Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

This year’s second major is upon us with players teeing it up at the PGA Championship at Oklahoma’s Southern Hills from Thursday night (AEST).

Australia is well-represented at the tournament with eight players from the nation looking to clinch the Wanamaker Trophy.

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The last Australian to win the PGA Championship was Jason Day in 2015, following on from Steve Elkington (1995), Wayne Grady (1990), David Graham (1979) and Jim Ferrier (1947).

Here we give our verdict on every Australian competing at this year’s PGA Championship.

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CAMERON SMITH

World ranking: 4

FedEx Cup ranking: 3

Best PGA Championship finish: T25 (2015)

Cameron Smith is eyeing a return to form.
Cameron Smith is eyeing a return to form.Source: Getty Images

Cameron Smith has laid fairly low since his Masters challenge faded out on the back nine on Sunday, playing just two events since. He missed the cut at the RBC Heritage before finishing T21 in a team event with Marc Leishman. As such, it’s easy to think that perhaps the wind has been knocked out of the world No.4’s sails to an extent. But despite going quiet, and the fact that the PGA Championship has historically been Smith’s toughest major, there’s plenty reason to still be excited about his chances.

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The Southern Hills layout has been opened up off the tee to become more of a second-shot course, while the bunkering and heavily contoured greens are akin to the Australian sandbelt. Given his biggest troubles have been off the tee, the removal of trees to open the course up is a boost, while Smith will feel right at home around the green complexes. Furthermore, he’s been at work with his swing and his psychologist since the Masters, and feels in a great space.

“I also did quite a bit of work on the driver last week, so that’s starting to feel really nice as well,” he told Australian Golf Digest. “The whole swing is feeling sharp.

“It’s a great golf course, I’ve only played nine but typically these firm, fast and difficult courses suit a lot of the Aussies.”

Verdict: Will be in the mix and finish top-10.

ADAM SCOTT

World ranking: 39

FedEx Cup ranking: 67

Best PGA Championship finish: 3 (2018)

Adam Scott has the game to be a force but has not been challenged for some time.Source: Getty Images

A glorious ball-striker who finds plenty of distance off the tee, Adam Scott certainly has the game to run deep at the PGA Championship. Similar to Smith, his driver accuracy has been lacking of late, but more space should set him up to go flag hunting more often. The putter has often proved to be Scott’s Achilles’ heel, but he’s been relatively sound with the flat stick this season, ranked 21st in the field in putting. Piecing it all together for four days will be the big challenge for Scott, who started the final round in 2018 just two shots off the lead, and eventually settled for third behind Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka. He’s been outside of the top 25 in four-straight stroke play events, including missing the cut at the Players Championship and finishing T48 at the Masters. Scott did show some positive signs last week at the Byron Nelson, however, firing four rounds under-par, including seven-under on Sunday.

Verdict: Will lurk behind the frontrunners and finish top 25.

LUCAS HERBERT

World ranking: 46

FedEx Cup ranking: 38

Best PGA Championship finish: T71 (2021)

Lucas Herbert struggled at the Masters.Source: Getty Images

The 26-year-old has been hot-and-cold this season, claiming a win in Bermuda and two other top-ten finishes – but he has missed the cut seven times in 12 events. It’s hard to get a proper gauge on where Herbert’s game lies at the moment, but he struggled badly at the Masters where he shot six-over in the first two rounds and missed the cut. He’s only played in the Zurich Classic team event since, in which he also missed the cut alongside India’s Arjun Atwal. Worryingly, he’s ranked close to dead last in greens in regulation percentage at just 58.53 this season. On the plus side, Herbert says the layout makes him feel at home, and should suit his game a little more.

“The way greens blend into the next tee, almost like there are no defined tees, reminds me a lot of Peninsula (Kingswood),” he told Golf Digest.

