US PGA: Talking points ahead of the final golf major of 2018

Spectators at Bellerive Country Club during the 2013 Senior PGA
Spectators at Bellerive Country Club during the 2013 Senior PGA

Justin Thomas will defend his US PGA Championship title at Bellerive Country Club next week as the year's final major takes place from August 9-12. Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Can Jordan Spieth complete career grand slam?

Spieth's victory in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 2017 means he needs to win the US PGA to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in achieving a career grand slam. His first attempt last year ended in a tie for 28th and the 25-year-old comes into the week on the back of a disappointing ninth place in the Open, where he held a share of the 54-hole lead but struggled to a closing, birdie-free 76.

What next for Tiger Woods?

Woods finished a shot ahead of Spieth at Carnoustie but will also have been disappointed not convert a one-shot lead with eight holes remaining into a 15th major title. It is not the first time this season Woods has stumbled when in contention and doubts therefore remain about his ability to close out tournaments in the same way he used to, but the front nine of his final round at Carnoustie was vintage Woods and another chapter in his remarkable recovery from spinal fusion surgery.

Will another big name triumph?

Francesco Molinari's victory in the Open means the last 27 majors have all been won by players ranked inside the world's top 50, with only Ernie Els (2012 Open) and Jimmy Walker (2016 US PGA) outside the top 30 at the time of their win. The US PGA has produced its fair share of unlikely winners in the shape of Shaun Micheel (169th), YE Yang (110th) and Keegan Bradley (108th), but the odds appear increasingly stacked against another shock winner.

Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari

Who will secure a Ryder Cup berth?

The US PGA is the final qualifying event for the United States Ryder Cup team, with the top eight in the standings on Sunday evening securing a place on the team to defend the trophy at Le Golf National in September. Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed have already done enough to qualify, with Thomas, Bubba Watson and Spieth also looking secure. US captain Jim Furyk will announce three of his wild cards after the Dell Technologies Championship and a final selection after the BMW Championship on September 9.

Can Europe make it two in a row?

Before Molinari's win at Carnoustie all four major titles were held by American players, with the United States also in possession of all the transatlantic team competitions. There were also 10 Americans in the top 16 at the Open, but Molinari was chased home by Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, while Eddie Pepperell, Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen were also in contention. Americans have won the US PGA three times in the last six years, although McIlroy took the title in 2012 and 2014.

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