This week’s US PGA Championships is going to have go some to match the Open, which was by any measurement the best golf we have ever seen at a Major tournament.
The two tournaments wouldn’t normally be so close in the calendar, but golf’s return to the Olympic Games means that the gap between the two Majors has shrunk from a month to less than two weeks.
That could be great news for Henrik Stenson in particular but also Phil Mickelson, who will still feel in superb form after the pair’s incredible duel at Royal Troon.
Claret Jug winner Stenson had shown us that extraordinary form before, in 2013, when he won the PGA Tour’s Fed-Ex Cup and the European Tour’s Race To Dubai within a matter of weeks.
He then had a few months off at the end of the season, making it more difficult to pick up where he left off, but he should have no such problems this time.
The Swede, 40, is in some ways a more complete player than many of his rivals. A regular world top-10 player between 2007 and 2009, he had fallen to 230 in early 2012, but overcame that slump to get where he is today. That experience is an asset.
Day and McIlroy can bring Baltusrol to its knees
Stenson is the man to beat at Baltusrol this week, but my second choice would be Jason Day, who I think could be particularly suited to the New Jersey setting.
US PGA Championship courses tend to be set up for players used to the PGA Tour. World No1 Day is such a beautiful golfer that he can do well anywhere but, like Rory McIlroy, he’s a straight-hitting bomber who can bring courses like this to their knees.
My third choice would be Rory. His week at Troon was strewn with mistakes yet he still managed a decent finish and finished in the top five. The world No4 has been banging on the door for a while and must be very, very close to another win.
McIlroy has been drawn to play his first two rounds alongside Day and Mickelson and, while players like that are never going to get a bad group, it must be nice to tee up with other candidates for the title so that you know exactly what you’ve got to do. If it was me I’d prefer that one million per cent.
Lefty on the right track
Mickelson must be feeling as good as ever at the age of 46 after the Open. He may have had to settle for second place but will reflect that Stenson was virtually unbeatable.
The five-time Major winner has the bonus of being the last man to win the US PGA at Baltusrol, back in 2005, when he produced a gorgeous flop shot at 18 to set up the birdie he needed.
That was his second Major win, which can be more difficult than the first, and Mickelson will only have great memories of playing at this course to add to his sky-high confidence.
While the shortened gap between the Open and USPGA is good news for those in form, the other side of the coin is that it doesn’t offer those who are struggling much time to get their games together.
With that in mind it’s hard to fancy Jordan Spieth this week. The world No3 has been missing short putts and fairways for some time and, while he could turn it round, you can’t feel confident that he will.
Finally, a big well done to Paul Broadhurst, an old friend of mine, for winning the Senior Open at Carnoustie on Sunday. It earns him an exemption for the Champions Tour in the US, so it’s life-changing stuff.