Golf: Molinari dreams big at 100th PGA

Final major of the season, featuring champions Thomas, Woods

Redazione ANSA Rome

(ANSA) - Rome, August 7 - Golf's biggest names will compete for glory at the 100th PGA Championship, the final major of the season, taking place August 9-12 at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri.
    The PGA Championship - one of four tournaments in the Grand Slam - will see golf champions from around the world vying for first place, currently held by Dustin Johnson.
    For the American players, this is the last chance to secure a place at the Ryder Cup in Paris on September 28-30, without being chosen as one of four wildcards in US Captain Jim Furyk's possession.
    After his success at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the reigning PGA Championship winner, US golfer Justin Thomas, is the favorite.
    "I'm ready and eager to play," Thomas said.
    "The WGC win gave me calm and conviction," he said.
    Since 1980, only two players have won the PGA Championship's famed Wanamaker Trophy: Tiger Woods in 2007 and Rory McIlroy in 2014.
    "It will be fascinating to duel with Woods," Thomas said.
    "Since I was a kid, he's always been my role model. He motivated me to get this far," he said.
    At the PGA Championship, all the world's golf greats will be on the greens.
    Francesco Molinari, whose British Open win made him the first Italian golfer to win a major, is hoping for a historic double.
    He wants to beat his second-place showing at the 2017 PGA Championship, where a last-round rally by Thomas cost him the trophy.
    Expectations are also high for Tiger Woods, whose last time at Bellerive was 17 years ago.
    A win at this year's PGA Championship would be his 80th career win and his first win since 2013, and would tie the PGA Championship records set by Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen, who both won the trophy five times.
    "I'll try as hard as I can," Woods said.
    "I'm taking advantage of this time to study the secrets of the greens and all the pitfalls that it can cause," he said.
    Johnson is also among those favored to win, after a victory at the RBC Canadian Open (PGA Tour) and a bronze medal at WGC-Bridgestone.
    Jordan Spieth, one of the leaders struggling the most at the moment, after wins at the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship, will try for a Grand Slam to join the list that includes Woods, Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan.
    "I'll try to take advantage of every small possibility, even though it won't be easy at all," Spieth said.
    Pairings in the first two rounds are filled with big names, with Woods facing McIllroy and Thomas, and Molinari facing off against Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.
    Two other interesting pairings are that of Justin Rose, who is coming back after a shoulder injury, with Spieth and Jon Rahm; as well as Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Day.
    In the Americans' last chance to qualify for the Ryder Cup, only Johnson, Koepka, Thomas and Reed are already assured a place in Paris, with Bubba Watson and Spieth sure to make it.
    The shakiest positions are those of Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, currently in 7th and 8th, respectively, who will have to keep watch for Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau behind them.