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.

Related items

  • Wolff expects to be 'a little antsy' in U.S. Open final round Wolff expects to be 'a little antsy' in U.S. Open final round

    Matthew Wolff expects to be "a little antsy" to begin the final round after moving into the lead at the U.S. Open.

    Wolff, 21, carded a record-equalling five-under 65 at Winged Foot on Saturday to open up a two-stroke lead in New York.

    The American, whose round matched the 65 Justin Thomas shot on Thursday for the lowest in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, is on track to become the first tournament debutant to win the major since 1913.

    A one-time winner on the PGA Tour, Wolff also gave up a three-stroke lead after the third round at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with Bryson DeChambeau – who is second at the U.S. Open – winning the tournament.

    Wolff expects nerves in the final round again in what is just his second appearance at a major.

    "I bet you I'm probably going to be a little antsy. It's the U.S. Open, and I have a lead," he told reporters.

    "I'm going to try to keep my nerves as calm as they can be, and like I said, relax tonight, not really try to think about it. I put myself in a really good spot. I did everything that I could do up until this point, and tomorrow I'm going to go out there, I promise you I'm going to try my best, and if I come out on top or not, it is what it is.

    "But right now I'm just looking to go have a good time, and it's just golf. Even though it is the U.S. Open, there's a lot of things in life that are a little different right now, and in the world you can see how many things are affecting us.

    "And even though it would be unbelievable to add my name to a U.S. Open trophy, I think that the most important thing is realising everything that's going on and the people that I'm close with are … there's some things happening with that. Not anything that has to do with me, but my agent, John, is struggling right now with his health, and I've been thinking about him a lot out there. He doesn't want anyone to feel bad for him, but like I said, it just puts things in perspective. And I'm going to go out there, try to make him proud and go have a good time."

    Wolff blitzed the front nine at Winged Foot with five birdies, and he managed his round despite hitting just two of 14 fairways.

    Asked what was working well, Wolff said: "Everything. I think my putting was by far the best it's felt in the last two or three months. I feel like I'm really hitting the ball well.

    "My irons were really good, and even though I only hit two fairways, my driver was – it was just barely off, but that's the U.S. Open.

    "I feel like even though I missed the fairway, there was a lot of times I was in that graduated rough that's a little shorter, and I feel like yesterday the difference was I was in the really long stuff.

    "Like I said, I felt really good with all parts of my game, and I'm just excited to be where I'm at and look forward to tomorrow."

  • Wolff charges into lead at U.S. Open after 65 Wolff charges into lead at U.S. Open after 65

    Matthew Wolff equalled a U.S. Open record and is on track to make further history after taking a two-stroke lead in the third round.

    Wolff carded a five-under 65 on Saturday, equalling the lowest round produced at Winged Foot at a U.S. Open.

    The 21-year-old American blitzed the front nine in New York, making five birdies before a consistent back nine included a bogey and birdie.

    Wolff's round came after hitting just two of 14 fairways, but he reached five under and a two-shot lead.

    His 65 matched the round Justin Thomas managed on Thursday to set the record at Winged Foot.

    If he wins, Wolff would become the first player to claim the U.S. Open on tournament debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

    Bryson DeChambeau (70) sits second at three under and Louis Oosthuizen (68) is the only other player under par at one under.

    DeChambeau opened his round with back-to-back bogeys before picking up a shot at the seventh.

    The American then made birdies at 16 and 17, but could only manage a bogey at the par-four 18th.

    Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, is also in contention after mixing four birdies with two bogeys.

    Hideki Matsuyama (70), Xander Schauffele (70) and Harris English (72) are at even par, a shot ahead of Rory McIlroy (68).

    But it was a forgettable third round, and in particular back nine, for overnight leader Patrick Reed.

    The 2018 Masters champion was one under through nine holes before falling apart to shoot a 77 and sit at three over, tied for 11th.

    Reed bogeyed six of his final nine holes and had a double bogey at the 11th, where he struggled to recover from the rough.

    Thomas is at four over, while world number one Dustin Johnson was again unable to get much going, shooting a 72 to be at five over.

  • McIlroy senses U.S. Open chance after Winged Foot revival McIlroy senses U.S. Open chance after Winged Foot revival

    Rory McIlroy believes he can challenge for the U.S. Open title on Sunday, saying a third-round 68 has given him "a pretty good shot".

    The Northern Irishman began on Thursday with a three-under 67 but turned his numbers around in the second round when a 76 looked to have scuppered his hopes.

    On Saturday, moving day at Winged Foot, McIlroy had three birdies and just one dropped shot in the kind of solid performance he would sign for again in the final round.

    Four-time major winner McIlroy, who was 22 years old when he won the 2011 U.S. Open, was back on the leaderboard.

    On a course where American Matthew Wolff, just 21, was setting the pace, McIlroy was sensing the rekindling of a real opportunity this week.

    "Overall 68 out there is a really good score," he said. "I don't know where that's going to leave me at the end of the day, but I'm feeling pretty good that I've got a good chance going into [Sunday]."

    At one over par, McIlroy was watching the scoreboard to see where Wolff would finish the day.

    A startling 30 on the front nine took Wolff to five under par for the tournament at one stage.

    "No matter where I am at the end of the day, I feel like I've got a pretty good shot," McIlroy said.

    "You know, it doesn't take much around here ... someone gets off to a decent start, maybe one or two under through five and then the leader goes the other way, one or two over through five, and all of a sudden you're right in the thick of things."

    Asked what conditions he would want on Sunday, McIlroy said: "It's sort of a double-edged sword, right, because you would think that you'd want tougher conditions because it'll make it more difficult for the guys in front of you, but it also makes it more difficult for yourself.

    "I think looking at the forecast, the conditions are going to be pretty similar to today, which is fine. If I go out there tomorrow and shoot another 68, I won't be too far away."

    He was full of admiration for Wolff's front nine, describing his scoring as "awesome golf".

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.