If this week’s 99th US PGA Championship proves to be one of the last staged in its traditional place in the calendar, it could also turn out to be one of the most memorable.
Jordan Spieth’s dramatic victory at Royal Birkdale, adding the 2017 Open Championship to his Masters and US Open victories in 2015, means he travels to Quail Hollow in North Carolina this week needing to win to become just the sixth player to complete a career grand slam, as well as the youngest, surpassing the record of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods.
Woods was 24 years, seven months and 25 days old when he won the 2000 Open at St Andrews by eight shots, which also formed part of the “Tiger Slam” of the US Open, Open and US PGA that year and the 2001 Masters.
Spieth celebrated his 24th birthday just four days after his Open triumph, fittingly posting a picture on social media of a small birthday cake perched on top of the Claret Jug.
“It’s a life goal of mine. It’s a career goal,’’ Spieth said of a career grand slam. “Growing up playing golf I just wanted to be able to play in major championships and compete with the best in the world and things have happened very quickly.”
Spieth will in fact be the first of three players in the next three majors to have a chance of joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods in winning all four majors, with Rory McIlroy needing victory in the Masters and six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson requiring an elusive US Open title.
The US PGA, which began as a match-play event in 1916 and became stroke-play in 1958, has been contested in July or August every year apart from 1971, when it was staged in February. But officials from the PGA of America and PGA Tour are considering moving the Players Championship from May to its old March date, with the US PGA switching from August to May.
That would mean a major championship in each month from April to July and the PGA Tour being able to complete the FedEx Cup play-offs before the start of the NFL and college football seasons.
Moving to May will limit the available courses for the US PGA due to weather considerations, with venues for the championship already announced up to and including 2023.
It remains to be seen whether the switch becomes a reality, with PGA of America president Paul Levy on record as saying that the needs of the US PGA will come before those of the PGA Tour.
But going from last to second has obvious appeal to a tournament which has previously used slogans such as “Glory’s Last Shot” in an attempt to make a virtue of its place in the schedule.