The year’s final Major is finally here, and every player in the field is hoping to get their hands on Glory’s Last Shot. This year’s PGA Championship is being played at Kiawah, a Pete Dye design where the fairways are wide and the trees are non-existant. Although there’s plenty of room on the fairways, the wind will be strong and the conditions wet, so expect par to be a good score. Let’s take a look at the leading candidates to take home the Wanamaker trophy.
1. Jason Dufner – The only way Brent would ever let me get away with puting Dufner first in the Power Rankings would be if said Power Rankings contained a giant picture of Luke Donald. So there. Although Dufner has been pretty busy Honeymooning over the past couple of months, he has still managed to tee it up once in a while, and when he does he lights it up. He has two wins and five total top tens in his last six starts, including a T4 at a tough U.S. Open course and a 7th place finish at last week’s Bridgestone Invitational, making him a serious threat this week at Kiawah. His 2nd place finish in last year’s PGA Championship will only motivate him more.
2. Justin Rose – For some reason, Justin Rose has been largely overlooked this year, likely due to the fact that Dave has two other players with more than 500 points. Rose hasn’t managed huge success in the Majors this year, but he does have some great finishes in big events(1st in the Cadillac Championship, T8 at the Masters, T5 at the Bridgestone Invitational). He’s won two tier threes in the last two years, so the next logical step would be for him to bring home Dave’s 2nd Major of the season.
3. Luke Donald – Like Lee Westwood, Luke must be getting tired of people asking him when he’s going to win his first Major. He’s had some close calls, including top tens in three of the four tier threes so far this year. His short game has not been as polished as it was last year when he had 2 wins and 14 top tens, but a more accurate game off the tee is making up for it. Expect Donald to compete this week as like Dufner and Rose, he is also coming off a top ten at the Bridgestone Invitational.
4. Tiger Woods – Tiger Woods may not be dominating in Majors the way he used to, but the Open Championship has proven he can still contend. Woods has top tens in four of his last six starts, including wins in the Memorial Tournament and The AT&T National, but he has had mixed success at the Majors, with his T3 at the Open being his only top ten finish. If he can put four good rounds together he can win anywhere, including Kiawah.
5. Louis Oosthuizen – ‘King Louis’ hasn’t enjoyed a statistically great season this year, with just three top tens in 14 tournaments. However, if you look a little closer you’ll see how close he has come to having a great one. Oosthuizen led at the Shell Houston Open before a final round 75 ended his chances, and was one incredible shot by Bubba Watson away from winning the Masters as well. His T19 at the Open Championship is also decieving, as a double bogey on the final hole dropped him out of the top ten. Coming off a fourth place finish at the Bridgestone Invitational, Louis looks primed to bring home his second Major.
6. Matt Kuchar – Matt Kuchar’s resume speaks for itself. He has yet to miss a cut this year, and has eight top tens in 17 starts. His win at the Players Championship in May and at the Barclays in 2010 show he has the guts to win big tournaments, it’s just a matter of getting into position to close it out. If that didn’t convince you that he’s a big-time player, his T27 at the U.S. Open was his only finish outside the top ten in a tier three or four event this year. Expect big things this week.
7. Dustin Johnson – The wide fairways at Kiawah will favor the bombers, and no one defines ‘bomber’ more accurately than Dustin Johnson. He’s been largely overlooked this year since he missed a couple of months with injury, but has already won since his return, and collected a top ten at the Open Championship. There is also the added motivation of redemption from 2010, when he grounded his club in a bunker, and missed out on the playoff at Whistling Straights.
8. Bubba Watson – It’s hard to believe it’s been two full years since the PGA Championship at Whistling Straights and a lot has changed, including Bubba Watson’s resume. Watson was so close to claiming his first Major Championship at the Pete Dye designed Whistling Straights, but was beaten out in a playoff by Martin Kaymer. Since then, Watson has become a Masters champion and four time winner on the PGA Tour. His free-wheeling style will fit well with the wide fairways, and shot-making ability will help in the windy conditions.
9. Keegan Bradley – Few people make me angrier than Keegan Bradley, but the fiery Vermont native has proven he can win on the PGA Tour. Bradley had not been having a particularly successful year until last week, with just three top tens until his victory at the Bridgestone Invitational. He will be the defending champion this week at Kiawah, and that will bring added pressure, but we couldn’t leave Lawrence completely out of the Power Rankings could we?
10. Rory McIlroy – It’s been a pretty rough summer for Rors. Missed cuts at the Players, Memorial and U.S. Open Championships were big disappointments for a player expected to contend at every event. Luckily for James, a top five finish at the Bridgestone Invitational showed the form that made McIlroy a Major Champion and earned him a win earlier in the season at the Honda Classic. It isn’t a matter of whether McIlroy can contend this week, but whether he will.