'Freerolling' Spieth not feeling grand slam pressure

US PGA Championship 2017
Venue: Quail Hollow, Charlotte Dates: 10-13 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, Red Button and BBC Sport website. Listen to BBC Radio 5 live commentary and follow text updates – including in-play video clips – on website and mobile app. Click for full times.

Jordan Spieth says he is not feeling the pressure as he attempts to become the youngest player to win the career grand slam at the US PGA Championship.

The American, 24, has won three of the four majors following his victory at The Open at Royal Birkdale last month.

A win at Quail Hollow this weekend would mean surpassing Tiger Woods as the youngest grand slam champion.

“I’m about as free and relaxed at a major than I think I’ve ever felt, ” said Spieth, the world number two.

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Spieth turned 24 four days after his Open win, while Woods was 24 years, seven months and 25 days when he won the career grand slam.

Woods is one of five golfers to have achieved the feat along with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.

“Do I have to be the youngest? No, I don’t feel that kind of pressure,” said Spieth, who won the Masters and US Open in 2015.

“It’s not a burning desire to have to be the youngest to do something, and that would be the only reason there would be added expectations”.

Spieth had a short break after The Open and finished tied for 13th in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last weekend.

He added: “It was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg and that’s so fresh in my mind. I’m so happy about that that I can’t add pressure to this week. I’m freerolling and it feels good.”

Spieth says the biggest challenge will be taming the 7,600-yard North Carolina course, with thunderstorms and rain forecast for the next four days.

“This is going to be one of the most challenging tracks I think that we’ve played,” said Spieth, whose best finish in the US PGA is second in 2015. “The rough is brutal.

“I need to drive the ball better than I’ve been driving it to have a chance to win this week.”

McIlroy installed as favourite

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the bookmakers’ 7-1 favourite to win his third US PGA title at a course where he has won twice on the PGA Tour and holds the course record of 61.

The 28-year-old won his fourth and last major title at the 2014 US PGA and he has had six top-10 finishes since, including a share of fourth place at The Open.

McIlroy, who has struggled with injury this year, has yet to win a tournament in 2017, though he has 11 top-10 finishes from 19 tournaments across the PGA and European Tours and finished fifth at the WGC Invitational.

Rory McIlroy with his new caddie Harry Diamond

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“It has been a bit of a transitional year,” said the world number four, who split with caddie JP Fitzgerald after The Open and will have friend Harry Diamond on the bag this weekend.

“But I feel like everything’s settled. My health is pretty much where it needs to be so I just want to go out there and play well this week.”

A win would see McIlroy become only the third player to win five majors before turning 30, joining Nicklaus and Woods.

He added: “I don’t feel I need to prove anything to anyone.”

Johnson nearing his best

Dustin Johnson

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Meanwhile, world number one Dustin Johnson is feeling back to the form that helped him move to the top of the rankings in February.

The 33-year-old American won three consecutive tournaments earlier in the year, before a back injury suffered in a fall at his rental house in Augusta forced him to withdraw from the Masters.

He missed the cut at the US Open and finished tied in 54th place at The Open.

Asked to give his game a score out of 10 when he returned, Johnson said: “Three. It wasn’t that good, but then it went down and got worse after that.

“But I feel like I’m about an eight and a half right now.

“Obviously it was really frustrating [to be injured]. But things happen. You’ve just got to deal with them and I feel like the golf game’s in really good shape right now.

“I feel like I’m driving it really well again. I feel like it’s really close to being back to how good it was before the Masters.”

Matsuyama on a hot streak

World number three Hideki Matsuyama comes into the tournament after winning the WGC Invitational, following a stunning 61 in his final round.

He is aiming to better his second place at the US Open and top-15 finishes at the Masters and The Open and become the first Japanese man to win a major.

Defending champion Jimmy Walker is winless this season and has struggled since being diagnosed with Lyme disease in April.

BBC Sport – Golf

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