There is no shortage of storylines as the PGA Championship gets underway Thursday morning.
The best players in the world are gathered at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, with the goal of coming away with the Wanamaker Trophy that goes to the winner of the last major championship of the season.
While a great majority of the fans who attend the tournament and those watching on television will be watching Jordan Spieth to see if he can make it three major championships out of four, the golf world will also be watching Rory McIlroy and his balky ankle, seemingly snakebitten Dustin Johnson, long-ball hitting Bubba Watson and Australian Jason Day, who appears to be ready for a major breakthrough.
Spieth has only played once since finishing in a tie for fourth at the British Open last month. He returned to action last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and was never in serious contention in that tournament as he was tied for 10th at its conclusion.
However, don't think for a moment that Spieth isn't prepared and ready to make a run at winning the PGA Championship. He fired a 66 in the final round at Bridgestone, and he is motivated to lift the championship trophy.
Prior to playing at Bridgestone, he told The Golf Channel's Will Gray that he was not happy after the British Open. "I’m hoping to kind of prove, coming off of this last major, that I’ve got like kind of a little bit of revenge that I need to get out from having control of the Open Championship with two holes to go and not closing it out,” Spieth said. “That leaves kind of a bad taste in my mouth.”
Spieth's all-around game is what makes him so special. He is not a big bomber like Dustin Johnson or Watson, but he hits it far enough and he keeps it dead on track on the most important holes of nearly every tournament. He certainly did that in the Masters and the U.S. Open.
Spieth is averaging 68.795 strokes and 4.58 birdies per round, and both of those figures lead the PGA Tour.
After rupturing his ankle ligament earlier in the summer, McIlroy is attempting his comeback at challenging Whistling Straits. While he is talking confidently about his recovery as he prepares to play, the Wisconsin golf course is a difficult and physically taxing one that is difficult to negotiate.
It's one thing for McIlroy to get through the first couple of rounds at Whistling Straits, but it may be quite another to last four consecutive rounds without his ankle giving him serious problems.
McIlroy is still the No. 1 player in the world, and he would like to hold on to that ranking. It may be quite difficult for him, considering he hasn't played since the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay when he finished tied for ninth.
"Felt like [this week] was the right time to come regardless whether it was this week, or no matter what week it was," McIlroy told ESPN.com's Kevin Maguire. "I was ready to go whether it was this week, whether it was some other tournament. It wasn't like I was trying to get back for this. It just so happened that I was feeling good enough to go this week."
Dustin Johnson and Watson are both regularly followed by big crowds who can't wait to see the two biggest hitters on the tour bash the ball. Johnson is the tour's longest hitter, averaging 319.0 yards off the tee. However, there's a lot more to his game than just distance. He has won more than $4.4 million this season, and when he is on his game he can drain long putts and hit sharp approach shots.
Johnson, however, may have negative thoughts swimming in his brain. He was unable to win the U.S. Open despite leading on the 72nd hole, and his memories at Whistling Straits are not good ones. He was hit with a two-stroke penalty on the final hole of the 2010 PGA Championship when he grounded his club while playing in a tiny bunker that Johnson did not even realize was an official hazard.
Watson, a self-taught player who has won the Masters twice in his career, also has tough memories of the '10 PGA Championship. Watson played well throughout all four days of the tournament and was tied for the lead with Martin Kaymer after 72 holes. He eventually lost a playoff to the German, and he would like to turn that finish around this time.
Watson appears to be quite sharp at the moment. He finished second in both the RBC Canadian Open and the WGC-Bridgestone, his last two tournaments. Watson is also averaging 315.8 yards per drive.
Australian Jason Day is thought of as one of the best all-around players on the tour, and he may be the best of the group that has not yet won a major.
Day ranks fourth in FedEx Cup points and is fifth in the world rankings, and he has enjoyed an excellent 2015 season. Day has won two tournaments, including the RBC Canadian Open, and earned more than $4.2 million.
He finished tied for ninth in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth in the British Open, and he believes his time is coming.
"It’s very difficult to try and close on a Sunday at a major championship," Day told the New York Daily News' Hank Gola. “But I think the more times that I keep putting myself there, the more opportunities that I give myself, sooner or later it’s going to happen. I know that.”