Justin Harding starts this week’s PGA Championship with a number of scenarios in play as he looks to cement his place in the world’s top 50, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
As if a Major week isn’t big enough… in one of golf’s toughest fields on a demanding course under the spotlight of the world’s media and fans.
Harding will no doubt be sticking to his processes, the swing thoughts, the pre-round routines, the logistics and the mental preparations that led him from outside the world’s top 700 to a handful of wins around the world, a return to the Major stage at this event last year and a near-perfect week at Augusta National.
Having booked a return trip to the Masters next year and a top 10 at the Byron Nelson last week, the South African will be buoyed by how his prolonged run in the States has fared to date.
Arguably the country’s form player, Harding’s career is at something of a crossroads. Does he kick on from here and work his way towards the world’s top 20, or may competing on the biggest stage against the top players cause his continued rise to fizzle out?
A good week in New York will see his Presidents Cup qualification rise to another level. Currently sixth in Ernie Els’ side, this event offers points in abundance and would go a long way to securing a spot to take on the Americans in Melbourne in December.
Harding also holds second place in the race to qualify for Tokyo’s Olympics next year. There is a lot of golf to be played before the cut-off date, but performing well in Majors trumps a solid week on the European Tour.
Then there’s the case of a spot in next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach. The new date of the PGA Championship means he is likely to book his trip, regardless of this week’s result. The world’s top 60 on 20 May will earn their place with Harding sitting pretty, as it were.
For followers of his meteoric rise, it’s clear to see there’s a lot more at stake than simply trying to make the cut and/or repeat his Masters run.
These permutations are unlikely to affect Harding as he looks for more of the same. As they say, don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Photo: Thinus Maritz/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images