The 7 hottest storylines entering the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive
The PGA Championship will reach a milestone this week as Bellerive Country Club will host the 100th PGA Championship.
Here are the seven hottest storylines entering the Championship, where some of the PGA Tour's young stars will try to accomplish historic feats and a few popular veteran players will try to make up ground in the Ryder Cup USA points standings.
Can Justin Thomas repeat as PGA Champion?
At 24 years old, Thomas won his first major last year when he won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Now the question is if he can do it again.
In the last two seasons, Thomas has established himself as one of the best players in the world and he'll arrive at Bellerive coming off of a win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He has three wins and seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, despite missing the cut at The Open Championship.
Can Thomas do what no player other than Tiger Woods has done this century and win back-to-back PGA Championships?
Speaking of Tiger ... will Tiger Woods win his 15th major championship?
If someone asked you "Is Tiger back?" in July, you were probably tempted to say "Yes." He finished T4 at the Quicken Loans National and T6 at The Open Championship.
He opened the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with back-to-back rounds of 66 and 68 before shooting 3-over 73s on Saturday and Sunday to finish Even.
With an automatic bid to the Ryder Cup USA Team on the line, there may not be a more opportune time for Tiger to end his five-year drought without a win on the PGA Tour.
Who will claim the remaining automatic qualifying spots for the Ryder Cup?
Tiger jumped to No. 20 in the rankings after The Open Championship but he remains there after the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed have already clinched three of the eight automatic bids.
Justin Thomas is No. 3 in the standings and Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson are currently No. 5 through No. 8, respectively. Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson are within 200 points of Simpson and the No. 8 spot, followed by Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley.
Who will Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk choose as his captain's selections?
Furyk will round out the Ryder Cup USA Team with four captain's selections – three will be announced following the Dell Technologies Championship on September 3 and the final spot will be announced after the BMW Championship on September 9.
Will Furyk pick Ryder Cup veterans Phil Mickelson (11 appearances) and Tiger Woods (seven appearances) if neither automatically makes the team on points?
Will he choose Schauffele and Finau, two up-and-coming players currently on the wrong side of the bubble for automatic qualification who Furyk is paired for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship?
We'll find out soon.
Can Jordan Spieth complete the career grand slam?
Spieth made a run at completing the career grand slam in just one year in 2015, when he won the Masters and U.S. Open before finishing T4 at The Open Championship and second in the PGA Championship. He won The Open two years later but he's still searching for a win at the fourth and final major.
Spieth finished T13 and T28 at the PGA Championship in the last two years.
There may not be a more storybook ending to the 100th PGA Championship than one of golf's young stars completing the career grand slam at age 25.
Jason Day, Phil Mickelson lead the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting
And the rest of the players on the PGA Tour aren't that close. Day is first with an average of 1.193 strokes gained putting and Phil's average is 1.054, through July 29. Greg Chalmers is third in strokes gained putting at .790 and only 20 players have an average of more than .500.
Mickelson has made impressive strides in his putting. In 2004 – the first year that the PGA Tour has stats available for strokes gained putting – he ranked 128th on the PGA Tour with an average of -.087.
While Mickelson's putting was once a detriment, he's now one of the best players on the green in the PGA Tour.
Day leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting isn't unprecedented as he did so in 2016, but his average in 2018 is both his career-best mark and the best of any player on the Tour in the last 15 years.
Joaquin Niemann's rapid rise
The 19-year-old Niemann, who turned pro earlier this year, will be one of the youngest players to ever compete in the PGA Championship. If he happens to be near the top of the leaderboard entering the weekend, keep in mind that Gene Sarazen holds the record as the youngest winner at 20 years and five months old when he won in 1922.
Niemann has four top-10 finishes in 10 PGA Tour events this year, including a T5 finish at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in July. He missed the cut in the two major championships he has played in previously – the 2017 U.S. Open and 2018 Masters.