ST. LOUIS — The PGA Championship is the year’s final major. But there’s still plenty to be decided in golf. Justin Thomas, who won Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and is the defending PGA champion this week at Bellerive, has three wins. So do Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. Justin Rose and Jason Day, meanwhile, have two victories this season. The year’s first three major winners were Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari.
So, who will be the player of the year?
The Wanamaker Trophy is far more significant a prize, of course, but any of the aforementioned players hoisting it would be a defining mark on a tremendous season, and give said player a leg up on the honor.
Here’s a breakdown of the candidates so far.
Justin Thomas: Though his win Sunday was his first since February it came on a difficult Firestone course, much the way his previous victory took place on a tough PGA National course at the Honda Classic, which he won in a playoff over Luke List. Thomas’ other victory came last fall at the inaugural CJ Cup in Korea—also in a playoff, over Marc Leishman.
Dustin Johnson: His three wins came in Maui, Memphis and Canada. They also were the most impressive among the group in terms of margin of victory. Johnson won at Kapalua by eight, TPC Southwind by six and Glen Abbey by three. The top-ranked played in the world, he also has missed just one cut in 15 starts, has two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes, and has finished in the top 10 a staggering 10 times in 15 starts. By comparison, Thomas has seven top-10s in three more starts.
Bubba Watson: Like Johnson, Watson’s victories came on a differing tracks with wins at Riviera and TPC River Highlands, bookended around his title at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club. Watson however has just two other top-10s.
Justin Rose: The WGC-HSBC Champions and Fort Worth Invitational were Rose’s two victories on the PGA Tour this season, but he also won in Turkey and Indonesia and rose to as high as No. 2 in the world before Thomas supplanted this past weekend. In 13 total starts in 2018, Rose has five top-10s.
Jason Day: If it seems like Day has barely played this year it’s because he has. The Aussie has made just a dozen starts but has won two of them, at Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow. He has just three other top-10 finishes, though.
In terms of major performance, Johnson and Rose have the better resumes. Johnson tied for 10th at the Masters and third at the U.S. Open, while Rose finished in the top 10 in both Opens, including a runner-up at Carnoustie.
But there’s still one more major to go.