Rahm, McIlroy see discipline as vital at PGA Championship

·4-min read
Top-ranked reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, center, waits alongside caddie Adam Hayes during a practice round at Oak Hill for the 105th PGA Championship
Top-ranked reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, center, waits alongside caddie Adam Hayes during a practice round at Oak Hill for the 105th PGA Championship

Top-ranked Jon Rahm seeks his second consecutive major title, Rory McIlroy wants his first major victory since 2014 and Jordan Spieth just hopes to play when the PGA Championship tees off on Thursday.

A field of 156 players, 16 of them from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, chase the Wanamaker Trophy at Oak Hill, where discipline and patience will be as vital as any club.

"Discipline is going to be a huge factor this week," McIlroy said. "You've got to keep it out of those fairway bunkers.

"If someone can keep their discipline and not start firing at those pins and know that middles of the greens is a pretty good leave on most holes, I think that's (key)."

Oak Hill offers tricky pin locations with thick rough and shifting tee box areas to make every challenge unique.

"Discipline is a really good way to describe what one needs this week," Rahm said. "It's challenging, but it's one of those where if you hit the shots you're supposed to hit -- put it in the fairway, go to the center of the green -- nothing crazy should be happening.

"If you can get those up-and-downs, it's not only a confidence booster, but it's something that will keep the round going."

Rahm, the 2021 US Open champion, captured his fourth title of the year and second major last month at the Masters.

Rahm is an oddsmakers' co-favorite alongside second-ranked American Scottie Scheffler, who would overtake the Spaniard with a victory.

If Rahm wins, he would be halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam and only a British Open shy of a career Slam.

"It doesn't happen often that a player wins more than one major in a year," Rahm said. "So it would be amazing to be able to join my name to that list."

Only five players in the past 70 years have won the first two majors of a season, the most recent being Spieth in 2015.

Spieth, who would complete a career Slam by winning the PGA, tested his injured left wrist during a workout Tuesday and a nine-hole practice round with Rahm.

The 29-year-old American is set to start Thursday morning alongside Norway's Viktor Hovland and Irishman Shane Lowry, but his status for the event remains uncertain.

McIlroy took a mental health break after missing the cut at last month's Masters and played only one PGA tuneup.

"I needed it at the time," McIlroy said. "Whether it works this week or not remains to be seen."

The four-time major winner said he has lowered expectations to better deal with whatever golf sends his way.

"Just trying to be in a good spot with taking what comes," he said.

And should that fifth major title never come, so be it.

"If I don't win another tournament for the rest of my career, I still see my career as a success," McIlroy said. "I still stand up here as a successful person in my eyes."

- A major win for LIV? -

Six LIV players with a combined 15 major titles are at Oak Hill, including reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith of Australia, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

England's Paul Casey reduced the LIV contingent by withdrawing Tuesday, American Sam Stevens replacing him.

Saudi financing and record prize money lured some big names from the PGA Tour to LIV, prompting the tour to ban LIV players and spark a legal fight due to hit courts next May.

Until then, majors mark the only place for LIV and PGA players to compete.

Americans Mickelson and Koepka shared second at the Masters, the top major result by an active LIV player.

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson won last week's LIV crown in Tulsa but another US contender could be Talor Gooch, a LIV winner last month in Australia and Singapore.

"I imagine he's going to keep playing well. He's a world-class ball striker and just a supreme talent," sixth-ranked Max Homa said.

"He beat every single person and he shot 62-62 in back-to-back rounds (in Adelaide). I'd say it's very impressive."