The PGA Championship is ‘home turf’ for the top professional golfers in the United States. Only ten players born outside the USA have won the tournament since 1958, and only three of these players have been European. Could 2016 see Europe produce only its fourth ever PGA Championship winner?
Here are five European golfers who could challenge the likes of Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth for the title at Baltusrol Golf Club in July.
© AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Considered by many to be one of the finest golfers never to have won a Major, 36-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia knows that his window for putting this reputation behind him is closing rapidly.
Garcia has had to endure four second place finishes in Major Championships in his career, and is one of only a handful of players to have achieved top ten finishes in every Major in one season. However, 2016 could be the year that Garcia puts two decades of disappointment behind himself.
Not only did he win the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas in May, but he’s also shown some form in the US Open and US Masters. Garcia spent the first two rounds of the US Masters in the top eight before dropping away, and achieved a fifth place finish in the US Open two months later. In July he produced another strong performance, achieving his second consecutive fifth place finish in a Major at the 2016 Open Championship.
Garcia has also achieved second place at the PGA Championship twice in his career, and we expect him to be in the mix over the final round of the 2016 edition of the tournament.
© AP Photo/Chuck Burton
While Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy may not be in the best form of his career, he’s still more than capable of becoming a title challenger in the 2016 edition of the tournament.
McIlroy claimed victory at the Irish Open in June, and has made a decent account of himself in the first three Majors of the year. This included a 10th place finish in the US Masters after challenging for the lead in the first two rounds. He then had a respectable tournament in the Open Championship, finishing tied for fifth place.
More importantly, the PGA Championship has been McIlroy’s happiest hunting ground. In seven appearances in the tournament he’s won the title twice, finished in the top three twice and finished in the top eight once.
© AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson has come within reach of the PGA Championship title on several occasions. His results at the tournament include three top three finishes, with the most recent of these achieved at the 2014 tournament.
Besides demonstrating an aptitude for the year’s final Major Championship, Stenson has also found some of the best form of his career this season. The Swede won the BMW International Open in Germany earlier this year, claiming his second title at that tournament. In July he went on to claim his first Major, beating Phil Mickelson to the 2016 Open Championship title with a superb final round 63.
With form, aptitude and attitude on his side, he’s definitely one to watch at the 2016 PGA Championship.
© AP Photo/Joshua Paul
Danny Willet is in the middle of the biggest season of his life, having emerged from nowhere to claim the US Masters title in April 2016.
That win was just the sixth of the Englishman’s career, and also marked the first time in his career that he’s won two tournaments in a single calendar year.
Expecting Willet to move on from this performance to pose a threat in the PGA Championship might seem like a tall order. However, Willet had a tendency to up his game in Major Championships, even before winning the Masters title this year.
Despite a modest record in the PGA Championship, he has a 6th and 15th place finish in the tough Open Championship to his credit. With some momentum and confidence, he’s got to be one of Europe’s best shots at taking another PGA Championship title.
© AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
Scotland’s Russell Knox is an obscure figure on the PGA Tour, but one who may nevertheless have a say on how the 2016 PGA Championship plays out.
Previously best known for losing playoffs in the Honda Classic and Mayakoba Classic, Knox produced the performance of a lifetime at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions tournament to claim his maiden career title in one of the world’s toughest golf touraments.
Since taking that win Knox has established some momentum on tour, and achieved his best-ever finish in a Major when he finished 23rd in the 2016 US Open.
Knox may be the definition of a long shot, but with the Majors becoming increasingly open and prone to upsets, he’s exactly the sort of player who could overturn the odds in the 2016 PGA Championship.
Which player will take it?
Unlike other major sports events, the Major Championships have a tendency to produce long odds winners. We believe each of the five European players discussed in this article have a reasonable chance of placing in, if not winning, the 2016 PGA Championship.
Based on all factors considered, Sergio Garcia would be our pick of the European players set to contest the year’s final major.
With some good form behind him, unquestionable talent and a big Major Championship shaped hole in his trophy cabinet, 2016 could be the year the Garcia finally delivers on the potential he has demonstrated over the decades.