Aussies Abroad: US PGA Championship preview


It is the Major championship that has crowned a greater number of Australians than any other.

Known throughout history as ‘Glory’s Last Shot’, the US PGA Championship made the move to May last year yet just 12 months later in a year where nothing is normal it returns to its former August date.

With a rescheduled Masters and cancelled Open Championship the Wanamaker Trophy is the first Major trophy to go on the line in 2020 and there are six Aussies willing to step forward and claim what may well be golf’s largest piece of silverware.

One of those, Jason Day, is seeking a second PGA Championship title five years after his triumph at Whistling Straits but is playing his first without coach Colin Swatton by his side.

The pair made the decision to part ways a month ago and Day has since rattled off three consecutive top-10 finishes, the most recent a tie for sixth at last week’s WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis.

Although his troublesome back continues to be an issue requiring ongoing management, Day has been buoyed by a sharper short game in his past three starts.

“I’m very pleased with my short game,” Day said following a second round 67, drawn to play with fellow PGA champions Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner the first two rounds.

“My short game’s helped me a lot over the last three weeks and that’s usually the strength of my game, which has been nice. It’s nice to be able to see it finally come back.

“Overall, I feel like the game is there. I’m looking forward to getting into the PGA.

“There’s going to be a little bit more pressure and intensity next week, I understand that, but I think a lot of the guys kind of understand what needs to be done.”

Another Australian who knows exactly what needs to be done to win a Major championship is Adam Scott.

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18th hole.

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After an extended stay at home on the Sunshine Coast during the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott made his way back to the US yet chose to skip the WGC event in Memphis in favour of an early look at TPC Harding Park.

It’s a course with which Scott is the most familiar of the Australians playing this week having played the WGC-American Express Championship in 2005, the 2009 Presidents Cup and the WGC-Cadillac Match Play in 2015 at the venue.

The 2015 Cadillac Match Play was Marc Leishman’s first look at the layout and the Victorian took to it immediately.

He won all three of his first round matches before falling to American Gary Woodland 2&1 in the Round of 16. Five years later he is excited to be heading back to San Francisco.

“I remember I played well,” Leishman recalled. “I love the golf course. I was really excited about that moment this year, and I still am.

“I felt like that the PGA, the British Open and the Masters were three really good opportunities to win majors. It’s now the PGA and the Masters.

“I’m excited to go back there, hopefully play well and leave with a trophy.”

Matt Jones was denied from progressing to the Round of 16 at Harding Park five years ago due to a 20th hole defeat at the hands of South African Charl Schwartzel and has shown an ability to excel in the big moments.

A two-time Australian Open champion, Jones was at the top of the leaderboard midway through the third round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and is also returning to a venue where he feels comfortable.

“The course suits him. He likes the golf course, which is good. There are certain courses that fit players’ eyes so it suits his game,” says Jones’s coach, Gary Barter.

“He played pretty well there in the Match Play. Dustin Johnson knocked him off 2&1, Schwartzel beat him on the 20th hole and he beat Victor Dubuisson. If he’d beaten Schwartzel in extra holes he would have gotten through to the next round.

“He led the PGA at Whistling Straits after about 43 holes so he’s definitely got some good stuff to draw upon but he’s got to get in contention more than that one time to feel even more comfortable.”

Like Jones, Cameron Smith’s best performance in a PGA Championship came at Whistling Straits and is one of four Aussies in the field this week with a win already to their names in 2020.

Another is Lucas Herbert, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion who made his first start in five months at last week’s FedEx St Jude Invitational.

He closed out that tournament with rounds of 69-67 to build confidence heading into this week and his fourth appearance in a Major championship.

Adam Scott
Round 1 tee time (AEST): 6.47am Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler
Round 2 tee time: 1.22am
World ranking: 9
Last start: MC, Arnold Palmer Invitational
Best finish in 2020: 1st, Genesis Invitational
Best finish in PGA Championship: 3rd, Bellerive Country Club, 2018
Previous PGA Championships: 19
Past appearances at Harding Park: 2005 WGC-American Express Championship (T29); 2009 Presidents Cup (1-4-0); 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play (0-3).

Marc Leishman
Round 1 tee time: 7.20am Matt Kuchar, Matt Wallace
Round 2 tee time: 1.55am
World ranking: 19
Last start: T52, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
Best finish in 2020: 1st, Farmers Insurance Open
Best finish in PGA Championship: T12, Oak Hill Country Club, 2013
Previous PGA Championships: 9
Past appearances at Harding Park: 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play (3-1, lost 2&1 to Gary Woodland in Round of 16)

Jason Day
Round 1 tee time: 12.38am Martin Kaymer, Jason Dufner
Round 2 tee time: 6.03am
World ranking: 42
Last start: T6 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
Best finish in 2020: 4th, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Best finish in PGA Championship: Won, Whistling Straits, 2015
Previous PGA Championships: 10
Past appearances at Harding Park: 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play (0-3)

Cameron Smith
Round 1 tee time: 6.53am Cameron Champ, Denny McCarthy
Round 2 tee time: 1.28am
World ranking: 51
Last start: T59, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
Best finish in 2020: 1st, Sony Open
Best finish in PGA Championship: T25, Whistling Straits, 2015
Previous PGA Championships: 4
Past appearances at Harding Park: Nil

Lucas Herbert
Round 1 tee time: 7.26am Judd Gibb, Mark Hubbard
Round 2 tee time: 2.01am
World ranking: 72
Last start: T49, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
Best finish in 2020: 1st, Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Best finish in PGA Championship: T71, Bethpage State Park, 2019
Previous PGA Championships: 1
Past appearances at Harding Park: Nil

Matt Jones
Round 1 tee time: 6.31am Kevin Streelman, Jazz Janewattananond
Round 2 tee time: 1.06am
World ranking: 88
Last start: T59, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational
Best finish in 2020: T5, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Best finish in PGA Championship: T21, Whistling Straits, 2015
Previous PGA Championships: 5
Past appearances at Harding Park: 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play (1-2)

Defending PGA champion: Brooks Koepka
Past Australian winners: Jim Ferrier (1947), David Graham (1979), Wayne Grady (1990), Steve Elkington (1995), Jason Day (2015)
TV schedule: Live 6am-12pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Live 5am-11am Monday on Fox Sports 503.
Top Aussie prediction: Jason Day


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