Golf: Five players to watch at this week's PGA Championship

Jon Rahm during a practice round for the PGA Championshipat Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on May 17, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA (AFP) - The 103rd PGA Championship begins on Thursday (May 20) at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Here are five players to watch at the year's second Major golf tournament:

1. Jordan Spieth

Spieth can complete the career Grand Slam with a victory at the PGA Championship. The 27-year-old American won the 2015 Masters and US Open and the 2017 British Open but had not won since that third Major title until snapping a four-year win drought last month at the Texas Open.

His resurgence has been impressive, with seven top-10 showings in his past nine events, including a share of third at the Masters last month and ninth at the Byron Nelson last week.

His best PGA Championship finish was second in 2015.

2. Rory McIlroy

The 32-year-old from Northern Ireland won the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by a record eight strokes. Now seventh-ranked, the four-time Major winner seeks his first Major triumph since capturing the 2014 edition at Valhalla.

He has struggled to find his best form as well but won at Quail Hollow two weeks ago and recent training with Pete Cowen has helped overcome troubles that included trying to chase extra distance in the wake of Bryson DeChambeau's US Open victory last September.

3. Bryson DeChambeau

Fifth-ranked DeChambeau values distance above all else when blasting tee shots, so it would seem like the longest course in Major golf history at 7,876 yards would be a natural for him.

But while he figures his distance will make up for any poor location where his ball might land, Kiawah offers some particularly nasty landing areas in sandy waste areas and tall grass and fickle winds that change direction plus crosswinds that could send the reigning US Open champion's lofty long-distance shots way off target.

4. Jon Rahm

World No. 3 Rahm is still chasing his first Major title, but the 26-year-old Spaniard has played well since late October, finishing in the top-10 in nine of 11 events even though he did not manage a victory in that stretch. He shared fifth at the Masters and the WGC Match Play. He missed the cut two weeks ago at Quail Hollow and shared 34th last week at the Byron Nelson.

But it could be that Rahm is due, having last won at the BMW Championship last August.

5. Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland during a practice round for the PGA Championshipat Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on May 17, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

The 23-year-old Norwegian has jumped to 11th in the world rankings and has played well lately. He won his first two PGA Tour titles last year at Puerto Rico and Mayakoba in Mexico last December. Since then, he has been runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the WGC Workday Championship at The Concession. He also shared third earlier this month at the Valspar and Wells Fargo Championships.

In a week where accuracy in windy conditions will be vital, he might be ready to make a Major breakthrough.

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