The PGA Championship at Southern Hills gets underway on Thursday as the worlds best go in search of glory.
Here we rank the 10 leading players according to the season’s statistics, world rankings and current form.
Ten best players in the field this week (current bookmakers ranking in brackets):
10. Cameron Smith (T10)
Ranked fourth in the world and widely considered as one of the elite ball strikers in the field. What counts against him – his crumbling at The Masters as well as a missed cut in his most recent event.
9. Sam Burns (16)
He won the Valspar Championship but then missed the cut at The Masters and last week in his most recent starts. So that means the World No 13 has been widely written off this week. If you listen to the Bet Central pre-tournament podcast then you will see how well his current trends fit the profile of the potential champion – he’s in his 20s and American – like many of the previous 10 winners (and nine if you exclude Phil Mickelson’s anomaly). He ranks 15th in the strokes gained around the green category.
8. Xander Schauffele (T7)
Fired himself into serious contention last week with a closing 61. Schauffele’s Master’s hiccup was more a once-off mistake than a sign of a slump you’d have to think. Overall, he has nine top 10s overall in 19 major championship starts. Schauffele ranks 16th in greens in regulation, 9th in birdie percentage and 4th in sand saves. Only eight of the last 26 Majors have been won by someone already in the Major club, so why not the World No 10 this week.
7. Patrick Cantlay (T10)
First things first, he’s got a poor record at Majors and that probably is a reason why he’s not right near the front of the odds list. That said, he ticks loads of boxes – he’s won this year (the Zurich Classic with Schauffele as his partner), he was a playoff loser in his previous event, he’s a world top five player, not yet a Major winner and only just turned 30. He’s inside the top 30 this season tee to green and also in putting which means 2021’s Player of the Year can break through in Oklahoma.
6. Justin Thomas (T6 with Hovland)
T5 last week, so he ticks the box of a player with a good result in his preceding event. Stuck on one Major since winning this tournament in 2017, Thomas is known as one of the best players into the greens with the height of his ball flight. He remains as consistent as any player out there with eight top 10s in 13 starts. Third tee to green and fifth approach the green just some more ammunition to his arsenal this week.
5. Jordan Spieth (T3)
Chasing the Career Slam – he would be just the sixth player to join that elite group – and he’ll arrive with more confidence than most after a win at the RBC Heritage and then second last week. A missed cut at his favoured Augusta National was a shock but he will be keen on rewriting history starting on Thursday on a course that will no doubt suit him.
4. Rory McIlroy (T1)
Rory hasn’t won a Major since 2014 when he won this event. And his struggles have been well documented in the first round of the elite events since…
Round 1: 35-over, 72.33 average, 18.5% rounds in 60s
Rounds 2-4: 68-under, 70.09 average, 42.0% rounds in 60s
Produced a stellar final round to finish second to Scheffler at Augusta and will be in the mix if the course does play true to all the pre-round talk that it will replicate to a large extent how Augusta plays. His putter has warmed up considerably which could spell trouble.
3. Hideki Matsuyama (T7 with Morikawa)
A winner in 2022 – tick. Inside the world top 20 – tick. Inside the top 10 for Greens in Regulation – tick. Six in the strokes gained approach – tick. A winner at Augusta – tick. Oh and top 25 in scrambling – tick.
2. Scottie Scheffler (T1)
The best player in the world right now. Even better than Jon Rahm according to the world golf ranking. No “recency bias” when it comes to talking up Scheffler especially after his work around Augusta National. There’s simply no denying that it will take a massive effort from someone in the field to beat him. Has won four times this year and has seven consecutive top 20s.
1. Jon Rahm (T3)
For what felt like forever, we were all wondering when Rahm would win again. And now that he’s done that, he’s shot right back to the top of the biggest threats to Scheffler. First in strokes gained off the tee and tee to green … so you know that if the putter works – like it did in Mexico – then he’s going to be pretty difficult to beat.