The PGA Championship 2014: Rory McIlroy primed to win third tournament on the spin
World No 1 is huge favourite at Valhalla, says Rob Lee
Last Updated: 05/08/14 12:42pm
When myself and the other Sky Sports Golf pundits made our Major predictions in January, I had Rory McIlroy pegged as the winner of The PGA Championship – and I’m feeling even more confident in that pick now!
Rory will turn up at Valhalla’s first tee on Thursday with a ton of form behind him after his wins at the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he is definitely the man to beat.
Sky Bet have him as a 9/2 and it’s easy to see why.
McIlroy, who is back as World No 1, is driving the ball beautifully and not resting on his laurels at all.
He didn’t over-celebrate his victory at Hoylake by prancing around with the Claret Jug and filling it with beer – at least not after the Sunday – and is ticking off his successes and moving on to his next targets.
I thought there might have been a little lull for Rory at the Bridgestone after his Open exploits, but that didn’t happen in the slightest as he overhauled Sergio Garcia to win at Firestone and he is deadly serious about collecting titles.
McIlroy’s powers of concentration have been impeccable over recent months, as he showed when he won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth from seven shots back in the same week he separated from Caroline Wozniacki.
He seems a lot more comfortable with all that accompanies being a top-level sportsman than when he first reached World No 1 in 2012.
He is no longer the heir apparent to Tiger Woods but the new king.
Valhalla has received a few tweaks and there are few demanding par fours but when you boom the ball like Rory does you have the luxury of using three or four clubs fewer than a lot of the field.
If he stays on the centre of the fairways, he is going to be very difficult to beat but here are some men that may be able to challenge him…
World Ranking: 3
Best PGA result: 2nd (1999, 2008)
Last year’s finish: 61st
Sky Bet odds: 18/1
ROB SAYS: Rory played some amazing golf at the Bridgestone but Sergio, who led the event by three heading into the final round, did not take care of his end of the bargain, so he will be kicking himself slightly. However, Garcia is contending near enough every week on the course which suggests there is very little wrong with his game. He shot 66 in the final round of the Open to put Rory under pressure and has been knocking out regular top-three spots in the States this season, including a third place at The Players Championship and a second at the Travelers this summer. He is playing just about as well as anybody, so why can’t it be Sergio’s week in Valhalla?
World Ranking: 18
Best PGA result: 19th (2013)
Last year’s finish: Same as above
Sky Bet odds: 20/1
ROB SAYS: Rickie’s first Major title looks imminent after his stunning performances in this year’s big events, including second places at the Open and US Open and a fifth at The Masters. His consistency is amazing, as is how quickly he has adapted to his swing change, and with a small amount of fine tuning he will get even better. You also get the sense that Rickie relishes the big occasion, something that cannot be said of all players. He embraced his shootout with Rory in the final round at Hoylake and it bodes well when you are not fazed by those sorts of scenarios. He will win a Major - sooner rather than later.
World Ranking: 34
Best PGA result: 3rd (2009)
Last year’s finish: 33rd
Sky Bet odds: 50/1
ROB SAYS: Lee missed the cut at The Open after going out in some very windy stuff on the Friday but he looked very tasty on the practice range that week and after a so-so three rounds at the Bridgestone, he was on fire fourth time around, carding an excellent 63. It sometimes doesn’t take players as good as Westwood much to get going and that score at Firestone could be the fillip he needed to finally break his Major duck. I would just like Lee to relax in these tournaments a bit more and treat them like regular events, because when it comes to regular events he tends to do superbly. He should do whatever he does every other week of the season in the week of a Major.
World Ranking: 49
Best PGA result: 61st (2013)
Last year’s finish: Same as above
Sky Bet odds: 100/1
ROB SAYS: Harris has gone off the boil a little bit but he plays lots of tournaments and tends to perform okay in most of them. He made 22 of 27 cuts in his debut season on the PGA Tour in 2012 and in 2013 he won the FedEx St Jude Classic and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. People have forgotten about English a little bit what with Jordan Spieth’s rise to prominence, but Harris, who is only 25, is a seriously good player. He also has a Ryder Cup spot to aim four – he is currently hovering around the mid-teens in the standings – so it is kick-on time for him if he wants to get amongst the nine automatic qualifiers. That could focus his mind and lead to a productive week.