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Spieth chases Grand Slam history as PGA practice opens

© GETTY/AFP / by Jim SLATER | Jordan Spieth hits off a tee during a practice round prior on August 7, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina

CHARLOTTE (AFP) - 

Jordan Spieth says he isn't carrying any extra pressure this week trying to become the youngest golfer to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the 99th PGA Championship.

But the 24-year-old American, who won his third major title two weeks ago at the British Open, wouldn't mind making history while finishing off a dream goal this week at Quail Hollow, where practice began Monday.

"I don't need to be the youngest. I don't feel any added pressure because of that," Spieth said.

"I really don't feel any added pressure whatsoever. If it happens great. If it doesn't then my next, probably last, life-long goal as a professional golfer would be to win the career grand slam."

World number two Spieth, the 2015 Masters and US Open champion, could become only the sixth man to sweep the four major titles in a career after Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

Spieth would be 24 years and 17 days old on Sunday, about six months younger than Woods -- the youngest to win all four majors so far -- was when he won the 2000 British Open to complete his career slam.

And Spieth could become the first player to complete a career slam with a victory at the PGA Championship. Nicklaus, Woods and Hogan completed their career slams at the British Open, Sarazen at the Masters and Player at the US Open.

For now, Spieth is among a select group of 13 players who have captured three of the four majors in their careers. He joins Tom Watson and the late Arnold Palmer in only lacking the PGA Championship.

That list includes US left-hander Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner missing only the US Open after a record six runner-up showings in that event, and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner lacking only the Masters to complete his career sweep.

Mickelson, like four-time major winner Ernie Els of South Africa, will make his 100th major appearance this week at Quail Hollow.

- McIlroy loves Quail Hollow -

McIlroy is expected to be a contender for a third Wanamaker Trophy after wins in 2012 and 2014. That would put him fourth on the all-time list behind Nicklaus and Walter Hagen with five and Woods with four.

"It would be nice to make that a hat trick," McIlroy said.

And McIlroy has s strong history at Quail Hollow. He won his first US PGA title in 2010 on the 7,600-yard, par-71 layout at age 20 with a final-round course record 62. In 2015, he lowered the mark, a third-round 61 sparking him to a second tour title in Charlotte.

"I play well at Quail Hollow. I love the golf course," McIlroy said. "They have made a few changes but I'll have some really good vibes."

Possibly soft conditions with thunderstorms in the forecast into the weekend shouldn't dampen McIlroy's major chances, given that he won a rain-soaked US Open in 2011 by eight strokes at Congressional.

Spieth will play alongside fellow reigning major champions Sergio Garcia of Spain, who captured his first major title at the Masters, and American Brooks Koepka, the US Open winner, in the first two rounds.

The feature trio starts Thursday from the 10th tee at 8:25 a.m. (1225 GMT) and Friday from the first tee at 1:35 p.m.

- 97 of top 100 in Charlotte -

World number one Dustin Johnson will be in the group just behind them both days along with Australia's seventh-ranked Jason Day and Sweden's eighth-rated Henrik Stenson.

In all, 97 of the world's top 100 are playing this week, with number 36 Brandt Snedeker dropping out injured on Monday, joining Germany's Martin Kaymer (64) and American Scott Piercy (77).

American Chris Kirk replaced Snedeker in the field.

McIlroy will play alongside Spain's Jon Rahm and American Rickie Fowler in the first two rounds.

Defending champion Jimmy Walker, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in April, will join Mickelson and Jason Dufner in an all-US trio.

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, coming off a victory at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, will join Els and England's Ian Poulter the first two days.

by Jim SLATER

© 2017 AFP