It's the eve of the PGA Championship, 2017's final major. Quail Hollow will serve as this year's host and will tout the strongest field of any major.
A rain-soaked Baltusrol yielded a wire-to-wire win for Jimmy Walker last year. The weather delays forced most players to finish their third and fourth rounds on Sunday. In the final round, Walker and Jason Day separated themselves from the pack. Walker was able to fend off Day until he made eagle on the 72nd hole to cut the lead to one. Walker managed to make a par at the last and clinched the win.
A fresh-look Quail Hollow will host this year's PGA. The George Cobb design was renovated by Tom Fazio immediately after the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship. The big changes came on the course’s opening stretch, with new 1st, 4th and 5th holes. The player feedback on these holes has been lukewarm to say the least. Changes also include a new strain of bermudagrass on the greens and a new type of bunker sand.
No Laying Up's Chris Solomon is on the grounds and reports that it's quite wet from Tuesday's rains. Quail Hollow's tough bermuda rough has become more punishing and standing water is present in fairways. While the greens remain firm, the conditions will give bombers an added advantage.
Storylines to watch
Rory and Jordan
Golf's two biggest superstars are dominating the headlines at Quail Hollow. Rory McIlroy has been dominant at the Charlotte venue over the years thanks to his strongest talent, his ability to punish the field with his driver. McIlroy has two wins at Quail Hollow and has only finished outside the top 10 once in seven appearances there. Couple his course history with the soft conditions he thrives on and he is the odds-on favorite to win.
The other main storyline for the week is Jordan Spieth’s first chance to become the youngest winner of the career Grand Slam. Spieth is already having a standout year because of his dominant iron play. The big question mark for Spieth will be the driver on a course that requires long and precise tee shots.
Can Hideki Win?
It's a question that's asked by Japanese reporters in seemingly every press conference. Last week's winner, No. 3-ranked Hideki Matsuyama, is still looking to win his first major. The 25-year-old superstar finished T4 at last year's PGA, one of his six top 10 finishes at a major. A win for Matsuyama would mark the first time a Japanese player has won a major championship.
Looking for two
The onslaught of first-time winners in recent years has left a large group of players with one major win. A second major win adds a significant boost to a player's legacy. There have been 218 players to win at least one major, while only 81 have won two. Some notable players looking for No. 2 this week include Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.
Looking for one
A long list of players will look to remove themselves from the discussion of "best player without a major.” A few outside of Matsuyama to note are Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar and Jon Rahm.
Fowler returns to Quail Hollow, the site of his first PGA Tour title. He’s quietly had a banner year in 2017 and has been in the mix at each major, finishing T11, T5 and T22 in the first three.
When Thomas' putter is hot few in the world can compete. The 24-year-old has had success at Quail Hollow, finishing T7 at the 2015 Wells Fargo. With the course softened by rain, it should help Thomas and his aggressive style of play.
Kuchar had a major championship stolen from him at The Open Championship. The soft conditions and lengthy setup certainly won't help his cause at Quail Hollow. Kuchar hasn't played the course since the 2010 championship, when he missed the cut.
Rahm comes in as the sixth-ranked player in the world. While he has never played Quail Hollow, the golf course should be a perfect fit. Rahm ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee and should feast on the soft conditions.
Paulie dove into the course changes and found an interesting tidbit regarding the new grass and who it will favor. Read his picks here and listen to our picks podcast for even more coverage. Listen on our website, iTunes or Stitcher.
I have also put together a list of seven sleepers that I like this week. Check out the article here.
Talking PGA Championship, U.S. Am & Walker Cup
The PGA Tour's Sean Martin comes on the podcast to discuss the U.S. Amateur, Walker Cup and PGA Championship. The conversation floats between subjects and also touches on technology, the business side of amateur golf and much more. Listen on our website, iTunes or Stitcher.
The first domino
The PGA of America announced on Monday that the PGA Championship would be moving to May starting in 2019. This move has been rumored for sometime and has led to a complete reshuffle of events. Starting in 2019 the schedule will have a large event in every month from March to August.
March - The Players Championship
April - The Masters
May - PGA Championship
June - U.S. Open
July - The Open Championship
August - FedExCup Playoffs
The big changes certainly impact the future site selection of the PGA Championship. The new May date will open up sites in the south while limiting hosts in the Northeast and Midwest. I broke down the full ramifications and who the winners and losers of the moves in a detailed post.
Fighting for a spot
The Web.com Tour's regular season is down to its final three events and players are looking for a strong push to secure spots inside the top 25 and 75. The top 25 guarantees a PGA Tour card for 2017-18, while a spot in the top 75 gives players a shot at one through Web.com Tour Finals. Here's a look at both the top 25 and 75 bubbles heading into this week's Price Cutter Championship.