US PGA Championship: Simpson, Morikawa and the contenders to challenge the usual suspects

By Sports Desk August 03, 2020

It may not be quite what we are used to but major golf is finally back as Brooks Koepka defends his US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in California this week.

The global coronavirus pandemic completely wiped out The Open Championship for 2020, while each of the other three majors had to be rescheduled.

A three-month enforced break of the PGA Tour perhaps came at an opportune moment for some, while halting the momentum of others.

As golf gears up for its first major of 2020, behind closed doors of course, we take a look at the players we expect to be competing in California.


WEBB SIMPSON

It has been some return to form over the past couple of years for 2012 U.S. Open victor Webb Simpson, who slipped as low as 90th in the rankings following the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship before his triumph at the Players Championship a couple of years ago kick-started a career that looked in danger of stagnating. Even more promisingly, Simpson has wins either side of lockdown at the Phoenix Open and RBC Heritage. Throw in top-10s at the Sony Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic and he certainly has the form to contend.

JUSTIN THOMAS

Since winning the 2017 PGA Championship, it has not quite happened in the majors for Justin Thomas, whose only other top-10 in golf's big four since came at the same tournament a year later. But this guy is a serial contender on Tour and has four wins to his name in the past year, the most recent of course coming at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Sunday. Thomas is now back at world number one thanks to his triumph in Memphis and has three other top-10s since golf's hiatus was lifted so do not be surprised to see him in contention come Sunday.

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU

He is a man who splits opinion but one thing that cannot be argued is how supremely talented Bryson DeChambeau is. After bulking up during lockdown, he now appears to have even more weapons to his arsenal. Prior to missing the cut at the Memorial, DeChambeau made eight top-10s in nine starts, which included a win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has the game to win a major.

COLLIN MORIKAWA

A name perhaps not too familiar with the casual golf fan, but since turning pro in 2019 Collin Morikawa has climbed from 1039th in the world to 12th. After finishing second at the season-restarting Charles Schwab, he won the Workday Charity Open by beating Thomas in a play-off. His other results have admittedly been mixed but for those who like an outside bet the 23-year-old may take your fancy.

JON RAHM

Admittedly, tipping the man who was world number one until Thomas' win at the weekend to be a contender does not exactly scream imagination. But the talented Spaniard was not exactly in peak form prior to winning the Memorial last month, which crowned his ascension to the top of the rankings. Prior to that he had gone CUT, T33, T37, T27 at his four previous events post-lockdown. But surely Jon Rahm will eventually break his major duck and this weekend can be the time.

KOEPKA, RORY, WOODS AND THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Some players you just expect to see involved at the majors. Koepka is aiming to be the first man in 64 years to win the same major three years running and showed plenty of promise in Memphis over the weekend, where he finished runner-up to Thomas. Rory McIlroy has lost his number one status after struggling to rediscover his excellent form prior to golf's suspension but the Northern Irishman has previous at Harding Park, where he won the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play. Tiger Woods really has not played enough golf in 2020 to judge where his form and fitness is at – he has played just once since the season restarted – but never, ever write off the 15-time major winner. Dustin Johnson's form has been a little erratic, though he did win the Travelers Championship at the end of June.

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    Overnight leader Im Sung-jae slipped back to a tie for 20th after finding the water three times during his round, including twice at the ninth.

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