The 9 hottest players entering this week’s PGA Championship

Jordan Spieth is in form heading to this week’s PGA Championship. He’s not the only one.

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TULSA, Okla. – Before the Masters, something curious was going on with the biggest names in the golfing world: Most of ’em weren’t really playing that well! Jon Rahm had looked ordinary. Rory McIlroy was coming off a missed cut. Jordan Spieth hadn’t cracked the top 25 in five starts. Justin Thomas was struggling with his putting. Defending champ Hideki Matsuyama was hurt. So was Bryson DeChambeau. Brooks Koepka, too. You get the idea.

Golf results generally feel impossible to predict, but in this case the tournament played out accordingly. The two blue-chippers playing well coming in – Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith – were the two golfers in the final pairing some Sunday.

What can we learn from that episode? It’s good to be playing well coming into a major. And history tells us it’s particularly good to be playing well coming into a PGA Championship: Podcaster Andy Lack tells us each of the last 15 winners made the cut in his previous start, 14 of 15 finished inside the top 30 (everyone except for Phil Mickelson) and seven of 15 finished inside the top five.

Here’s where things get tricky, if you’re looking to make a pick. Right now, everyone’s hot! Golf’s biggest horses have found their stride. And now that they’ve galloped to Oklahoma, let’s review the nine hottest – and just how well they’ve been playing coming into this week at Southern Hills.

9. Max Homa

Heat level: Surprise jalapeno

Homa’s the only player on this list outside of the top 10 in the OWGR, but I’m including him for two reasons: 1. Nine is a more satisfying number than eight and 2. Homa won his most recent start at the Wells Fargo in particularly impressive fashion and is well-suited for this week’s test.

8. Justin Thomas

Heat level: Soup on the stove

Justin Thomas comes in hotter than you might think. He’s coming off a T5 at the Byron Nelson which marks his sixth top-10 in 10 starts in 2022. He just switched putters, too. Beware the man with a hot new putter.

7. Patrick Cantlay

Heat level: First sip of tea

It still sort of feels like Patrick Cantlay hasn’t played much since winning the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup in late 2021. But he actually started 2022 with four consecutive top-10s and, after a few finishes outside the top 25, finished second at the RBC Heritage and won the Zurich with good buddy Xander Schauffele. What does a team win a couple weeks ago mean for his individual chances this week? We’ll see.

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka is down, but can he still contend at the PGA Championship?


Sean Zak

6. Xander Schauffele

Heat level: Inside of a baked potato

He shot 61 on Sunday, the best score of the day at TPC Craig Ranch, so if you want someone who’s peaking, like, now, he could be your guy. But in addition to this past week’s backdoor T5, Schauffele and Cantlay won the Zurich in their previous start before that.

5. Cameron Smith

Heat level: Just turned off the pan, be careful

Sure, he missed the cut at the RBC Heritage, but who cares? He finished T3 at the Masters and won the Players in his two starts before that, adding to his victory di lui at the Tournament of Champions. He hasn’t played a ton, but when he has he’s basically beaten everyone else. Overlook Smith at your own risk.

4. Rory McIlroy

Heat level: Just made two cups in a row

Rory McIlroy’s heating up, as evidenced by his final-round 64 to finish solo second at the Masters. He made a run at the Wells Fargo, too, finishing solo fifth. He sounds like himself. Could ending his major drought come next?

3. Jon Rahm

Heat level: Broken A / C in Scottsdale

The World No. 2 was on a middling run of form – for him – which consisted of a bunch of made cuts but no real runs at victory. That changed in his most recent start of him when Rahm won the Mexico Open. Winning in your last start pre-PGA is about as hot as it gets.

2. Scottie Scheffler

Heat level: Dallas sidewalk in August

What have you done for me lately, Scottie Scheffler?!? It’s been more than a month since his Masters win di lui and the world No. 1 finished just T15 at the Byron Nelson this week, no doubt souring his season. Scheffler has now won only four of his past seven events by him. Okay, but seriously, Scheffler’s four wins came at the biggest event on the planet, a WGC, an invitational and the biggest party in golf. It’s clear his game di lui can travel and lui it doesn’t even have to travel very far this week.

1. Jordan Spieth

Heat level: Inside of a Hot Pocket

You may recall that Spieth missed the cut at his most recent major when he whiffed at the Masters. Things have gotten distinctly better since then: He won the very next week at the RBC Heritage and finished second at the Byron Nelson. What could possibly go wrong ?!

The only thing standing in these guys’ way? Everybody starts this week at zero, and they count every single shot you take after that. But if you’re looking for a hot hand, plan accordingly.

dylan dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine / The Williamstown, Mass. Native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a 2014 graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in Americawhich details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.

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