The final major of the year tees off soon – so we caught up with golfing legend and Golf Care ambassador Bernard Gallacher to get his thoughts on the biggest talking points ahead of the tournament!
This weekend sees the final major of the year, the US PGA Championship. Is it Jordan Spieth’s to lose?
If he wins at Quail’s Hollow, Jordan Spieth would complete his Grand Slam just after turning 24, making him the youngest ever to do so – surpassing both current record holder Tiger Woods (24 and a half) and Jack Nicklaus (26). Jordan would freely admit he isn’t on the same level as Jack or Tiger, but what he does have is time. He also gets around the golf course very well, holes extraordinary putts and there was no deadlier player over the last 5 holes of The Open.
It all depends on whether he can get himself into that winning position again. He had a few wobbles at The Open and recovered. If he gets into more difficulties, it remains to be seen if he can dig himself out twice in a row. What’s more, McIlroy will be breathing down his neck.
How do you rate Rory’s chances?
McIlroy is finally playing more golf, which is what he needs. He’s only played about 9 tournaments on the PGA Tour this year – and his generally poor form has mainly been down to a lack of match play, having been hampered by injury. Now that he’s getting more game time, he tied fourth at The Open and tied fifth at the WGC-Bridgestone last weekend. He’s driving well at the moment, so if he can get the putter going – who knows?
What’s more, Quail Hollow is a course that Rory likes, he’s won twice and never finished outside of the top 10. It’s a regular PGA course – so he and a fair few players will be confident, especially having played it so regularly.
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After Rory praised his caddie during The Open, they suddenly parted ways. What do you think was the reason?
There had been a few niggles. When players are still struggling with their game and looking for something to grasp at, it’s usually the caddie or the coach that goes – very occasionally both! Rory clearly feels he needs a change – a clean break. The only odd thing about the situation is the timing, so soon after praising his caddie during The Open.
However, there’s a sense it has been provoked by Spieth lifting the Claret Jug, seeing the strong partnership that Michael Greller had with Jordan and wanting the same thing. What Rory has to remember though, is that what works for Jordan Spieth might not work for Rory McIlroy.
It’s a modern phenomenon – partner caddie’s. You never saw Jack or Seve relying on their caddie. But it’s been a horrendous year for McIlroy, however you look at it. By his high standards, he’s not done well. If he thinks this will help, he’s going to try it. Better to have a fresh start when you’re improving again than declining – it’s a case of wait and see for now.
Image credit: Alastair Grant/AP
Apart from McIlroy, one player that stood out a mile at Bridgestone was Matsuyama. Is he in with a chance at the US PGA Championship?
Oh god, yes. He was second in the US Open this year, played some magnificent golf week in and week out, played a blinder last weekend at the WGC and is still only 25.
I admire Matsuyama’s dedication. Most of his fellow Asian golfers tend to only join the PGA Tour for a couple of years, before going back to play on the Japanese Tour. By contrast, he has been on the Tour for a good while, all whilst not speaking a whole lot of English! He travels with a translator, but I imagine it must be tough at times.
However, the sponsors love him. Wherever he goes, he brings a huge Japanese following – both fans and media. In fact, there was about a 50-strong camera crew trailing him inside the ropes at The Open! All that means big overseas TV rights, so if he wins the US PGA that would be a huge boost for the game – the first Asian major winner. My only hope is that he hasn’t peaked too early with his outrageous Bridgestone win.
Like Rickie Fowler and Paul Casey, he’s a major winner in waiting. Casey has been playing some of his best golf this year too, one of England’s finest. I’ll be keeping my eye on him.
Anyone else caught your eye?
Dustin Johnson is still getting back to his best after that Masters injury that really disrupted his season, but he played well in the last two rounds at Firestone. He’s got such power, sending irons 250-yards down the middle will see anyone through at a course like Quail Hollow. That’s without even mentioning his driving – as he hit a drive last week that was measured at 439 yards!
With drives like that, will we eventually see 9,000-yard+ courses?
It’s inevitable, but I don’t worry about it. I never see why people get so upset about low scores in tournaments, I find it great to watch. Spectators come to see pros hitting good shots and sinking putts. If every game saw golfers struggling and winning by single scores, it’s not much fun – double-digit winning scores is where the spectacle is.
When I was 14-years-old, going to watch tournaments, I wanted to see the pros hitting great shots. No-one enjoys seeing the courses set up so strongly that everyone is chipping out of the rough. What’s good for the golfers is good for the fans.
There’s rumours that the US PGA is being moved from 2019. Do you think it will happen?
It’s going to happen. Historically, the PGA Championship has always been the lesser of the majors – originally promoted as being the ‘major at the end of the season’. Now, though, it’s been superseded by the Tour Championship after it – so it doesn’t even have that distinction any more.
Additionally, it is forever being disrupted by other events – the Ryder Cup, the President’s Trophy, even the Olympics. Moving it earlier in the year, reportedly in May, would give the season a more natural run. Starting in March with the Players Championship, the next four months would get one major each (the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open and The Open), before winding down the prestigious Tour Championship in August.
Perhaps the only real issue with the move is that it will limit the number of courses that can host the US PGA. Because of weather conditions, it could only be played in a state where the course is playable in May – ruling out places like Whistling Straits. For a proper fixed slot in the golfing diary? I think it’s worth it.
Will there ever be a fifth major – the Players perhaps?
It’s difficult to know how a tournament becomes a major. The Players Championship is a major in all but name. A few years ago, it even had a better field than most of the majors. Plenty have tried to cultivate it into a major. Who decides what becomes a major? The players? The fans?
We probably have enough majors at the moment. So much golfing history is built around them that it would be a big ask to change it now.