m not going to play that much going forward, so anytime I do play, it’s going to be fun to play and to compete. There are only so many money games you can play at home.”

Spieth will try to do his best Woods imitation this week.

BEST BETS

1. Jon Rahm, Spain – The second-ranked Rahm claimed his first major title in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, one of his nine top-10s in the majors. In the PGA, he tied for fourth in 2018 and a tie for eighth last year. He claimed his seventh PGA Tour victory last month in the Mexico Championship, was second in the Sentry TOC and tied for third in the Farmers.

2. Scottie Scheffler, United States –With four victories this season, including his first major title in the Masters last month, Scheffler has risen to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings. He has four other top-10 finishes in the majors in the last three seasons, including a tie for fourth in 2020 and a tie for eighth in the PGA last season. Scheffler finished top-10 in three of four majors in 2021.

3. Rory McIlroy, Norther Ireland – The seventh-ranked McIlroy has claimed two of his four major championships in the PGA, winning in 2012 and 2014, but hasn’t won any of the Grand Slam events since. Rory has an incredible 24 top-10 finishes in the majors, including second in the Masters last month, and claimed his 20th PGA Tour title in the CJ Cup last October.

4. Collin Morikawa, United States – Ranked third in the world, Morikawa has proven to be a major player, winning the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2021 Open Championship among his five top-10 results in the Grand Slam events in the last three years—including solo fifth in the Masters last month. He was second in the CJ Cup and the Genesis among six top-10s this season.

5. Justin Thomas, United States – The ninth-ranked Thomas claimed his only major title in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow and has five other top-10 finishes in the Grand Slam events, including a tie for eighth last month in the Masters. He has 14 victories on the PGA Tour, but none this season despite recording seven finishes in the top 10, including third twice.

6. Viktor Hovland, Norway – A rising star on the PGA Tour, the sixth-ranked Hovland has won three times on the in the last two seasons and it figures to be only a matter of time before he becomes a factor in the majors. His best result in the Grand Slam events was a tie for 12th in the Open Championship last year and he was low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019.

7. Jordan Spieth, United States– Making his sixth try to complete the Career Grand Slam in the PGA this week, the eighth-ranked Spieth is coming off a win in the RBC Heritage and a runner-up finish in the AT&T Byron Nelson. He won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015, and the Open Championship in 2017. His best PGA results were second in 2015 and a tie for third in 2019.

8. Xander Schauffele, United States – The Olympic Gold Medalist, ranked 10th in the world, comes off a tie for third in the AT&T Byron Nelson, closing with a 61. Schauffele is seeking his first major title after recording nine finishes in the top 10, including a ties for second in the 2018 Open Championship and the 2019 Masters. His best in the PGA was a tie for 10th in 2020.

9. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The defending FedEx Cup champ, ranked fifth in the world, surprisingly has only two top-10 major finishes—a tie for tie for third in the PGA and a tie for ninth in the Masters in 2019. Cantlay has seven PGA Tour titles, teamed with Xander Schauffele to win the Zurich Classic, and was second at Phoenix and in the RBC Heritage this season.

10. Cameron Smith, Australia – Having climbed to No. 4 in the world by winning the Players and the Sony Open in Hawaii, Smith is looking to make his mark in the majors. His best results in the Grand Slam events were a tie for second in 2020 and a tie for third in the Masters last month, and a tie for fourth in the 2015 U.S. Open. His best in the PGA was a tie for 25th in 2015.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dustin Johnson, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Brooks Koepka, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Tiger Woods, United States; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Joaquin Niemann, Chile; Bryson DeChambeau, United States; Matt Fitzpatrick, England; Will Zalatoris, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Mito Pereira, Chile – An eight-time winner as a pro, Pereira makes his PGA Championship debut after seven top-10s the last two seasons. Closed with 67 to T-17 in AT&T Byron Nelson.

2. Maverick McNealy, United States – Former Stanford star finished solo second in the Fortinet Championship and was T-7 in the Genesis Invitational among six top-25s this season.

3. K.H. Lee, South Korea – Coming off a second straight victory in the AT&T Byron Nelson last Sunday when he outplayed Jordan Spieth, Lee has claimed six tournament titles as a pro.

4. Cameron Young, United States – Two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, Young has finished T-2 in the Wells Fargo, the Genesis and the Sanderson Farms this season.

5. Sam Horsfield, England – Claimed his third victory since 2020 on the DP World Tour last week in Soudal Open which qualified Horsfield, who played college golf at Florida, for the PGA.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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