Long after the sunset on Valhalla Golf Club, Rory McIlroy raised the Wanamaker Trophy on August 10, 2014. The PGA Championship was Rory’s second straight major victory and third consecutive overall win. At just 25 years old, he had already won four major championships. The young phenom was arguably on pace to challenge Tiger and Jack for total major championships won in a career. 

Almost six years later, McIlroy is still stuck at four major championships.

Prior to the sudden halt to normalcy courtesy of a worldwide pandemic, Rory was playing some of the best golf of his career. He had won the 2019 Tour Championship, WGC-HSBC Champions, and not finished outside of the top 5 in any tournament since August of 2019. Since the restart, the recently dethroned number one ranked player in the world hasn’t looked like the dominant superstar we have grown accustomed to marveling at. In the five tournaments, he’s played leading up to the WGC Fed-Ex St. Jude, Rory has finishes of 32nd, 41st, 11th, 32nd, and 33rd. Not terrible, but this is Rory McIlroy we are talking about. 

This brings us to the 102nd edition of the PGA Championship being played at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California. Some recent trends indicate the winner should be aged in their twenties (8 of last 10 PGA Championship winners) and have a top 20 in at least one of their last two starts (9 of last 10 PGA Championship winners). You can throw those trends out the window. 

TPC Harding Park fits Rory McIlory like a glove. This was evidenced by his last appearance at the course, where he won the 2015 WGC- Cadillac Match Play. This is a  long, tree-lined, classical course similar to many that have caught Rory’s eye over the years (Quail Hollow, Firestone, Crooked Stick, etc.). The forecast indicates it could be a chilly week, which suits the Northern Irishman just fine.

Statistically, there is plenty to like about Rory’s chances at Harding Park. Let’s start on the greens where we’ll see a POA/Bent combination. Putting has never been Rory’s strong suit, but since 2014 POA/Bent has been his most preferred surface. Rory ranks 3rd on tour in that timeframe while gaining 2.846 strokes on the field with the flat stick. While a hot putter will be helpful, driving it long and straight will be the best recipe for success at this year’s PGA Championship. Enter Rory, who in 2019 led the tour in Strokes Gained: off the tee. The ideal shot shape for many tee shots will be a draw; which Rory does masterfully. With fairways, only 22-32 yards wide and penal rough, an accurate tee shot is a must. When Rory is on his game, his driving accuracy is also top-notch. With two driveable par 4’s (holes 7 and 16), going for the green percentage is another key stat in which Rory thrives (2nd in 2019). Lastly, the yardages for approach shots should be favorable for McIlroy’s strengths. He ranks 6th on tour in proximity to the hole from 150-175, and 4th from 175-200; distances he should be seeing often on his approach shots at Harding Park. 

As compelling as these stats may be, let’s throw them out of the window also. Rory McIlroy is the best golfer on the planet. He desperately needs a major championship to continue to build his legacy, and TPC Harding Park is a perfect place for him to do it.

Don’t overthink this one: Bet Rory McIlory to win the 2020 PGA Championship.

By: Matt from Tap it In

@BetTheNumber3

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