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The PGA - Championship of many possibilities

 

Defending champion Justin Thomas, legendary fellow American Tiger Woods and Northern Ireland's four-time major winner Rory McIlroy will tee-off together at the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on Thursday.

Other star groupings playing together for the first two rounds are the reigning Masters, US and British Open champion Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari, England's Olympic champion Justin Rose, Spanish World No 7 John Rahm and the US's three-time major winner and 8th-ranked Jordan Spieth, and World No 1 Dustin Johnson, fellow big-hitting American Bubba Watson and Australian Adam Scott, who like Watson, is a former Green Jacket winner.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, will be seeking to come back from spinal fusion surgery to end a 10-year major drought, Thomas will be looking to engineer a rarely successful defense of the title and McIlroy, the third member of their group, will be hoping to use his second place in the recent Open as a springboard to a third PGA Championship and a 5th major overall.

For Reed, Koepke, and Molinari it presents the exciting possibility of securing a second major this year and for Rose, Johnson and Scott, a second career major.

"I like the way the PGA sets it up," says Koepka, who, with Johnson, McIlroy, and Watson, is one of the biggest hitters in the field.

"It's very difficult. It's going to be a battle for sure."

Thomas, the world No 2, and Rose, the No 3, could both overtake Johnson on the World Ranking list this week, Rose with a victory and Thomas with a solo second or better.

Coming off a standout win at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational against a similar world-class field last week has left Thomas, "In a great place mentally right now.
"I was just so patient and calm."

Since 1980, only two players have won in the week prior to triumphing in the PGA, Woods in 2007 and McIlroy in 2014. And only Woods in 2006-07 has won the title in consecutive years.

"Tiger has been a pretty big influence for me," Thomas revealed this week. "He motivated me to get where I am now. So it's great to have him back."

Woods briefly led on Sunday at the Open Championship before sharing sixth place after his best final round in five years 

With a victory at Bellerive, Spieth aged just 25 would join the select five including Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Woods who have won all four majors 

"When you have an opportunity to do that, certainly it weighs on you a little bit," said Spieth. "All I can do is embrace the challenge."

Chile's 164th-ranked Joaquin Niemann, a 19-year-old Tour rookie with good prospects wins, He would become the youngest PGA Champion ever, breaking the record set up by 20-year-old Sarazen in 1922. 

To place a bet on the upcoming tournament visit, BetWay

Neville Leck

Written by neville@golfweather.com.