SPI­ETH’S CHANCE FOR GLORY

Amer­i­can stands to be­come youngest player to com­plete ca­reer grand slam

New Straits Times - - Sport - CHARLOTTE

JOR­DAN Spi­eth be­gins his quest to be­come the youngest man to com­plete the ca­reer grand slam as oc­ca­sional thun­der­storms and dev­il­ish new greens set the stage for an un­pre­dictable PGA Cham­pi­onship.

The Quail Hol­low course, al­ready soft af­ter heavy Mon­day rain, could re­ceive an­other pound­ing or two from the heav­ens, with a good chance of thun­der­storms at some stage from to­day through to the fi­nal round on Sun­day.

“The last 48 hours we have had over an inch of rain and it’s soft­ened the course cer­tainly more than we would want, but golf is an out­door sport and it is what it is,” said chief cham­pi­onship of­fi­cer Kerry Haigh, who is in charge of the course set-up.

Al­ready play­ing long, the 7100yard par-71 lay­out will present a stern test to the 156-man field, and the new greens, a hardy strain of Ber­muda grass with a strong grain that has of­ten baf­fled play­ers in prac­tice, will throw an­other vari­able into the equa­tion.

The favourites, with the ex­cep­tion of Hideki Mat­suyama, have all spo­ken pos­i­tively about their chances.

Spi­eth, 24, has down­played the pres­sure of go­ing for the grand slam, say­ing he should get an­other 30 or so chances to win the PGA.

He is per­haps un­aware, how­ever, that his­tory shows oth­er­wise.

All five men who com­pleted the slam of all four mod­ern ma­jors – Gene Sarazen, Ben Ho­gan, Jack Nick­laus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods – clinched the fourth leg in three tries or less af­ter cap­tur­ing the first three. Thir­teen oth­ers won three legs and could not claim the elu­sive fourth.

Phil Mick­el­son, for ex­am­ple, is a six times run­ner-up at the US Open, the only ma­jor miss­ing from his col­lec­tion.

Rory McIl­roy is the book­mak­ers’ favourite, partly on the back of his two vic­to­ries at Quail Hol­low on the PGA Tour in 2010 and 2015.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man, how­ever, is win­less in 2017, and yet to put all the pieces of the puz­zle to­gether at the same time.

World No 1 Dustin John­son has also strug­gled since he was forced out of the Masters af­ter slip­ping on some stairs and has since been a pale shadow of the man who won three con­sec­u­tive events in style head­ing to Au­gusta.

John­son, who grew up not far across the state bor­der in South Carolina, con­sid­ers this to be a home game, but that alone does not guar­an­tee he will find his early-year form.

A case can be made for world No 3 Mat­suyama to be­come the first Ja­panese man to win a ma­jor, but he has been talk­ing down his chances in pre-tour­na­ment in­ter­views with Ja­panese me­dia, say­ing his swing feels out-of­sorts.

Aus­tralian Ja­son Day, the 2015 cham­pion, has been knocked off his stride this year fol­low­ing his mother’s can­cer di­ag­no­sis, while Spa­niard Ser­gio Gar­cia has made more head­lines for his wed­ding than his on-course per­for­mances since win­ning the Masters. Reuters

AFP PIC

Jor­dan Spi­eth dur­ing prac­tice round at Quail Hol­low Club on Wed­nes­day.

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