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Preview: The 2023 US PGA Championship - predictions, course guide, preview

Sports Mole previews the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, including predictions and a course guide.

The world's finest golfers convene in New York this week, for the 105th US PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.

Justin Thomas enters the week as the reigning champion after a thrilling and dramatic finish to last year's event, which ended in a playoff victory for the American.


US PGA Championship preview

Justin Thomas poses with the Wanamaker trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club on May 22, 2022© Reuters

The 2022 US PGA Championship offered up arguably the most incredible finale to any tournament on the tour last year, with Thomas beating Will Zalatoris in a playoff, but that only tells half the story.

Mito Pereira led for much of the week, and he still held a one-shot lead heading into the 72nd hole, but a heart-shattering double bogey on the last meant his dreams of a first major win ended in devastating circumstances.

This year, all three are in much different form, and Zalatoris will not even be present as his season is over due to injury, while Thomas has been way below par and Pereira has defected to the LIV Tour.

Jon Rahm comes into the week as the previous major winner, claiming a landslide victory at the Masters last month, despite having to play through much of the awful weather conditions which overshadowed the tournament.

It was a poignant day for a Spanish winner, as it was the 40th anniversary of Seve Ballesteros's second Masters success back in 1983, as well as being what would have been the late man's 66th birthday, with Rahm paying tribute to his golfing hero after receiving his first Green Jacket.

Spain's Jon Rahm celebrates with his green jacket and the trophy after winning The Masters on April 9, 2023© Reuters

Rahm is joint-favourite at Oak Hill, along with the formidable Scottie Scheffler, who remains extremely consistent, finishing in the top-10 despite an underwhelming week at Augusta by his standards.

Last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Scheffler recorded another top-five finish, finishing just three strokes behind the winner Jason Day.

The victory for Day has been a long time coming, and it came as no surprise given his return to form this year.

Almost five years to the day since his last win on the PGA Tour, the Australian shot a wonderful 62 on Sunday to claim a 13th win on the tour, and the 2015 US PGA winner is highly tipped once again this week.

Jason Day at the AT&T Byron Nelson on May 14, 2023.© Reuters

Seven top-10's this season already places Day as one of the best performers on the tour, and he was in contention at Augusta, but his hopes fell flat after shooting his worst round of the year, as four double bogeys in five holes during the final round saw him plummet down the leaderboard.

It was another disappointing display from Rory McIlroy too, as he failed in his continued pursuit of the career grand slam by missing the cut at Augusta, shooting five-over-par in his first two rounds.

This major will once again pit players from the PGA Tour against those who defected to LIV, and the Masters represented a success for the breakaway tour, with Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson both finishing in a tie for second.

Koepka's performance was reminiscent of his form from the late 2010s when he dominated many major tournaments, but he fell short after leading for much of the week, with a capitulation on Sunday allowing Rahm to coast to victory.

LIV's format of playing just 54 holes may have been to Koepka's detriment, as it was in the final 18 holes where his week unravelled, but he has won this tournament twice in the past, going back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.

Brooks Koepka celebrates winning the US PGA Championship on May 19, 2019© Reuters

Mickelson also stunned many with his finish in second, remarkably coming from nowhere on Sunday to climb the leaderboard on a crazy day of scoring at Augusta.

Having shown no form at all on the LIV tour, the 52-year-old clearly still has what it takes to turn it on during the majors, especially having won this tournament as recently as 2021.

Among the rest of the LIV contingent, Dustin Johnson has been in good form, and he won in Tulsa last weekend ahead of the year's second major.

Talor Gooch was one of LIV's big scalps, with him being one of the PGA Tour's most promising youngsters, and he won back-to-back events at the end of April, so could also mount a challenge here.

In the three previous iterations of the US PGA Championship held here at Oak Hill, the course has served up quite the range of winners.

Jack Nicklaus won the 17th of his 18 majors here in 1980, before it went on to crown two one-time major winners.

Shaun Micheel shocked the world by claiming his only ever win on the PGA Tour in 401 starts in the 2003 US PGA while ranked 169th in the world, before Jason Dufner won the last time it was held in this part of New York back in 2013, but he has since missed five cuts in a row and not finished in the top-50 since his maiden victory.


Course guide

Volunteers walk behind the 1st tee during a practice round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club on May 15, 2023© Reuters

As well as hosting three US PGA Championships, Oak Hill has also hosted the US Open on three occasions, as well as the 1995 Ryder Cup, where Europe famously won on US soil for just the second time.

The course has been lengthened significantly since 2013, with the two par-fives both over 600 yards and the final two holes both being 500-yard par-fours, while the thick rough here is the type usually associated with the challenge of a US Open or that found at the most difficult Open Championship courses, so length as well as accuracy will be key.

After Dufner won with a course record in 2013, the designers have revealed the changes made have been to make it a more difficult challenge for the players, so scoring could drop back to single digits under par this week.

Holes 10 to 16 could be vital, with three short par-fours and one of the two par-fives on this stretch of holes, giving the best opportunities for birdies anywhere on the course.

Allen Creek represents danger on many holes as the natural hazard runs through much of the course, and the reimplementation of many of the old bunkers that were in play decades ago reasserts the importance of accuracy around here.


SM words green background

We say: Scottie Scheffler to win

Scottie Scheffler during the final round of the Masters on April 10, 2022.© Reuters

In yet another eagerly-anticipated major, being played at a course providing a challenge on par to the notoriously difficult US Open, the world's best will be put to the test this week.

Rahm and Scheffler are once again the men to beat, and it is hard to put an argument forward against one of those two winning here, but there will be plenty of competition.

Day's resurgence in 2023 makes him one of the most fancied out of the rest of the field, while McIlroy and Thomas need to rekindle the kind of form which has seen them both win this tournament on two previous occasions.

Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau are three of the tour's most well-known names now but are all still chasing a first major title, and this tournament has crowned many first-time major winners in recent years.

Koepka, Johnson, and Cameron Smith will lead the charge for those on the LIV Tour and can never be discounted given their undoubted ability.

However, our choice to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening is the relentless Scheffler, who can still grind out good finishes when playing way below his best.

If he turns it on here with his capability of hitting it long, finding fairways and getting on a hot streak on the greens, which he has done countless times before, it is hard to see past the world number two at Oak Hill.

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Spain's Jon Rahm celebrates with his green jacket and the trophy after winning The Masters on April 9, 2023
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