Aiken qualified to perform in PGA Championship

Thomas Aiken’s Open de Espana win in May earned him an invitation to the $7.5-million PGA Championship this week, and he cannot let the opportunity slip at Atlanta Athletic Club.

The fourth and final major of 2011 is fittingly known as ‘Glory’s Last Shot’, a title which suits Aiken’s aspiration to reignite the fire that took him to five top-10 finishes on the European Tour earlier in the year.

And aside from the cheque, the Open de Espana showed Aiken what it is to win on a major international tour, and overcoming this mental hurdle puts him in good stead to perform in the final major of 2011.

But a share of 72nd in the Open Championship was Aiken’s first finish in the money since May, despite having made the cut in 12 of his 16 events on the European Tour this year.

Aiken will be optimistic about the 6,828-metre Highlands Course as he is currently 15th on the US PGA Tour for driving distance and carries an advantage in facing Atlanta’s notoriously long par three holes.

Currently 15th in the Race to Dubai, Aiken has improved his average finishing position from 51st in 2010 to 35th in 2011, an increase of 16 places.

Aiken must capitalise on his long tee shots to create scoring opportunities because players will struggle to consistently make greens on such a lengthy course.

For Aiken, making greens in regulation is not the issue: he has an average of 29 putts per round, and must focus with the flat stick to use his tee-box advantage.

The Fancourt Country Club professional tees off in the afternoon field with USA’s DA Points and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson and conditions are due to be hot and still.

A first European Tour win took Aiken to the PGA Championship, but the resulting effects are unlikely to end at entry as Aiken is qualified to perform – and he needs to.

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