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Friday, 18 January, 2019

DJ could be playing wrong tune on this track

Steve Palmer profiles the market leaders

World number one Dustin Johnson
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Dustin Johnson
The world number one has cruised to three victories this year, winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by eight shots, the St Jude Classic by five and the Canadian Open by three, but his 2018 Majors form of 10-3-MC is disappointing for a player of his calibre. He has posted four top-ten finishes in eight US PGA starts. A final-round 64 in the Bridgestone (tied for third) sent him to the final Major of the season in high spirits, but Bellerive favours a drawn drive off most tees, so Johnson will be fighting against what has become his stock-shot fade.

Justin Thomas
The defending champion, who fended off Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed to triumph by two shots at Quail Hollow last year, has won three times this season, including a cosy four-shot success at Firestone on Sunday. He missed the cut in the Open and has posted just two top-ten finishes in 13 Majors, but Bellerive, close to home for the Kentuckian, sets up well for him and a stout defence can be expected.

Justin Rose
Rose jetted to Sweden after finishing second in the Open, holidaying with Henrik Stenson and celebrating his birthday in London, before returning to the States last Monday and practising at Firestone before withdrawing from the Bridgestone Invitational with back spasms. The 2013 US Open champion can boast 18 top-ten finishes in the last 12 months, including four victories, but poor preparation may scupper his hopes.

Brooks Koepka
The back-to-back US Open champion has finished in the top 25 in 13 of his last 16 Majors, increasingly oozing self-belief on the biggest stages. The Floridian is one of several power-packed Americans who will be licking their lips at the Bellerive set-up. His high ball flight is a significant asset.

Rory McIlroy
Former world number one with a superb record in the US PGA. Two of his four Major victories have come in this event, in 2012 and 2014, and he has twice finished third. The Northern Irishman has contended in two Majors this season, finishing fifth at Augusta and second at Carnoustie, and Bellerive, which suits his natural draw, is an excellent fit for him. McIlroy may have some scars from a final round of 73 at Firestone, though, and he is making a habit of flopping in final pairings, with his wedge play continuing to frustrate.

Francesco Molinari
Took his game to a new level in May, winning the BMW PGA Championship in fine style, before a runner-up finish in the Italian Open, an eight-shot victory in the Quicken Loans National, second spot in the John Deere Classic, and a hugely impressive Open triumph at Carnoustie. The Italian tied for second in the US PGA last year and has made the cut in all nine PGA starts. More powerful drivers are preferred.

Jon Rahm
Some of the Spaniard’s trademark bullishness has been reduced by missed cuts in the US Open and Open, and he has made a serious impact in only one of his nine Majors (fourth in the 2018 Masters). Bellerive is a course that he should enjoy, but he seems to struggle to control his fiery temperament in Majors.

Jordan Spieth
Out-of-sorts Texan who battled manfully for three days in his Open title defence at Carnoustie. The fragile state of his game was exposed in a final-round 76 which dropped him from first place to ninth, and he slipped back into mediocrity at Firestone last week. He has posted just one top-20 finish in eight starts since the Masters. His Major record is awesome – three wins and three seconds in just 23 starts – but confidence is low.

Rickie Fowler
A Majors nearly-man who has finished second three times from 2014, including at Augusta in April, posting top-five finishes in seven of the last 19 Majors. A winless 2018 does nothing to suggest the breakthrough will come at Bellerive. He seems likely to contend without winning.

Jason Day
Former world number one who produced some magnficent iron play at Firestone last week, threatening a third 2018 US Tour triumph for a long way. The 30-year-old Aussie can have high hopes of bolstering an already excellent US PGA record. His lone Major victory came in the 2015 US PGA and his form figures from the last five editions reads 8-15-1-2-9.

Tommy Fleetwood
The cheerful Englishman has developed into a Major contender over the last two seasons, with US Open form of 4-2 and a bold effort at Carnoustie, where he finished 12th. US PGA form of MC-MC-61 is likely to be improved upon, but he may regret competing in the Canadian Open, which means this is his fourth tournament in a row.

Patrick Reed
The Masters champion has progressive US PGA form of 58-30-13-2 and was fourth in the US Open in June. His confidence level is at an all-time high and his shot shape suits Bellerive, but a post-Open spin at the European Open in Germany means he is playing for a fifth consecutive week, so is probably short of mental energy.

Alex Noren
He landed a tenth European Tour title in Paris in July, but the Swede is yet to make his breakthrough Stateside. His miserable form figures in American Majors are 51-34-MC-66-MC-MC-MC-49-MC-MC-67-MC-25, so history is not on his side, but the 36-year-old has never carried more self-belief.

Bubba Watson
Temperamental left-hander who is one of a few players in the field who have competitive experience of Bellerive. He tied for 28th in the 2008 BMW Championship – the third event of the FedEx Cup playoffs that year – carding superb weekend rounds of 66 and 65. The dual Masters champion has won three times in the US this year and should not be discounted for an event in which he was a playoff loser in 2010.

