Slam bid over, Jordan Spieth still can join select club at PGA Championship

A Grand Slam won`t be on the line, but Jordan Spieth will still be shooting for a piece of golf history when the PGA Championship tees off at Whistling Straits on Thursday.

AFP| Updated: Aug 10, 2015, 14:50 PM IST
Slam bid over, Jordan Spieth still can join select club at PGA Championship

Kohler: A Grand Slam won`t be on the line, but Jordan Spieth will still be shooting for a piece of golf history when the PGA Championship tees off at Whistling Straits on Thursday.

The 22-year-old American will be squarely in the spotlight as he tries to join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to win three major titles in the same year.

"That would be just such special company," Spieth said. "But just like at The Open Championship, when I get there, it`s just going to be about that tournament, and that`s all that will be on my mind."

Spieth will have a close-up view of one of his biggest rivals for the crown -- defending champion and world number one Rory McIlroy -- as they are grouped together for the first two rounds along with American Zach Johnson -- who triumphed last month at the British Open where Spieth was unable to capture the third major of the year.

Northern Ireland`s McIlroy will be teeing it up for the first time since the US Open at Chambers Bay after an ankle injury prevented him from defending his British Open crown at St. Andrews.

It remains to be seen if he`ll be at full strength, but McIlroy said after a practice round at Whistling Straits his ankle was a "non-issue".

"I`ve come a long way in five weeks," the 26-year-old told the Golf Channel.

Spieth, who says his failure to make it three straight major titles at St. Andrews in July has only stoked his appetite, could still join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players to win three majors in the same year.

Since watching Johnson hoist the Claret Jug in St. Andrews, Spieth has turned his attention to the PGA Championship, putting in a two-day trip to Whistling Straits to practice on the links-style course laid down on the shores of Lake Michigan.

"I think it`s a ball-strikers golf course," Spieth said.During Spieth`s scouting trip, high winds forced players off the course, and such conditions would add to the challenge of the Pete Dye-designed Straits track that produced PGA Championship playoff victories for Vijay Singh in 2004 and Martin Kaymer in 2010.

"It`s a great golf course," 14-time major champion Tiger Woods says of the 7,514-yard, par-72 layout. "Pete Dye intimidates you with the visuals out there but he gives you a lot more room than you think.

"He likes to hide half the fairway or quarter of the fairway, things of that nature. Lot more room on the golf course than what you perceive it to be."

Whether Woods will be able to take advantage of that remains to be seen. The former world number one has endured a dismal season that included missed cuts in back-to-back majors for the first time in his pro career at the US and British Opens.

After a week off Woods will arrive at Whistling Straits aiming to stop that skid.

A share of 18th in his last start before the PGA -- at the Quicken Loans National -- offered grounds for optimism.

"Everything is trending in the right direction now," said Woods.

He was among the leaders in driving distance at the National, and length off the tee could be crucial at Whistling Straits.

But the fact remains, Woods`s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus`s record of 18 major titles has remained stalled at 14 since 2008.And Johnson, whose British Open triumph gave him a second major crown eight years after he won the Masters, insists Whistling Straits` reputation as a bomber`s course can be over-stated.

"You have to hit it straight," said Johnson, who finished one shot shy of the playoff in 2010. "You have to control your trajectory. I don`t think it`s necessarily a bomber`s course, if my memory serves me right.

"I think it sets up well for my game," Johnson added. "When it`s dry and fast, which it kind of was five years ago, I feel like that place can suit me."

Others who could find Whistling Straits to their liking include Aussie Jason Day -- equal fourth at the British Open before a US PGA Tour win in Canada -- two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and long-hitting American Dustin Johnson.

Dustin Johnson, who three-putted on the final green to throw away the US Open in June and faded on the weekend after holding the halfway lead at St. Andrews, has already endured major heartbreak at Whistling Straits.

He missed the 2010 PGA Championship playoff after grounding his club in a scrubby sand bunker thinking it was waste ground and thereby earning a penalty.