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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, August 09, 2017 1:00 am

McIlroy hoping it's his time to win major

Last one came in 2014; Spieth aims for career Grand Slam in PGA

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

Final major

What: PGA Championship

Where: Charlotte, N.C.

Course: Quail Hollow Club

Yardage: 7,600 Par: 71

Purse: TBA ($10 million in 2016)

First prize: TBA ($1.8 million in 2016)

TV: Thursday-Friday – 1 to 7 p.m., TNT; Saturday – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., TNT; 2 to 7 p.m., CBS; Sunday – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., TNT; 2 to 7 p.m., CBS

Defending champion: Jimmy Walker

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jordan Spieth is going for a career Grand Slam at the PGA Championship and doesn't appear to have a care in the world.

Rory McIlroy hasn't won a major in three years and expectations are higher than ever.

Blame that on Quail Hollow.

This is where McIlroy won his first PGA Tour event in 2010 when he fearlessly fired a 4-iron into the breeze and over the water to 6 feet for an eagle that allowed him to make the cut on the number, and then he followed with a 66-62 weekend. Quail Hollow is where he shot 61 in the third round to run away from a strong field for a seven-shot victory. He has played here seven times and has finished out of the top 10 just once.

It's not Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines.

But there's a reason McIlroy has been looking forward to this PGA Championship. And it's a big reason why he is the betting favorite by a slight margin over Spieth, who is just three weeks removed from winning the British Open.

The odds on McIlroy winning at Royal Birkdale were 20-1, some of the highest ever associated with him. He joked then that it was a good time to back him.

Now he's listed at 7-1, and he doesn't feel much differently.

“I told you those odds wouldn't last long,” he said Tuesday. “I think it's partly to do with the upturn in form that I've had over the last few weeks. And then my history on this golf course – a couple of wins, beaten in a playoff, a few other top 10s.

“Things are a bit different than they were a couple of weeks ago.”

McIlroy has posted seven straight rounds in the 60s going into the final major of the year, although he has not been in serious contention in either the British Open or the Bridgestone Invitational. A bad start held him back at Royal Birkdale – 5 over through the opening six holes – and he was slowed by not hitting his wedges close enough or making enough putts at Firestone.

His long game has been solid as ever, and that figures to be an advantage on a course already softened by rain Tuesday and with storms in the forecast for the rest of the week.

McIlroy, like Spieth, also has three legs of the career Grand Slam. He is lacking only the Masters, and he hasn't come particularly close in the three years he has gone to Augusta National with a chance to complete it. But there are differences.

Spieth said that if every player was polled, all would agree that McIlroy will win a green jacket. He considered McIlroy's age (28) and how many more opportunities he had in front of him.

McIlroy, meanwhile, isn't the only player trying to make sure the year doesn't end without him winning a major. Dustin Johnson looked good enough to win them all until he slipped down the stairs and wrenched his back on the eve of the Masters.

Johnson believes his game is close to where it was before the injury. What separates him from McIlroy is Quail Hollow. Johnson, who will stay at No. 1 regardless of what happens this week, has played Quail Hollow only three times, and not since 2011. He missed the cut twice and tied for 29th.