St. Louis, US: It is a fairly momentous PGA Championships. The fourth and last Major of the year, which will now move up to May next year, sees its 100th edition being celebrated this week.
From an Indian viewpoint, it has a lot of significance, as Anirban Lahiri returns to the Major, which gave him his best finish of T-5 at Whistling Straits back in 2015 and this time he becomes the first Indian to play 15 Majors, surpassing Jeev Milkha Singh’s old record of 14.
Lahiri’s younger colleague, Shubhankar Sharma, who has been the star of 2018, will also be in the field and becomes the youngest Indian and the third overall to have played all four Majors in a single year after Jeev (in 2007) and Lahiri (in 2015 and 2016).
Meanwhile, globally all eyes will be on Tiger Woods after his splendid Tied-6th at the Open Championships in Carnoustie last month. Never has he looked closer to a 15th Major in last 10 years as he is looking now.
He actually had sole lead on the 10th hole on the final day at Carnoustie. Now, the question is can he pull off the 15th Major, 10 years after he won his 14th.
Also of interest will be how his body takes the pressure and tiredness of a series of events he is due to play from here.
As for Lahiri he is slowly but steadily good form again and the latest T-6 at WGC-Bridgestone was a proof of that. Lahiri is also up to 82nd on FedExCup rankings and he could improve that this week.
It has now put him back in Top-100 of world rankings, and only four places behind Shubhankar Sharma, who has played the first three Majors, but made the cut in only one - the Open, where he was T-51.
He was T-9 at his first WGC, but has since been languishing lower down at both WGC Matchplay as also WGC-Bridgestone.
On Thursday, Sharma plays with Scott Piercy and Jordan Smith and will start at 10th tee in the morning wave, while Lahiri plays the first round in the afternoon alongside Brian Smock and Mike Lorenzo Vera.
Tiger Woods goes out with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy from tenth tee at 8.23 am. Jordan Spieth will play with Jon Rahm and Justin Rose from first at 1.37 pm.
The PGA is sometimes seen as the lowest in the order of priorities in the Major set up, but still, a major is a major and a PGA title counts just the same as a Masters or a U.S. or British Open in a player’s career major championship total.
Of late a comparison has emerged between Justin Thomas and his friend Jordan Spieth and it seems the former is pulling away. In the last 20 months, Thomas has seven wins, 1 major, 1 World Golf Championship, 16 top 10s and eight missed cuts, while Spieth has three wins, one major, no World Golf Championship, 17 top 10s and eight missed cuts
In the 2017-18 season, Thomas has three wins, one WGC, seven top 10’s and 2 missed cuts, while Spieth no wins, no WGC titles, five top 10s and five missed cuts.
But in Majors, Spieth has the edge. Spieth has three majors, Thomas has one; Spieth has nine Top-10s in majors, Thomas has two.
There is another comparison which comes into focus and that is between Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. Rory has 14 Tour wins and four majors, while Dustin has 19 wins but only major and Jason Day has 12 wins, but just a lone Major (the PGA Championship).