“It’s a great golf course; playing well here is a lot about angles into greens and it’s a great tactical challenge as much as a skills challenge. ”

Verdict: CUT

MARC LEISHMAN

World ranking: 48

FedEx Cup ranking: 43

Best PGA Championship finish: T12 (2013)

Marc Leishman has had a tough run at the PGA Championship.Source: Getty Images

The PGA Championship has not been a happy hunting ground for Leishman, who has missed the cut three years in a row and finished T71 in 2018. And he has not been in form either with his best finish of 2022 – a tie for 10th at Sentry Tournament of Champions – coming all the way back in early January. More recently, he was T51 at the Byron Nelson, missed the cut at the Wells Fargo and came T30 at the Masters. He has, however, putted the ball well (ranked 20th) and hit 69.33 per cent of greens (ranked 29th) despite only hitting 57.59 per cent of fairways. He should lift above his current form line on this layout but it would be a massive jump to see him contend.

Verdict: Will make the cut but struggle to finish in the top 35.

MIN WOO LEE

World ranking: 54

FedEx Cup ranking: N / A

Best PGA Championship finish: On debut

Min Woo Lee seems to elevate on the big stage.Source: Getty Images

It’s early days but there’s a feeling that Min Woo Lee could be a big-game player. He made the cut in his first ever Masters and went on to equal the lowest-ever front nine score with a six-under-par 30 on Sunday. It brought him up to outright fourth at the time although he could not sustain the challenge. He still finished a strong T14. In 2021, he won the Scottish Open in a playoff, beating a field that included former No.1s Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, and current No.1 Scottie Scheffler. The 23-year-old just seems to elevate on the big stage. Fast and firm conditions will also play into his hands – so watch this space.

Verdict: Will make the cut and finish top 25.

MATT JONES

World ranking: 74

FedEx Cup ranking: 42

Best PGA Championship finish: T21 (2015)

Matt Jones flies under the radar heading into this week again.Source: Getty Images

Australia’s quiet achiever once again flies under the radar heading into the PGA Championship. It’s been an up-and-down season so far for the 42-year-old who has missed eight cuts, made nine, and has to two top-three finishes. Jones has never gone close at the PGA Championship, and the signs suggest he probably won’t this time either. He’s struggling in most key areas compared to the rest of the field; ranked 179th in driver accuracy, 120th in greens in regulation, and 177th with the flat stick. Nonetheless, he’s an experienced operator who has a tendency to pop up when you least expect him.

Verdict: CUT

CAMERON DAVIS

World ranking: 89

FedEx Cup ranking: 118

Best PGA Championship finish: T59 (2021)

Cameron Davis finally got it going at the RBC Heritage.Source: Getty Images

Davis struggled to get himself into contention at any event this season until recently, when he tied for third at the RBC Heritage. He shot a brilliant eight-under in the final round to miss a three-way playoff by just one. The towering Sydneysider will hope that gets something for him in what has otherwise been a quiet season. Like Jones, he has not excelled over the field in any key areas in 2021-22 and is in need of a spark.

Verdict: CUT

JASON DAY

World ranking: 124

FedEx Cup ranking: 103

Best PGA finish: Winner (2015)

Jason Day is slowly climbing again.Source: Getty Images

It still feels strange to have Jason Day as the lowest-ranked Aussie in the field. Stranger still when you consider that he might even be Australia’s best chance at the major. Of course, like any predictions regarding the 2015 PGA Championship winner, caution must be exercised. His situation is a delicate won – a battle against both mind and body. But the light has well and truly emerged at the end of the tunnel for Day, who is the most comfortable he’s ever been with his rebuilt swing. He confesses to thinking about it morning, noon and night, and now, the results are starting to show. It’s hard to ignore the upwards trend in his game this year. He tied for third at the Farmer Insurance Open, was top 15 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, while he was a 36-hole leader by four shots at the Wells Fargo before bad conditions, and returning vertigo symptoms, crueled his third round. The PGA Championship shapes as the only major he’ll play this year having earnt an exemption by virtue of being a past champion. It’s also his best major having claimed four top-10 finishes in the past seven tournaments. There’s plenty of good feeling around Day starting to return. Former touring pro and analyst Paul Gow believes the $ 61 shot will be the top Aussie at Southern Hills.

“I think this golf course will suit him, he’s a putting machine when he gets the putter going, Gow said on Big Sports Breakfast.

“Last week I thought (his swing) was a lot better. He’s not going as hard, and he’s controlling the ball a lot better which means he can control his spin into the greens. So I think he will come out on top of the Aussies. ”

Verdict: Will be in the mix and finish top-10.

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