Shane Lowry deservedly won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday. The Irishman, having his best season on tour, has gained himself a 3-year PGA Tour exemption as a result of his life changing victory. His two shot winning margin over Bubba Watson was secured with the help of two miraculous shots on the back nine at Firestone Country Club.
Lowry won the 3 Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. This victory takes him up to number 4 in the Race to Dubai, eclipsing last season’s success by over four-hundred thousand Euros with still three months of the season remaining.
Lowry now heads to Whistling Straits for the final major of the year – the 97th PGA Championship. Rory McIlroy practiced at the Michigan layout on Saturday ending speculation he may return to competitive action this week following a month injury layoff. It is still unclear what we can expect from the world number one and it is unclear what his future schedule will be following the PGA. The defending champion, Rory McIlory, is set to play alongside 2015 major champions Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson on Thursday and Friday.
However Spieth remains well clear at the top of the U.S Money List and FedEx Cup Rankings and he is almost certainly going to be the Player of the Year. The hope and expectation will be that come Sunday Spieth and McIlroy will be duelling down the stretch looking to solidify their name in history.
I suspect McIlory will be happy to make the cut and perhaps if the wind blows it will give him a chance to make a weekend charge. He won’t be the only one hoping for a higher scoring week’s golf – the old guard of Woods and Mickelson will need tricky weather conditions to have any chance of taking the year’s final major trophy home.
Who Will Win?
The PGA has a habit of throwing up surprise winners. However it is arguably the year’s strongest field – with the world’s top 100 invited. The other three majors only invite the top 50.
Dustin Johnson –
Has been in good form all season since returning from 6-month suspension. However the same failings remain – he simply cannot get over the line in major championships. It was clear to witness after a strong first 36-holes at The Open Championship only for a disappointing second 36-holes. And it was more evident at the U.S. Open in June where he three putted the final green to hand the championship to Jordan Spieth. The last time the PGA was held at Whistling Straits Johnson thought he had won on the last green only to be given a two shot penalty moments later which saw him miss out on a playoff by one shot.
Jordan Spieth –
A clear favourite and in the form of his life. Having won 4 times this season including two major championships he can complete the American major slam this week (if there is such a thing). A victory would place him alongside Tiger Woods as a three time major winner in the same season. His length off the tee may count against him but there is no doubting his putting is the strength of his game.
Bubba Watson –
The big hitting American is also in good form this season however he has had rather unspectacular results in the majors despite the venues being, on paper, to his suiting. His second place finish at Firestone will have given him confidence to add a third major to his trophy cabinet. His driving was sensational at Firestone and will count this week at the 7,500 yard long course. Last time the PGA was held at Whistling Straits Watson lost in a playoff to Martin Kaymer.
Jason Day –
Following yet another close finish at The Open Championship Jason Day has built a reputation as a man for the big occasion. However like many of his compatriots he hasn’t managed to pull himself across the line. I doubt he will go down as another ‘best player not to win a major’ but the Australian needs to capitalise on yet another strong season.
Adam Scott –
The Australian has lead another eventful season. Famous for using the broom handled putter – he will have to revert to the standard putter when the rules change in 2016. He also parted with caddie Steve Williams at the end of 2014 only for him to return after an unsatisfactory start to this season. This is expected to be the last event of their reunion and Scott is showing signs of playing to the level that helped him attain the number one spot in the rankings in 2013. He suffered another Open Championship collapse after reaching the summit of the leaderboard at St. Andrews with 6 holes to play.
Why No Europeans?
In 2014 European players lifted three of the four majors. This season American dominance has returned. I don’t doubt the ability of McIlroy, Stenson, Garcia, Kaymer, Rose and Lowry this week. I just don’t believe they can overcome the issues holding them back:
Rory McIlroy –
Henrik Stenson – Mr consistency but his putting has been weaker this season causing him to drop out of contention at the business end of most events.
Sergio Garcia –
Martin Kaymer – U.S. Open and PGA Champion (at Whistling Straits) but again he is struggling for a run of consistent form.
Justin Rose –
Shane Lowry – Confidence high coming off WGC win at Firestone but I suspect winning this week is just a step too far for now.
Louis Oosthuizen –
Hideki Matsuyama – An ever present on a major championship leaderboard. He is under a lot of pressure from the mass ranks of Japanese media following his every move.
Patrick Reed – Suffering from a loss of form but always a man for the big occasion.
Robert Streb – Having a terrific season on the PGA Tour having won over $3million.
David Lingmerth – Won the prestigious Memorial event on the PGA tour. He equalled the front nine record at the Open Championship on Thursday morning.