ROCHESTER, NEW YORK | Luke Donald, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, may rue his failing to qualify for the last two rounds of the PGA Championship, but he will have been heartened by the play of a number of his prospective team members for the biennial match to be held outside Rome in late September. Of the leading 18 players and ties at Oak Hill, eight were Europe qualified.
Viktor Hovland, 25, could be a star for Europe at Marco Simone Golf Club. He is improving fast before our eyes, and his birdie on the 72nd hole Sunday, after he had failed to escape from a bunker two holes earlier to end what until then had been a stirring challenge to Brooks Koepka, was nothing short of courageous.
It gained him a share of second place rather than outright third, and in turn that meant his finishes in the past three major championships have been T2, T7 and T4. What price Hovland, Norway’s finest golfer and now up to sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking, in the US Open in Los Angeles next month? “If he keeps doing that sort of thing, one will fall into his lap,” Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy said.
McIlroy, a certainty for Rome, finished with his third 69 in succession in a week in which he has not been feeling nor playing at his best. “I’ll look back on this week as being proud of how I hung in there, and I guess my attitude and sticking to it, not having my best shot,” McIlroy said.
At Oak Hill, he tied for seventh with Sepp Straka, 30, the Austrian who was born in Vienna and lived there until moving to the US when he was 14. Straka, the winner of the 2022 Honda Classic on the PGA Tour, closed with a 65 here but is a dark horse for Rome.
Good performances by England’s Justin Rose, who tied for ninth, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and France’s Victor Perez (both T12), England’s Tyrrell Hatton (T15) and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (T18) will all have heartened Donald.
“It’s early days, but I am excited about all the players we have on offer,” Donald said. “I think our team will be very good.”