PGA Championship: Five numbers and storylines to look for this week

Major championship golf makes its highly-anticipated return on Thursday at TPC Harding Park for the 2020 PGA Championship, 382 days after Shane Lowry lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush.

The two previous times the best men’s players in the world competed at this venue, the sitting world number one walked away with the victory. In 2005, Harding Park hosted the WGC-American Express Championship, won by Tiger Woods. Ten years later, Rory McIlroy won all seven of his matches to claim the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play.

Will newly minted number one Justin Thomas win his second PGA title in four years? Can McIlroy finally break through with major championship win number five? Here are five numbers to know heading into the first major of 2020:

3 – The ‘three-peat’ is a rare achievement across all of sport, but it’s especially extraordinary in major championship golf. This week, Brooks Koepka can win his third consecutive PGA Championship, something not done in any men’s major in more than 60 years. The last man to win the same major three straight seasons was Peter Thomson at The Open Championship in 1954, 1955 and 1956.

Koepka has been an unstoppable force in the majors in recent years. Since 2017, Koepka is a combined 70-under-par in major championships, 36 strokes better than any other player in that span. He’s finished fourth or better in five straight majors – no player has done that in six straight major starts since Ben Hogan. Koepka comes in hot, too, having finished runner-up last week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

44 – This week Tiger Woods, age 44, will try to become the oldest PGA Championship winner since Lee Trevino in 1984. Woods has made the most of his two career appearances at Harding Park – we mentioned the WGC win back in 2005, but Woods also went a perfect 5-0-0 at the 2009 Presidents Cup here, leading the United States to victory.

Rust will be the biggest question facing Woods this week: he’s made just one start since golf’s return in June, a tie for 40th at the Memorial Tournament.

-68 – Bryson DeChambeau is a combined 68-under-par since the PGA Tour’s return to play at Colonial, 12 strokes better than any other player in that span.

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While Bryson’s jump in driving distance – a leap of more than 20 yards over a year ago – has been the big number catching everyone’s eye, another one may be weightier this week. DeChambeau has never finished better than 15th in any of the major championships.

2 – The number two is not only Jon Rahm’s world ranking this week, it’s also the best finish any player from Spain has ever posted at the PGA.

Sergio Garcia’s runner-up finishes to Woods in 1999 and Padraig Harrington in 2008 are the best in that proud golfing country’s history at this championship. Rahm is trending nicely towards a maiden major win, as he has finished 11th or better in four of the last five played.

6 – It’s difficult to believe, but it’s been six full years since Rory McIlroy’s last major championship victory in 2014 at Valhalla. McIlroy will need to show better iron play this week in order to contend; since play resumed, he has not ranked in the top-25 in any event he’s played in strokes gained approach.

Still, Rory can reassert his dominance at any moment – over the last decade, his 53 rounds in the 60s in majors are six more than any other player.

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