US PGA Championship: Glory for Rory or relief for Rahm? – The experts have their say

By Sports Desk May 19, 2021

Major glory awaits for one man at Kiawah Island on Sunday, when the winner of the US PGA Championship will be confirmed.

With such a stacked field it is hard to pick out the most likely victor, but that has not stopped Stats Peform's team of expert writers from having a go.

Last year it was Collin Morikawa who prevailed, snapping American compatriot Brooks Koepka's run of consecutive wins.

Who will it be this time?

IT'S OFFICIAL, RORY IS BACK! – Peter Hanson

Okay, I'm officially calling it – Rory McIlroy is back! At the back end of 2019 and the start of 2020, the Northern Irishman was flying. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Then there were some questionable decisions to start trying to match the bombs Bryson DeChambeau can nail off the tee. Then there were some ugly results – including missed cuts at the Players Championship and the Masters. But forget all that, McIlroy – just six weeks on from starting work with renowned coach Pete Cowen – was back in the winners' circle at Quail Hollow last weekend, his first title since November 2019. A McIlroy in full swagger is a joy for any golf fan, and crucially he knows how to get it done at Kiawah Island having won the first of his two PGA Championship titles at the South Carolina course back in 2012 – doing so by eight strokes, a record for the tournament. It's time for Rory to finally get that fifth major.

SCHAUFFELE HAS GOT THIS ONE – Russell Greaves

If you have this notion that Xander Schauffele always seems to be in contention at the majors, it's because he is. His tie for third at the Masters this year represented an eighth top-10 finish at a major for Schauffele, with two of those coming at the US PGA. His record is one of remarkable consistency, with only one missed cut across 14 entries in the sport's four headline events. Schauffele is one of the most adaptable players out there, as evidenced by his PGA Tour-leading sand save percentage of 69.35. At just 27, it seems inevitable he will eventually clinch a title at one of those quartet of tournaments.

HIDEKI WILL DOUBLE UP – Ben Spratt

Hideki Matsuyama had been waiting a long time for his breakthrough triumph at Augusta last month, with seven top-10 finishes at majors without reaching the winner's circle before that Masters victory. "It was a relief, really," he said last week. But having got that monkey off his back and shown he is good enough in his approach play that a poor putting game need not be a hindrance, Matsuyama can no longer be written off so easily. The Japanese will be heading to Kiawah Island full of confidence and ready to win. A second straight success would really lay down a marker.

IT'S RAHM TIME – John Skilbeck 

Sooner or later, or so goes the theory, Jon Rahm will win a major. Let's tilt towards sooner then, because Rahm is top of the PGA Tour's ball-striking chart this season, fourth in terms of finding greens in regulation and top 20 in average driving distance and scoring average. On a course set to measure over 7,800 yards, those ingredients in his game look more than useful, but Rahm will need to putt well too and that is not a given. He is down in a share of 192nd for putts per round this season, so needs to get something going with the short stick. He is developing a reputation as a Masters specialist, with four successive top-10 finishes at Augusta, and the Kiawah Island conditions will be a world away from those in Georgia. But this breakthrough at a major is going to happen sooner or later, isn't it?

RAHM'S THE ONE FOR ME – Chris Myson 

Aside from a tie for fourth at the 2018 US PGA Championship, Rahm has not made a huge impact at this event. But he is rightly among the favourites for victory this week on the back of his tie for fifth place at the Masters and his continued consistency on the PGA Tour. With six top-10 finishes to his name at major championships, Rahm has proven he can get himself into contention at the biggest events. And he comes into the latest major in form. While the world number three is yet to win this year, he has missed the cut just once in 10 events. Rahm says the recent birth of his son Kepa has helped to take the pressure off his pursuit of a first major, an occasion which is surely not far away.

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  • Wolves v Arsenal: ‘What we still have to play for is beautiful’ – Arteta Wolves v Arsenal: ‘What we still have to play for is beautiful’ – Arteta

    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta set out to remind his team that they still have something “beautiful” to play for despite their Champions League exit.

    The Gunners slipped out of UEFA’s flagship club competition in midweek when they went down 1-0 to Bayern Munich, losing 3-2 on aggregate.

    That defeat followed on from a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa last Sunday – a reverse that significantly dented Arsenal’s title hopes, with the Gunners now two points behind Manchester City who, after this weekend, will have a game in hand.

