PGA CHAMPIONSHIP ’21: A capsule look at 10 top contenders

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FILE – Rory McIlroy, top, watches his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament in Charlotte, N.C., in a Thursday, May 6, 2021, file photo. Dustin Johnson, bottom, watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during the final round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament, in Palm Harbor, Fla., in a Sunday, May 2, 2021, file photo. The PGA Championship is scheduled for May 20-23, 2021, at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. (AP Photo/File)

A capsule look at 10 top contenders for the 103rd PGA Championship, to be played May 20-23 on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina (listed in predicted order of finish):

JORDAN SPIETH

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 28.

Worldwide victories: 15.

Majors: Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015), British Open (2017).

PGA Championship history: Eight appearances, two top 10s, best finish runner-up in 2015.

PGA Championship moment: With a chance to become the first player to win the “American slam,” finished second to Jason Day at Whistling Straits in 2015.

Backspin: Has six top 10s in his last eight tournaments, including a victory at the Texas Open to end a three-year drought. He’s so confident in his progress he took a month off after a tie for third in the Masters. Needs this major to complete the career Grand Slam. This might be his shot to date.

RORY MCILROY

Age: 32.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide victories: 27.

Majors: PGA Championship (2012, 2014), U.S. Open (2011), British Open (2014).

PGA Championship history: 12 appearances, two victories, 33 of 43 rounds at par or better.

PGA Championship moment: Winning at Kiawah Island in 2012 to set the PGA Championship record with an eight-shot margin.

Backspin: He goes back to Kiawah Island with loads of momentum and certainly more confidence from ending 18 months without a victory at Quail Hollow. The driver wasn’t at its best at Quail Hollow, and that will need to improve. He has gone nearly seven years without winning a major.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide victories: 25.

Majors: Masters (2020), U.S. Open (2016).

PGA Championship history: 11 appearances, two runner-up finishes, six top 10s.

PGA Championship moment: Grounding his club in the sand of Whistling Straits and learning later it was a bunker, costing him a two-shot penalty that knocked him out of the playoff in 2010 between Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Backspin: His form was a concern, and now it’s his health. After a pedestrian final round cost him a chance to win at Riviera, he has failed to finish in the top 10 in his last six tournaments. And then he withdrew from the Byron Nelson because of discomfort in his left knee. He has been PGA runner-up the last two years.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

Age: 29.

Country: Japan.

World ranking: 15.

Worldwide victories: 15.

Majors: Masters (2021).

PGA Championship history: Eight appearance, two top 10s, best finish a tie for fourth in 2016 at Baltusrol.

PGA Championship moment: Having a chance over final three holes at Quail Hollow in 2017 until missing a short par putt on the 16th, in tears when it was over.

Backspin: Japan’s first Masters champion headed straight home for two weeks of quarantine before being feted. He was playing in Dallas ahead of trying to become only the fourth player to win the first two majors of the year since 1960.

XANDER SCHAUFFELE

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide victories: 4.

Majors: None.

PGA Championship history: Four appearances, one top 10.

PGA Championship moment: Opening with a 66 for his lowest score in 14 rounds at the PGA.

Backspin: For someone with no majors and only four PGA Tour victories, he sure seems to keep showing up on the big stages. His tie for third in the Masters was the eighth time in 15 majors that he has finished among the top 10.

JUSTIN THOMAS

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide victories: 14.

Majors: PGA Championship (2017).

PGA Championship history: Five appearances, one victory, one reasonable job with a title defense.

PGA Championship moment: Winning at Quail Hollow and celebrating his father, Mike, a longtime club professional.

Backspin: Thomas got through his first rough patch off the course by winning The Players Championship. He is hitting the ball well enough to be one of the leading contenders. But his putter has been cold since Sawgrass. He needs to start seeing some putts go in when they matter.

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 4.

Worldwide victories: 9.

Majors: U.S. Open (2020).

PGA Championship history: Four appearances, one top 10, two missed cuts.

PGA Championship moment: Contended for the first time in a major last year in the PGA at Harding Park and tied for fourth. In his next major, he won the U.S. Open.

Backspin: He already has one victory this year on a tough course at Bay Hill. He also flopped at the Masters. He’s never too far off because he thought he missed the cut at Quail Hollow, flew home to Dallas, flew back and wound up in a tie for 11th. Length is an asset at Kiawah, but so is accuracy.

JON RAHM

Age: 26.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide victories: 11.

Majors: None.

PGA Championship history: Four appearances, one top 10.

PGA Championship moment: Shooting 68 or better all four rounds at Bellerive in 2018 and being in contention in the final hour until tying for fourth.

Backspin: He had his first child, a boy, tied for fifth at the Masters, took three weeks off and returned to miss the cut for the first time in nearly a year. He is the best without a major in the under-30 division. Give him a little fire, like missing a cut, and he could be dangerous.

COLLIN MORIKAWA

Age: 24.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide victories: 4.

Majors: PGA Championship (2020).

PGA Championship history: One appearance, one victory, one incredible tee shot.

PGA Championship moment: In his PGA debut, he hit driver to 7 feet for eagle on the 16th hole at Harding Park that carried him to victory.

Backspin: Morikawa is so young that he hasn’t won before a big crowd yet, and he has four victories. One was an opposite-field event at a Nevada resort. The others were at Muirfield Village, Harding Park and Concession in Florida, all hard courses or set up that way. Tough conditions are a good fit for him.

TONY FINAU

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 14.

Worldwide victories: 1.

Majors: None.

PGA Championship history: Six appearances, two top 10s.

PGA Championship moment: Playing with Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk in 2018, made eight birdies in 11 holes in the second round to make the cut and leave an impression. He was added as a captain’s pick a month later.

Backspin: Finau had three consecutive runner-up finishes at the start of the year, notable because all anyone wants to know is why he can’t win. He’s still a huge presence at the majors and is capable of breaking through no matter what the tournament.

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