The Season’s Final Major. That’s the new and preferred tagline for the PGA Championship, according to the PGA of America, which has turned its back on that oldie but a goodie: Glory’s Last Shot. OK. Fair enough. Duly noted. And yet updating monikers is not our prime concern as we await the start of play at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. There are more important matters to resolve. Here are five things we’re mulling instead.
1. A Grand Salame for Spieth?
Of the 156 players in the field, only one has a chance at the career grand slam. We all know his name. What we don’t know is his fate. So many marquee names are in the running this week, but Jordan Spieth’s quest to become the youngest man ever to net all four majors is, hands down, the biggest storyline in Charlotte.
2. Rickie or Rory?
There’s the game. And then there’s the game within the game. Rory McIlroy has won two PGA Tour titles at Quail Hollow and lost one in a playoff. The man who beat him in extra holes was Rickie Fowler, whose victory at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship was also his first Tour win. In a move that makes beautiful sense, Rickie and Rory have been placed in the same group on Thursday and Friday (Jon Rahm will be with them, too). So, yeah, we’ll be watching the entire scoreboard. But we’re also keen to see who wins this two-man race.
3. Will the World No. 1 Play Like the World No. 1?
DJ doesn’t stand for disc jockey. We can tell as much from the flat intonation in Dustin Johnson’s voice. The man who seemed unbeatable earlier this year, up until that stairway spill just before the Masters, was back at it in interviews this week, speaking to the press with a semi-vacant stare and all of the emotion of an unplugged Cyborg. But if you listened to what he said, he almost sounded … excited. He’s close. Very close. Within a whisker, he insists, of the field-lapping form he showed to start the season. Will he make good on those bold but blandly uttered words?
4. A Hollow Test?
Course renovations have toughened up the layout. But a string of rainstorms has tenderized the fairways, creating the sort of soft conditions that can lead to shootouts. Of all the majors, the PGA Championship has long been the most vulnerable to low scores. No doubt, there’ll be red numbers. But we still want to see the world’s best work hard for their money. How will the new Quail stand up to the assault?
5. One for the ages?
Youth isn’t always wasted on the young. Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational marked the 16th (that’s right, 16th) win on Tour in 2017 by a player under 25. That’s the most of any season since 1970, which, it just so happens, is the year Phil Mickelson was born. Phil is 47, and this will be his 100th major. The same is true of Ernie Els. Both are giants of the game, but Father Time — and a wave of young guns — stands against them. Will this week give us yet another wet-behind-the-ears winner? Or will a famous 40-something give new meaning to Glory’s Last Shot?