Jordan Spieth aiming to complete career grand slam and other talking points ahead of the PGA Championship

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Justin Thomas will be bidding to defend his PGA Championship title on Thursday as the final major of the year gets underway at Bellerive Country Club.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Can Jordan Spieth complete a career grand slam?

The three-time major winner finished second behind Jason Day in 2015 – the only title to evade him to date.

The 24-year-old has had a mixed season, with a disappointing ninth place at The Open where he held the lead after three rounds.

In 2018, the right-hander has recorded two top-5, three top-10 and five top-25 finishes, including a win at the Tournament of Champions in January.

Returning to a patchy Bellerive course where the fairways are burnt from the mid-West heatwave, Spieth has another chance to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in achieving a career grand slam.

Can Thomas be the first back-to-back winner since Woods in 2007?

Woods was the last player to successfully defend his PGA title, with a two-shot victory in Oklahoma back in 2007.

But Thomas’s form has been positive, with one missed cut in 25 events including a win at the WGC Invitational last week.

A repeat of last year’s heroics at Quail Hollow seem realistic and the Kentucky native certainly has the class and consistency to mount a challenge for his second major. A fast start is crucial for the 25-year-old.

What next for Woods?

The American has not played in the PGA Championship since missing the cut in 2015 – with the last of his three titles coming 11 years ago at Southern Hills.

Since returning to action after undergoing back surgery last April, Woods has recorded three top-five and four top-15 finishes, including a tie for sixth at the Open Championship.

Winning a fourth title would be a fairytale way to seal one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and recent form suggests the 42-year-old could well be in contention for a first major since 2008.

Can Europe make it two out of two?

Francesco Molinari’s victory at the Open Championship means Europe had their first major winner in six events – stretching back to the Masters in 2017.

Although American stars Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Thomas all seem to be hitting a rich vein of form at the right time, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose could well be in with a shout after showing promise in Carnoustie last month.

But American players’ strong hold on the PGA Championship is also tight, winning three out of the last five championships.

Based on current form, it looks difficult to see anything but an American winner in Missouri this weekend, despite McIlroy, Rose and Molinari all in top condition.

What condition is the course in?

After the USGA came in for serious criticism over their approach in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the PGA will be determined to avoid similar mistakes at St Louis this weekend.

With June and July among the hottest months on record in Missouri history, course green keepers have been battling to improve the stressed conditions as much as possible.

As it stands the greens look patchy and burnt, meaning fast conditions could decide the winner of the final major of the season.

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Justin Rose brings back old memories with a tie for second at Carnoustie

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Justin Rose has rekindled his love of the Open Championship after finally surpassing his teenage heroics of two decades ago.

Rose finished in a tie for fourth as a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998 and had recorded just one other top 10 in 15 subsequent appearances, despite having won the US Open in 2013 and Olympic gold in 2016.

But the 37-year-old put that disappointing statistic behind him with a tie for second at Carnoustie thanks to a record-equalling 64 in the third round and a closing 69 which left him two shots behind former Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament. That I can win the Open,” said Rose, who only made the halfway cut by making a birdie on the 18th in the second round.

“When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away. I really enjoy it. It was great to get the crowd behind me. I hadn’t felt the energy of the crowd for a while in the Open. That was a real positive for me and it renews the love of the Open for me.”

Rose looked to be out of contention after playing his first 13 holes in one over par, but hit the pin with his approach to the par-five 14th to set up a tap-in eagle and birdied the 18th for the fourth day running to overhaul Eddie Pepperell as the clubhouse leader.

“I set myself the lofty goal to shoot five under on the back nine to get to eight under,” Rose added. “The leaders started to wobble a little bit toward the end of the front nine, and that’s when I knew there was an opportunity.

“I started to play great golf. Making the eagle at 14 was the little kind of boost I needed. When I got it to five under, even though I was one behind I said to my caddie, ‘I feel like I’m two back the way the golf course is playing’. So I kept urging myself to try and make birdies.”

Rose even contemplated holing his second shot on the 18th, rekindling memories of the way he pitched in for a birdie on the 72nd hole at Birkdale in 1998.

“Yeah, it brought back memories for sure. The fact I had a wedge shot for my approach. I was thinking, can I do it again? I very nearly did.”

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Francesco Molinari hopes his Open Championship win can inspire next generation of golfers in Italy

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Francesco Molinari hopes his Open triumph can inspire the next generation after becoming the first Italian major champion.

Molinari, who had two wins and two second places in his previous five starts this season, carded a nerveless closing 69 at a windswept Carnoustie to finish eight under par, two shots clear of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

Playing alongside a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, Molinari followed 13 straight pars with a birdie on the 14th and finished a brilliant round in fitting style with another from just three feet on the 18th.

Asked how big his win would be back in Italy, Molinari joked: “It depends. If Ferrari won today they will probably get the headlines.

“It was large news this last run of form. To achieve something like this is on another level. Hopefully there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Costantino (Rocca) in 1995 coming so close to winning at St Andrews.”

Molinari won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and was second in the Italian Open the following week, before following a tie for 25th in the US Open with an eight-shot victory in the Quicken Loans National and second place in the Travelers Championship.

The 35-year-old only arrived in Carnoustie on Monday lunchtime and walked a few holes of a course where he missed the cut on his Open debut in 2007.

“It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t play the Dunhill Links (which uses Carnoustie as one of three courses) in the last few years because I got beaten up around here a few times already in the past,” Molinari added.

“I didn’t particularly enjoy that feeling. It’s a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There’s no way around it. You can’t really hide.

“I knew I was coming in with some good golf but my record around here was terrible. So that didn’t make me too optimistic about the week, but I just tried to not think about it and focus on hitting good shots day by day.

“To go the weekend bogey free, it’s unthinkable, to be honest. Playing with Tiger was another challenge because of the crowds and everything.

“But I felt really good this morning. When I came here, I felt I was ready for the challenge. Obviously conscious that it could have gone either way, but I knew I was going to do my best today.

“I’m lost for words really. Incredible to do something like this, and very proud of what I’ve done.”

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