    Arsenal face Wolves on Saturday and, with City in FA Cup action, a win would see them move back to the top of the table, at least temporarily, so Arteta offered a reminder that all is not lost.

    “I can guarantee you we are fully focused on Wolves and everybody's lifted,” he said following the loss in Munich.

    “What we still have to play is beautiful and I said before, it's time to be next to our players and in this moment, not when you win 10 in a row and a draw, that's easy to prize our players and to be behind them and to say really nice things. The moment is now to be next to them.”

    On Friday, in his pre-match press conference, Arteta added: “As an experience, [the Champions League was] the best one.

    “I am now fully focused on the times ahead of us. We are now behind Manchester City and will give it a good go. The context is clear. If we win we are top of the league.”

    Wolves sit 11th, though they could do with snapping a four-game winless streak in order to get their European hopes back on track.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Wolves – Matheus Cunha

    Cunha has been involved in nine goals in his last nine Premier League games, scoring six and assisting three. His 11 goals overall this season is the fourth most by a Wolves player in a single Premier League campaign after Raul Jimenez (17 in 2019-20, 13 in 2018-19) and Steven Fletcher (12 in 2011-12).

    Arsenal – Bukayo Saka

    Saka has been involved in eight goals in his last seven Premier League away games, scoring seven and assisting one. His 13 away goal involvements overall this term (eight goals, five assists) is the most by an Arsenal player in a single Premier League campaign since Alexis Sanchez’s 20 in 2016-17.

    MATCH PREDICTION: ARSENAL WIN

    Arsenal lost a Premier League game for the first time in 2024 against Villa last time out. Since the start of last season, only twice have the Gunners suffered consecutive league defeats, doing so in May 2023 (v Brighton and Nottingham Forest) and December this season (v West Ham and Fulham).

    Wolves are winless in their last four Premier League games (D2 L2), though they have won their last two at Molineux against sides starting the day in the top two of the table, beating Man City 2-1 in September and Spurs by the same score in November.

    Arsenal have scored in their last 32 meetings with Wolves in all competitions.

    Wolves have now lost each of their last five against the Gunners, failing to score in both home defeats in that run.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Wolves – 21.5%

    Arsenal – 51.2%

    Draw – 27.3%

  • Fulham v Liverpool: Klopp unconcerned by Salah's scoring form Fulham v Liverpool: Klopp unconcerned by Salah's scoring form

    Jurgen Klopp is not overly worried by Mohamed Salah’s slight dip in form, as the Liverpool manager turned full focus to the Reds’ Premier League title challenge.

    A bad week for Liverpool was capped off on Thursday when, despite a 1-0 win over Atalanta, they slumped out of the Europa League 3-1 on aggregate following a heavy defeat at Anfield in the first leg.

    That loss on April 11 came three days before a 1-0 home reverse to Crystal Palace, which saw Liverpool’s league title hopes take a dent – they are now two points behind Manchester City with six games remaining.

    What has not helped their course is that talisman Salah – who netted an early penalty against Atalanta but squandered a big chance later in the match – has scored just three times in the league since returning from a hamstring injury he sustained while playing for Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

    Klopp, though, is confident Salah will soon be back at his best.

    “I am not particularly concerned,” he said ahead of facing Fulham.

    “That’s what strikers do, that’s what happens to strikers, that’s how it is. We have to go through this, he has to go through that. He is one of the most experienced players we have in the squad.

    “We will go through that but that’s pretty much all. It’s not that Mo didn’t miss chances before in his life, that’s a part of the game. I am not particularly concerned.”

    Reflecting on the task at hand now for his side, Klopp added: “Disappointed that we did not go through [in Europe] but not frustrated or angry.

    “Now we can focus on the league and that’s what we will do. We have a few days to recover, we will do that, and then will travel the day after tomorrow to London and will play Fulham, which will be tricky but we will give our absolute all.

    “That’s our competition now. I saw a good reaction from my side, we had not a great week last week obviously. This, if we want, was the start for the rest of the season with a good result and a good performance and that’s how we see it.”

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Fulham – Andreas Pereira

    Pereira has been involved in four goals in his last four Premier League appearances (two goals, two assists), with his brace against West Ham more than he had netted in his previous 34 games combined (one).

    Indeed, Pereira has more goal involvements than any other Fulham player since the start of last season (seven goals, 13 assists).

