Hideki Matsuyama has just played the best round of his life and is a major champion in waiting. He could win one of four tournaments that matter most at this week’s USPGA Championship. Rory McIlroy cannot be ignored and is in great shape to win his fifth major. Lee Westwood has a game suited to the host course and he could contend in a major yet again but winning maybe beyond him. Tony Finau is an each-way selection who should be backed with bookmakers offering the best place terms.
The USPGA Championship is the fourth and final major of the season and has been called “The Last Shot At Glory”. It is the least sought of the four big ones but it’s a major championship and winning it can define a player’s career. Of the four majors it’s the one that produces the most one hit wonders, players who don’t win another major. The championship is always played in mid-August so extreme heat is common.
The career Grand Slam is achieved by a player who wins each major at least once. Tom Watson won the US Open, Open Championship and Masters but did not complete the set. In fact only five players in the history of the sport have each of the majors on their CV. If Jordan Spieth wins this week he will complete the set and be the youngest player to win all four at least once.
When McIlroy won the Open in 2014 that was his third different major and he’s only missing the Masters. Every April one of the subplots of the tournament is McIlroy’s quest to complete the Career Grand Slam but he has not got close to winning the Masters in the last three years. The supreme test will be closing out the tournament one Sunday in the future when history beckons.
Phil Mickelson has been in the same situation at the US Open since 2014 because he won the Open the previous year and had already won the other two majors. He has finished second six times in the national championship of the United States and it looks like his chance has gone. It’s admirable then that he missed the US Open this year to attend his daughter’s graduation. Spieth looks like winning the race to be the next player to join the elite group of Career Grand Slam winners.
Sergio Garcia finally got the monkey of his back when he won the Masters Tournament this spring. He can no longer be called the best player to have never won a major and that mantle has been passed to Matsuyama. He has won 9 times in his last 20 starts, including twice at world championship level. He just needs a major to confirm a great career and this could be his week in the sun.
The championship is being played at Quail Hollow which is the regular venue for the Wells Fargo Championship so there is plenty of form to assess. The course is a comprehensive test of a player’s all round game and it should produce a quality winner. The layout is more about accuracy than distance but long and straight driving will give player an advantage and McIlroy is one of the best drivers in the game.
Quail Hollow is one of McIlroy’s favourite courses in the States. He won his first regular PGA Tour event at the location and has won again since. For a number of years he has identified this week as a great chance of winning another major. The 18 holes are a good fit for McIlroy’s eye and he has positive mental associations with the venue where he looks set to contend again.
McIlroy has played solidly in his last two events, the Open at Birkdale and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He got on the periphery of the top of the leader board without feeling the heat of competing down the stretch. Despite sacking his long term caddie things are coming together so McIlroy can win the USPGA Championship for the third time on a great track in the context of his skills this week.
Matsuyama has played in the PGA Championship four times and not missed a cut. He finished tied 4th last year, recording one of his six major championship top 10s. He has made the cut in the first three majors of 2017 and not finished worse than 14th. Matsuyama is showing consistency in the big events and destroyed the field in the Bridgestone Invitational last week. He played 18 holes in 9 under par to clinch the title on Sunday. Through an interpreter he said it was his best round ever.
Converting top 10s into wins is difficult in majors as Lee Westwood has shown over the last 20 years. He is the one player in the history of the sport who has made the top three in all four majors without winning one. He has left his wife and management company but the stability from those associations may be missing now so breaking his major champion duck may be an achievement too far. However, he can handle the track and looks a good thing to record a top 10 this week.
Finau’s game is more about distance than accuracy but he has the profile of some past winners of the championship. His long hitting will be important but he must also find accuracy to his shots from the tee. He is the right age and nationality to make a charge which ultimately might not be successful but Finau can reward each way backers at a decent price but one of the market leaders should prevail.
McIlroy has geared much of his season around this week and Quail Hollow and he is playing well enough to win. When the top players bring their best game to the table only Spieth could stay with McIlroy. The PGA Championship could develop into a showdown between the pair but Matsuyama can beat both players and win his first major.
USPGA Championship Tips
Rory McIlroy 10 Places with SkyBet
Hideki Matsuyama at 14/1 with William Hill.