He’s never played the PGA Championship, and as Richard Sterne goes into this week’s major at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, he brings some good form with him for his first start in the tournament.
He finished in a share of ninth in last week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, and he will be looking to convert what has been a year of consistency after his runaway victory in the Joburg Open in February into something even bigger as the final major of the year gets underway on Thursday in the United States.
As he got to grips with Firestone Country Club’s South Course in Akron, Ohio, last week, he eliminated errors from his card, and closed with a two-under-par 68 to slip inside the top 10 behind runaway winner Tiger Woods.
He opened with five bogeys, managing to balance that with five birdies to stay level-par, but he dropped only two strokes per round thereafter, picking up four birdies in each of the second and final rounds as he kept himself within striking distance of a top-10 finish throughout the weekend.
He got a sense of just how tough it is in the upper reaches of the Official World Golf Rankings, however, as his share of ninth did nothing to improve his 34th position in the world. But he will know that he is within striking distance of the top 30 in the world – pretty exclusive company.
South Africans currently in that top 30 are Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace. Oosthuizen is injured and missed the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and will miss the PGA Championship too, but Sterne played better than the other three in Ohio.
After a lengthy period of dealing with back problems, Sterne has re-emerged on the world stage over the last 12 months. His Joburg Open victory – by seven strokes over Schwartzel – announced that he was back to his very best, but he will be keen to get a victory offshore again. His last one outside South Africa came in the 2007 Celtic Manor Wales Open.
After his share of 21st in the Open Championship, he will be keen to close out the major season this year with an even better showing.