    Liverpool – Mohamed Salah

    Salah may not be firing on all cylinders from a goalscoring perspective, but he is proving to be Liverpool’s creative hub.

    Only Martin Odegaard (68) and Bruno Fernandes (59) have created more chances from open play in the Premier League this season than Salah (58). He has created at least four open-play chances in five different games this season, with Roberto Firmino the last Liverpool player to do so more times in one season (10 in 2016-17).

    MATCH PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL WIN

    The Reds might have had a bad week, but Opta’s model still fancies their chances of returning to winning ways.

    Liverpool have scored in each of their last 19 away Premier League matches, the longest current run of any side. That being said, since losing 3-0 to Brentford in their first home Premier League game this season, Fulham have conceded just 13 goals in their last 15 games at Craven Cottage (0.9 per game). With six clean sheets at home so far, the Cottagers last had more in a Premier League campaign in 2010-11 (nine).

    Marco Silva’s team have scored 49 Premier League goals this season, having netted 55 last season. The last time the Cottagers scored 50+ goals in consecutive Premier League seasons was in 2003-04 (52) and 2004-05 (52).

    However, Fulham have won just one of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Liverpool (D2 L8), winning 1-0 at Anfield in March 2021.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Fulham – 20.85%

    Liverpool – 53.1%

    Draw – 26.1%

  • Inter Miami v Nashville SC: Smith not looking forward to Messi reunion Inter Miami v Nashville SC: Smith not looking forward to Messi reunion

    Nashville SC coach Gary Smith is not looking forward to his team facing Lionel Messi for the third time this year, with the Inter Miami star fit and firing ahead of Saturday's MLS clash in Fort Lauderdale.

    A hamstring issue caused Messi to spend almost a month on the sidelines before he returned with a goal in Miami's 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids earlier this month.

    The Argentina great was then on the scoresheet again last weekend, as Miami ended a five-game winless run with an entertaining 3-2 success against Sporting Kansas City.

    With Messi also scoring in both legs of a CONCACAF Champions Cup triumph over Nashville in March, Smith is sick of the sight of the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner.

    "I'm a little bit disappointed that Lionel Messi has gotten himself back into tip-top sharp form as we come back into town again!" Smith said.

    "I think that what we can safely say is when he's in the group, there's a very, very different feel and look and inspiration about that team."

    Nashville are winless in three games since beating Charlotte FC 2-1 last month, with Daniel Gazdag's last-gasp strike condemning them to a 2-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union last time out.

    Smith believes his team are at least giving themselves a chance of picking up results, adding: "When we've got our best group on the field — and we need to have our best group on the field — we're very competitive."

    Miami's win over Kansas City ensured they will enter the weekend top of the Eastern Conference standings, and boss Gerardo Martino is pleased to see them setting the pace.

    "Being first in the standings is comforting, especially with a long week ahead," Martino said. "It was very important for us to get out of that rut of getting ties, losses, and making mistakes."

     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Inter Miami – Lionel Messi

    Messi has been involved in at least one goal in each of his first five league games of the season, the second time he's done so in his career, having achieved the feat in six straight matches with Barcelona to begin 2013-14 in LaLiga.

    The Argentine has also managed at least one goal involvement in each of his eight appearances for Miami across all competitions in 2024, including two goals and one assist in two matches against Nashville.

    Nashville SC – Jacob Shaffelburg

    Shaffelburg has assisted each of Nashville's last two MLS goals, one in each of their last two matches.

    Previously, he had only recorded one assist in his first 40 regular-season matches with Nashville. Will his purple patch continue in Florida?

    MATCH PREDICTION – INTER MIAMI WIN

    Nashville have only managed one win in their last 15 away games against MLS opponents across all competitions (six draws, eight defeats).

    That run, which stretches back to June 2023, includes a draw and a loss against Miami, who are also unbeaten in five straight head-to-head meetings between the teams (two wins, three draws).

    Last week's 3-2 win over Sporting KC was the 11th time Miami have scored three or more goals in their 22 games with Messi making an appearance, across all competitions. They have only scored three or more goals on 15 occasions in their 134 all-time games without the Argentine. He should be involved on Saturday, and that makes them favourites. 

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Inter Miami – 36.6%

    Nashville SC – 33.8%

    Draw – 29.6%

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