Here are the five things you need to know ahead of the US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, the first Major Championship of 2020.
The first Major of 2020
The 2020 US PGA Championship will mark a welcomed return to Major Championship golf, which hasn’t been played since Shane Lowry captured his memorable victory at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July 2019.
With a restructured season caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the US PGA Championship at Harding Park will be the first of three Majors played this year. The U.S. Open will follow at Winged Foot from September 17-20, with the Masters Tournament being played at Augusta National from November 12-15. The Open Championship will make its return in 2021.
TPC Harding Park hosts
Harding Park may be making its debut as a Major Championship venue, but it is no stranger to the big stage, having already hosted two World Golf Championships in 2005 and 2015, in addition to the 2009 Presidents Cup.
The course, a 7,234-yard par 70, was first opened 95 years ago, and was increased by 400 yards during a substantial renovation in the early 21st century to turn it into a championship venue.
Describing the course, 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett said it would have a familiar feel for European Tour players.
He said: “For the lads coming from Europe it’s a very similar kind of style, really old, tree-lined; the grasses are going to be bent and rye that we’re used to.”
Koepka defends as he searches for three-peat
Brooks Koepka has lifted the Wanamker Trophy in both 2018 and 2019, and will be looking to add a third consecutive US PGA Championship title when he tees up in San Francisco this week. If he were to complete the rarely achieved ‘three-peat’, Koepka would become the first player to do so since Peter Thompson, who accomplished the feat at The Open Championship from 1954-1956.
He heads to the first Major of the year following a runner up finish to Justin Thomas at last week’s WGC - FedEx St Jude Invitational, and boasts an impressive recent record in Major Championships.
Koepka has finished inside the top five in his last five Major outings, and is a combined 70 under par in Majors since 2017 – which includes his two US PGA Championship victories and his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills.
The race for World Number One
Justin Thomas recaptured the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory at the WGC - FedEx St Jude Invitational, but the points race remains a tightly-run contest.
Four players have the chance to usurp Thomas’ position, including Spain’s Jon Rahm, who became World Number One for the first time after his win at the Memorial Tournament last month.
To reclaim that position, Rahm will need to finish in a two-way tie for 23rd (or better) to have a chance, while four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy would need to at least end the week in a three-way tie for third.
The other two players who could ascend to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking are Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson, who would both need a victory at TPC Harding Park to have a chance.
Inside the field
Tiger Woods could make history this week with a 16th Major triumph. At 44 years old, he could also become the oldest US PGA Championship winner since Lee Trevino and could eclipse Sam Snead’s record with 83 PGA Tour wins. Although he has played just once since the season restarted, Woods has an enviable record at Harding Park, having won the World Golf Championships in 2005, and he went 5-0-0 during the 2009 Presidents Cup.
Another player with history at this course, and vying to win his first Major in six years, is Rory McIlroy, who beat Gary Woodland in the final of the WGC - Match Play in 2015. The two time US PGA Championship winner finished tied eighth in this contest last year.
Other European Tour players to watch out for include Erik van Rooyen, who was tied eighth with McIlroy and Shane Lowry in his first US PGA Championship last year, and Matt Wallace, who was tied for 19th in 2018 and tied for third last year.
Elsewhere, European Tour players Robert MacIntyre, Marcus Kinhult and Victor Perez are among those teeing it up in their first US PGA Championship this week.