US PGA Championship preview: Predictions for 2022's second Major
The second Major championship of 2022 tees off this Thursday as golf’s greatest head to Oklahoma for the US PGA Championship.
As Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa prepares to play host for the first time in 15 years, we look ahead to a fascinating renewal.
The last time this course hosted the US PGA Championship, Tiger Woods ground his way to a two-shot victory in 2007 — but much has changed since then.
While Woods, now 46, is in line to follow up his memorable Masters return with a second appearance of the calendar year, he and his competitors will face a very different-looking track to any previous visits.
As part of a 2019 restoration, several notable changes have been made at Southern Hills including extra length, altered bunkers and, arguably most crucially, devilishly cut green fringes.
Already a venue known for testing a player’s all-round game, it is expected that a premium will now be put on accurate approach play and reliable scrambling.
Scheff has recipe for success
World No1 Scottie Scheffler arrives with leading claims, having won a remarkable four of his last eight events including a maiden Major at Augusta in April.
Though it took the 25-year-old a little time to break his duck, he is now firmly in the winning groove and last week’s rock-solid tune-up at the AT&T Byron Nelson — finishing T15 — suggests he will compete again here.
As if there was not enough buzz around Scheffler already, talk of an ultra-impressive practice round last week has set tongues wagging in recent days.
Southern Hills assistant pro Cameron Chhim, who caddied for the Texan last Thursday, claims he produced an ‘easy’ six under-par round of 64.
Chhim said: "He’s No1 in the world and it was pretty easy to see why. It would be hard to say that he’s not going to win or at least be in contention.
"He hits it far enough and he has just incredible distance control with his irons. He played one ball the entire time, no practice putts, and made it look easy."
Spieth primed for Grand Slam
Another Texas native with a massive opportunity this week is in-form Jordan Spieth, who could hardly ask for a better opportunity to complete his career Grand Slam.
Spieth, 28, won the Masters and US Open in 2015 and added The Open to his collection two years later, meaning the US PGA is the only Major still to have eluded him.
If he could complete the set, he would become only the sixth man ever to do so — and the first since Woods.
He arrives at a course which should perfectly suit his majestic short game in rude health, having won last month’s RBC Heritage in a play-off before finishing runner-up last week at TPC Craig Ranch.
It could have so easily been back-to-back victories, had he not three-putted from seven feet late in the day — though Spieth is taking the positives heading to Tulsa despite a tinge of sadness.
He said: "It was a good week, good momentum to take into next week. But this one will sting just a little bit, looking back on the day.
"We'll get on the greens next week that remind me a lot of Colonial. It's bentgrass, which is gradual slope where you don't have a lot of tricks, which I think will be nice and I gained a lot of confidence on the greens this week."
If his putter behaves, he holds a fine chance.
Star trio seek elusive first Major
As Collin Morikawa can testify, the US PGA can be the perfect place for emerging talents to claim their first Major success.
Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay — currently ranked No4 and No5 in the world respectively — are no spring chickens at 28 and 30 but are surprisingly still to land one of the game’s four biggest prizes.
While Aussie Smith landed the Players Championship in March before going on to compete strongly at the Masters, Cantlay has only two top-10 efforts in 20 Major championships.
A seven-time PGA Tour winner though, it seems only a matter of time before 'Patty Ice' puts it all together and keeps his cool on one of golf’s grandest stages.
Perhaps the real breakout star this time around could be Viktor Hovland.
Having graduated from Oklahoma State, the 24-year-old rose through the golfing ranks alongside 2020 winner Morikawa and looks a really good fit for this Major in particular.
Stunning distance off the tee should serve him well and if the Norwegian can tidy up his improving but, at times, unreliable chipping, this trophy is well within his grasp.