Paul Casey
Englishman who won the Valspar Championship in March, almost nine years after his maiden US Tour triumph, courtesy of a final-round 65. But he blew a four-shot final-round lead in the Travelers Championship three months later. He has never bettered fourth place in a Stateside Major and looks short in the betting.

Hideki Matsuyama
Injury-plagued Japanese star who posted seven top-ten finishes in his first 20 Majors as a pro, but his form has been patchy this summer, with missed cuts at Sawgrass, Gullane and Carnoustie, and a lame title defence at Firestone last week. He has finished fourth and fifth in the last two US PGAs, but does not seem to be swinging well enough to place this time.

Henrik Stenson
The Swede has been labouring with an elbow injury since he finished sixth in the US Open and the 42-year-old is of little interest this week as a result. The 2016 Open champion has a fantastic US PGA record – his last eight starts have yielded finishes of 4-6-MC-3-3-25-7-13 – but fully-fit powerhouses who are more comfortable with driver in hand seem set to leave him behind at Bellerive.

Marc Leishman
Mild-mannered Australian who has played well in the Masters and the Open, but his record in the other two Majors is poor, with a best finish of 12th place in 14 combined starts in the US Open and US PGA. His natural fade fights against the Bellerive layout.

Xander Schauffele
The 2017 US Tour Rookie of the Year has finished fifth and sixth in his only two US Opens, and he tied for second place in the Open last month. The Californian’s long-game solidity and a fantastic temperament have quickly made the 24-year-old a Major contender. He lacked sparkle at Firestone last week in his first outing since the Open, but is more than capable of entering the equation on Sunday at Bellerive.

Webb Simpson
This season’s Players Championship hero can boast solid Majors form of 20-10-12, and the 2012 US Open champion is walking with more assurance than ever at the age of 32. Bellerive does not play to his strengths, though, and Simpson’s seven previous US PGA starts have failed to yield a top-ten finish.

Phil Mickelson
Phil The Thrill tied for 17th place in the 2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive. The 2005 US PGA champ has won five Majors and finished runner-up 11 times, but his Major form since losing a duel with Henrik Stenson for the 2016 Open reads 33-22-MC-MC-36-48-24 and he is struggling to remain a contender in the top four events at the age of 48.

Bryson DeChambeau
Cocksure Californian who won the Memorial in fine style in June, but he withdrew from the John Deere Classic with a shoulder problem a month ago, finished 51st in the Open, imploded over the final four holes of the European Open (bogey, bogey, par, triple-bogey) when in contention, then was quickly tailed off at Firestone last week after opening with a 75.

Sergio Garcia
The Spaniard tied for 20th in the 2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive, but he has gone nine US PGAs without notching a top-ten finish, missing five cuts in that period. His current US Tour form figures from an embarrassing Masters title defence onwards are MC-MC-70-MC-MC-MC-MC-39. He has been badly out of sorts since becoming a father.

Patrick Cantlay
The 26-year-old Californian tied for 12th in the Open, his best finish in seven Major starts. He tied for 33rd on his US PGA debut 12 months ago. He has looked in decent nick and is worth a top-20 finish investment.

Tyrrell Hatton
Irritable Englishman who missed the cut in all four Majors last year, but has results of 44-6-51 so far this term. The US Tour maiden tees up at Bellerive with five months of patchy form behind him and others are much preferred.

Kyle Stanley
The greens in regulation machine did his usual trick at Firestone last week, reaching the dancefloors in style before putting poorly, and his record in elite events is dismal. It seems unlikely that a runner-up cheque from Firestone will suddenly give him the temperament of a world-beater. He has made the cut in just six of his 15 Majors, with a best finish of 39th place.

Kevin Kisner
Accurate Carolinian who finished tied for second place at Carnoustie last month. His form before and after the Open has been poor, though, and he seems likely to overpowered and outclassed at Bellerive.

Matt Kuchar
The 40-year-old Floridian plodder produced a typical Major performance in the Open last month, never threatening to contend for the trophy but doing well enough to bank a healthy cheque. He has recorded a top-ten finish in 11 of his last 33 Majors, but has never got his hands on Major silverware.

Tony Finau
Finau is the only player to have finished in the top ten in all three Majors this year. The increasingly assured 28-year-old knows he is good enough from tee to green to become a Major champion, but his putting remains a serious weakness. A top-20 Bellerive finish looks well within his compass, but he is likely to outgunned on the dancefloors when it matters.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Genial Spaniard who has posted only one top-20 finish in 21 Major starts and has missed the cut in three of his six US PGAs. He probably lacks the short-game class and the necessary fortitude for the challenge ahead.

Ian Poulter
English firebrand who surged back into the world’s top 50 by winning the Houston Open in April. He has been generally excellent since, contending at Firestone last week. A tie for third place in the 2012 US PGA is his best effort in a Stateside Major. He gets the most out of his game, but more powerful players are preferred.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat
The free-flowing Thai has gone off the boil and more Major misery can be expected. He has played in 13 Majors, missing six cuts, with a best finish of 15th place.

