Quail Hollow is always welcome to return as host for this event as many players make this a necessity whilst major season kicks in. Since it's inauguration in 2003 we have seen a host of major winners lift this title including Toms, Singh, Furyk, Woods, McIlroy, Glover and Day. The 2017 USPGA Championship was indeed one by an elite player in Justin Thomas also. That being said we've had major surprises here also with James Hahn and Derek Ernst taking their places on the winners rota in the past decade. Quail remains a proper test of golf where your long game is all important. Those who can drive the ball far and in the fairway have a significant advantage and will find themselves scrambling a lot less than the others. It has a fierce finish with the final 3 holes being among the toughest stretches on the tour.
There is no better place to start than this weeks jolly Rory McIlroy. The Irishman has enjoyed a spectacular year to date with a 21st place finish at the Masters being the only disappointment. I can easily gloss over that Masters result as I'm not one who conforms to the idea that Augusta sets up perfectly for him. I think he struggles with depth perception with so many changes in elevation and his short game then is put under severe pressure to contend. The Masters apart, his strokeplay record this year reads 4-5-4-2-6-1. This is Rory near his best and I can't see the lacklustre finish at Augusta derailing him on his journey in 2019. He will have one eye on Portrush of that there is no doubt but his winning is far from over this season.
Quail Hollow has been the scene of some of Rory's greatest triumphs and who can forget that ridiculous final round in 2010 to claim his maiden title on the PGA Tour. More heroics followed in 2015 when he went off +350 and after a stuttering start and lying a fair bit back after two days absolutely lapped the field on the Saturday by shooting 61 and comfortably winning by 7 shots in the end. His form here reads 1-MC-2-10-8-1-4-22-16. Quite simply he loves this place and an in form McIlroy around here is a dangerous proposition.
Jason Day is in fine form and returns as the defending champion. He has won a couple of events numerous times but has yet to successfully defend a title. That's not a big negative however and his recent top 5 in the Masters suggests he isn't far from his best stuff either. That being said it has been a year since his last win and he won't find defending an easy task. Justin Rose cut a miserable figure by missing the cut at Augusta, one of his favourite events and I find it hard to see him bouncing back to winning fashion here. Rickie Fowler is playing solid but unspectacular golf lately but maybe poses the biggest threat to McIlroy. Mickelson has a sparkling record here and it would be no surprise to see him go well again in what has been a good season to date. After this though question marks surround many. Augusta specialist Paul Casey missed the cut there a few weeks ago, Matsuyama ultimately disappointed there as well and the likes of Finau, Stenson and Simpson are really soft competition for Rory if he arrives with his B game in tact around here. The field gets weak awful quickly thereafter with plenty who find it difficult to get over the line. Aaron Wise may be a lively outsider but I don't think Rory should be much bigger than +400 here this week. In 2015 he went off +350 and in 2016 was +450. Many of his opponents here have questions to answer and McIlroy is flying along in 2019. It's been a while but it is time for a chunky punt on the former world number one.
4pts R.McIlroy to win +600