The grand slam may not be on the line and the defending champion looks set to miss out, but if the last major held at Whistling Straits is anything to go by, the US PGA Championship should provide a thrilling end to 2015’s major season.
Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth came up agonisingly short in his bid for the third leg of an unprecedented calendar grand slam in the Open, missing out on a play-off at St Andrews by a single shot.
But the 22-year-old, who has set or equalled plenty of records already this year, can earn more space in the record books by becoming only the third player - after Ben Hogan in 1953 and Tiger Woods in 2000 – to win three majors in a single season.
”I don’t know how many guys have done three majors in a year. I’m sure there have only been a few,” Spieth said. “’So that would be the next goal as far as the history goes. Sights set on the PGA Championship.”
Spieth was just 17 when Whistling Straits hosted the US PGA in 2010, a tournament eventually won by Martin Kaymer but arguably mostly remembered for the unfortunate demise of Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, who held a three-shot lead after 54 holes of the US Open two months earlier but collapsed to a closing 82, was one ahead with one to play and thought when he missed a six-foot par putt that another chance was still to come in a play-off.
However, Johnson was then penalised two strokes after it was ruled he had grounded his club in a fairway bunker before hitting his second shot.
The spectacular course on the banks of Lake Michigan has more than 1,000 bunkers, but many of them are not easily defined so the rules of play for the week had been that ”all areas...designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked.”
Spectators had been trampling all over the “bunker” on the 18th and a bewildered Johnson admitted: ”It never crossed my mind I was in a sand trap. The only worse thing that could have happened was if I made that putt (to ’win’).
”I just thought I was on a piece of dirt the crowd had trampled down. Obviously I know the rules – you can’t ground the club in a bunker – but I guess it’s one situation where I should have looked at a rule sheet.
”The official said the whole course is a bunker. It’s up to them. If it was up to me I would not have thought I was in a bunker.”
Kaymer went on to defeat Bubba Watson in a three-hole play-off to lift his first major title and, having claimed his second thanks to a brilliant wire-to-wire triumph in the US Open last year, the German will be among the favourites to end American major dominance in 2015.
Rory McIlroy finished just a shot outside of the play-off in 2010, won by eight shots at Kiawah Island two years later and claimed his fourth major title in near-darkness 12 months ago at Valhalla.
But with the ankle ligament injury he suffered playing football with friends at the start of July likely to rule the 26-year-old out of his title defence, perhaps it would be fitting for Johnson – who three-putted the 72nd hole of the US Open at Chambers Bay to finish a shot behind Spieth – to enjoy a spot of redemption.
And with Zach Johnson having won the Open, the 2015 honour roll would have a certain pleasing symmetry to it.
Spieth, Spieth, Johnson, Johnson anyone?