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PGA Championship preview: Facts and fun for the golf season's final major

Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the

Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the 15th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in St. Louis. Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

Story Lines:

  1. Jordan Spieth goes for the career Grand Slam, which would make him only the sixth ever to do it
  2.  Tiger Woods continues his comeback from back surgery and shoots for his first major title in 10 years
  3. Bellerive Country Club’s greens are soft, giving golfers license to fire away at flagsticks and collect birdies by the bushel
  4. This is the 100th PGA Championship. As Rory McIlroy said, “The 100th year of anything is a big deal.”
  5. McIlroy is going for his third Wanamaker Trophy and trying to end a major title drought that began after he won this event in 2014

Other Questions:

  1. What’s with Jason Day? Can the ultra-talented player win a second major?
  2. Can Justin Rose (two wins this year, tie for second at the British Open, respectable finishes at Masters and U.S. Open) win a second major?
  3. How about Masters champion Patrick Reed, who made a Sunday charge at Shinnecock Hills?
  4. Is this finally the week when Rickie Fowler has buddies waiting to congratulate him by the 18th green?
  5. Will Phil Mickelson wear his long-sleeved shirt in 90-degree heat (he wore short sleeves and short pants in practice Wednesday)? Also, can he be a contender?

Momentum Is on the Side of:

  • Justin Thomas, winner of the Bridgestone Invitational Sunday and the PGA last year
  •  Francesco Molinari, winner of British Open, the most recent major
  • Brooks Koepka, winner of U.S. Open, most recent major on U.S. soil
  • Dustin Johnson, three wins this year, including Canadian Open two weeks ago
  • Andrew Putnam, earned last spot in field by winning Barracuda Championship Sunday

Keep An Eye On:

  • Tommy Fleetwood: Final round 63 at Shinnecock earned him second place
  • Xander Schauffele: Tied for second at The Players, sixth at Shinnecock, second at British Open
  • Tony Finau: Top 10 in all three majors this year
  • Bryson DeChambeau: Winner at the Memorial, six other top 10s this year
  • Patrick Cantlay: Overcame stress fracture in his back that kept him out for two years, withstood death of his caddie who was run over by a car when he was crossing a street with Cantlay, tied for 12th at the British, tied for sixth last week at Bridgestone

Unlikely PGA Champions in the Field, Reminding Us that Anything Can Happen Here:

  • John Daly, 1991
  • Rich Beem, 2002
  • Shaun Micheel, 2003
  • Y.E. Yang, 2009
  • Keegan Bradley, 2011

Cold Streaks:

  • No Englishman has won the PGA since Jim Barnes in 1919 at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor (he won both before and after World War I)
  • Sergio Garcia has missed the cut in the past four majors
  • It has been eleven years since the second of two tour wins by Charles Howell III (16 years since his first)
  • Adam Scott has only one top 10 finish all year (tie for ninth at Byron Nelson)

Facts about Bellerive Country Club:

  • Gary Player completed the career Grand Slam here by winning the 1965 U.S. Open hereNick Price won his first major title here, 1992 PGA
  • Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1960, redesigned and later updated by his son, Rees
  • 2001 WGC American Express Championship was cancelled after the 9/11 and never was rescheduled
  • Members include Jim Holtgrieve, who won inaugural U.S. Mid-Amateur title here in 1981 and went on to be winning 2013 Walker Cup captain at National Golf Links of America in Southampton (team included Justin Thomas)

Interesting Club Pros in the Field:

  • Matt Dobyns: Two-time national club pro champion and two-time Long Island Open winner. Pro at Fresh Meadow Country Club
  • Danny Balin: New father, two-time winner of New York State Open at Bethpage Black and golf instructor to Gary (Baba Booey) Dell’Abate, Howard Stern’s producer
  • Michael Block: St. Louis native missed the cut at Shinnecock, flew cross country to play in the national club pro tournament and appeared out of the race for top 20 until his 13-year-old son and caddie Dylan found dad’s ball in a burrowing animal hole (sparing him a penalty for a lost ball)
  • Craig Hocknull: Trick-shot artist and inventor, patented the Saber Cat putter and the Saber Golf Trainer, which won best new product at PGA Merchandise Show

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