Brian Harman
Left-hander who tied for second in the 2017 US Open. He has missed the cut in seven of his 13 Majors, and patchy recent form suggests he will offer nothing this week.

Louis Oosthuizen
Injury-plagued South African who won the Open in 2010 and has a runner-up finish in every Stateside Major – the 2012 Masters, 2015 US Open and 2017 US PGA. He has found some decent form, but has never won a Stateside event and is winless anywhere since February, 2016.

Charley Hoffman
Californian who tied for 60th in the 2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive, closing with a 77. A decade of miserable Major efforts ended last year with eighth in the US Open. He has posted a top-25 finish in six of the last seven Majors, but was tailed off at Firestone and probably lacks the polish to become a Major champion.

Branden Grace
The South African, like Garcia, has found fatherhood is having a negative effect on his golf. A shock missed cut at the Open was followed by a dire effort at Firestone. He was third in the 2015 US PGA and fourth in 2016, but lacks the form and confidence to contend.

Satoshi Kodaira
Japanese raider who took advantage of a late Si-Woo Kim wobble to win the Heritage in April, his maiden US Tour title. His form has disappeared since and the inexperienced 28-year-old may struggle to make the weekend.

Pat Perez
Aside from a brief spurt of form at the Open, the 42-year-old has produced seven months of mediocrity. His Majors record is dire and his slide down the rankings is set to continue.

Matthew Fitzpatrick
Tidy Sheffield lad who has failed to make a significant impact in his 14 Major starts. Bellerive does not seem an ideal layout for stopping the rot.

Thorbjorn Olesen
Dane who delivered a final-round 64 at Firestone on Sunday to tie for third spot and propel himself back into the world’s top 50. He is in great form, but his nine Stateside Majors have yielded only one top-25 finish.

Kevin Na
Emotional Korean who won the Greenbrier by five shots a month ago, a second US Tour victory in his 18th year as a professional. Form figures from his last five US PGA starts do not bode well – MC-MC-MC-22-MC – and Bellerive does not suit him.

Byeong Hun An
The Korean has finished second twice this summer – the Memorial and the Canadian Open – threatening a US Tour breakthrough. His Major record is abysmal, though, and he was awful at Firestone last week.

Daniel Berger
The cocksure Floridian is full of self-belief, but has a technically flawed swing which is denying him the chance to become an elite player. US PGA form figures of MC-73-MC do not encourage interest.

Gary Woodland
Slugger from Kansas who is teeing up close to home, but he has played in 27 Majors without posting a top-ten finish. Humdrum recent form suggests the drought will continue.

Haotong Li
China’s pride turned 23 last week and has a bright future ahead. He is blessed with magic hands and bundles of bottle, but this is only his fifth Stateside Major and he probably needs to gain more experience before becoming a serious title contender.

Ross Fisher
Ascot ace who was fifth in the 2009 US Open, but that is his only Major top-ten finish in 30 starts. He has missed the cut in five of his eight US PGAs. His natural draw is an asset at Bellerive and he played some decent golf at Firestone. Likely to make the cut without contending for the title.

Luke List
Powerhouse who lost a playoff for the Honda Classic in February and remains a US Tour maiden. He has played in six Stateside Majors and missed the cut in five of them.

Si Woo Kim
Accurate Korean shared tenth place at Firestone on Sunday to move back into the world’s top 50. He is yet to register a top-ten finish in a Major.

Cameron Smith
Aussie youngster who has shown he can handle Major layouts, finishing fourth in the 2015 US Open and fifth in the Masters, but his form has dipped since Augusta and the Wanamaker Trophy looks safe from his clutches.

Zach Johnson
Grinder who has won the Masters and the Open, but he tends to struggle in the other two Majors. Seems likely to be overpowered and outgunned.

Tiger Woods
The 14-times Major champ held the lead with eight holes to play in the Open, but a double-bogey at the 11th hole of round four derailed his challenge. He has won the US PGA four times, but the last victory was 11 years ago and his last six starts in the tournament have yielded humdrum form of 28-MC-11-40-MC-MC. He is healthy and dangerous again, but flopped at Firestone last week and Bellerive is a similar set-up.

Charl Schwartzel
Underachieving South African who has seemed to be in a comfort zone since his 2011 Masters triumph, winning only one US Tour event since and failing to capitalise on his talent. Twelve US PGA starts have amounted to little – three missed cuts and a best finish of 12th – and in the last 12 months he has appeared to be going through the motions.

Kevin Chappell
The Californian, aside from sixth spot in the Open, has been in terrible form since withdrawing from the Match Play in March with a back problem. The US PGA is the Major in which he has his weakest record with form of MC-13-43-MC-33.

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Woods flopped at Firestone last week and Bellerive is a similar set-up
E.W. Terms
Sky bet