The 94th PGA Championship tees off on Thursday with one of the deepest 156-player fields in recent major history.
The top 108 players are present, and the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina will give all the players one very long and windy challenge throughout the weekend.
This is the last major of the year, therefore the last at "Glory's Last Shot" of winning a major until The Masters next year.
Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia are among the players that will be looking to erase themselves from the unofficial "Best Players Never to Win a Major" list.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods would like to change gears from neutral to drive his search for Jack Nicklaus' all-time major wins record.
Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els look to become the first players since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win two majors in a year.
Defending champ Keegan Bradley looks to become just the second golfer in the stroke-play era to win consecutive PGA Championships.
Let's take quick look at some of the picks of the experts around the web.
From Shane Bacon at CBSSports.com:
The only real knock on Oosthuizen is that he hasn't really performed exceptionally well at extremely tough golf courses, but I'll take a solid-swinging Louis over the rest of the field mostly because it seems the former Open winner is due for another great performance. He's coming off a T-19 at the British and a fourth place finish alone last week at the Bridgestone, and considering he nearly won the Masters this season and had a top-10 at the U.S. Open a year ago, it isn't like he's slacking off his since his surprise win at St. Andrews. Oosthuizen has been pounding the ball off the tee this year, and his scoring average of 69.77 is in the top-20 on tour, so if he keeps the putter going, I expect a big week out of him at Kiawah.
Oosthuizen was close already at The Masters this year, and he has all the tools to win this week. I agree he is due for a great performance at a major, and this course enhances that chance.
From Debbie Wong at uspresswire.com:
Few players will be more comfortable in the environment this week than this tall and lanky American, who grew up in South Carolina. But, like everyone else, he’ll be trying to figure out the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, because this is not where Johnson spent his time playing golf as a teenager or even post-college. Still, he’ll have a ton of fans, and even those South Carolinians who don’t know him will gravitate toward him. Maybe he won’t feel like Phil Mickelson does in New York, but it’s difficult to envision any player being more loose and at ease this week.
Dustin Johnson will feel comfortable hitting balls a mile on this course. That doesn't mean they will always be straight, but he will let it loose from the tee with confidence.
If he just controls his history of jitters when Sunday arrives, the Palmetto native will bring down the grandstands with an ovation on the 72nd hole.
From Zachary Thompson at Fantasycpr.com:
Stricker charged to his 2nd place finish last week with a final round 64. He’s been in the top 25 the last five weeks, and I’m still good with six starts after saving them all season for Mr. September. He’s looking to finish with his usual run. He was t15 at the British and t23 at the US Open both of which are decent comparisons for this week’s tournament.
Steve Stricker finally got back near the top of the leaderboard last week and looked like his putting is back in form.
While he is not a long hitter, he can make it up with his accuracy and putting prowess which will come in handy on this difficult greens.
From Jim McCabe at golfweek.com:
My, how times have changed. A year ago on the eve of the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, barely anyone outside of the Vermont golf and ski community paid attention to this young man. OK, the St. John’s crowd knew him, and so did a sprinkling of golf fans in the Boston area. But mostly he was a PGA Tour rookie with promise and dreams—until he finished birdie, birdie, par to catch Jason Dufner, then win a playoff. Talk about the express route from lobby to penthouse. He joined Ben Curtis and Francis Ouimet as the only players to win the very first major in which they played, but the flavor to Bradley’s story is this: He is not a one-hit wonder. He’s a bona fide star, a fearless player who bounces back from bogey perhaps as well as anyone in the game. If the game at Kiawah is not only his title defense but an audition to see if he’s worthy of a captain’s pick for the upcoming Ryder Cup (he’s ninth in the standings, and only the top eight make it automatically), then bring it on. Pressure motivates this young man.
Keegan Bradley is trying to become the first player to win the week before the PGA Championship and follow up with a victory in the year’s last major since Tiger Woods did it in 2007.
He is also trying to emulate Woods in becoming the first golfer to win it in consecutive years since Woods did it in 2006 and 2007.
The defending champ has all the momentum coming into this weekend, and with all the incentives around, he will be all systems go this weekend and should be a factor coming Sunday.
From Ryan Wilson at CBSSports.com:
We could just as easily swap Kuchar for Jason Dufner here, but that's the current state of the PGA Tour. (And more specifically, the rampant uncertainty of trying to pick winners each week.) Kuchar has been quietly spectacular this season, winning the Players Championship, registering eight top-10 finishes (including a T-8 at Bridgestone last week) and never missing a cut. He's among the handful of players routinely mentioned as "the best never to win a major," and given the way he's played in 2012, he could finally lose that label at Kiawah.
Matt Kuchar has been quietly making noise—it doesn't make sense, right? Golf is that way, and this course just exemplifies how difficult is to be consistent for a whole weekend.
But if anyone can do that, it's Kuchar. Given how he's played this year and after finally getting the win at the unofficial "fifth major," The Players Championship, he might break through and win his first official major.
From Dave Tindall at golf365.com:
Adam Scott is confident that he can recover from his collapse at The Open to win the PGA Championship. The calamitous collapse may have taken its toll on some players, but Scott insists on focusing on the positives that he can take from the event as he prepares for the year's final major on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The 32-year-old believes that he can recover immediately from his Open disappointment to take the PGA Championship title. Scott finished seventh at last year's PGA Championship, with his best showing coming in 2006 when he came home in tied third.
Will Adam Scott be able to bounce back, or will he start a downward spiral collapse on his play?
He certainly can bounce back. He just has to look back at Rory McIlroy and his Masters' collapse and then coming back to blow the opposition at the U.S. Open.
Scott has long been regarded as the next superstar, and he showed a big glimpse at The Open. This weekend he can prove he belongs.
From Rob Bolton at pgatour.com:
It was just two years ago that he lost in a playoff at the PGA Championship on Pete Dye-designed Whistling Straits. Obviously, he's consummated that potential this year with a Masters win and 10 more top 20s. Leads TOUR in distance and greens hit.
Bubba Watson is a long hitter and very imaginative with his shots. That sounds like the recipe for success here.
He finally broke through with his Masters win, and at this tournament, he will be playing with the same confidence he did at Augusta and should be among the top contenders this weekend.
From Bob Donnan at uspresswire.com:
Remember the 18th hole at The Olympic Club, when this rising star made a devilish up-and-down to save par and ultimately win the US Open? Or, two weeks later at Greenbrier, when Simpson led but closed with a 73 and faded into a share of seventh? Both situations tell a story about Simpson. He turns 28 the day before he tees it up in just his sixth major, so he’s still a novice at big-stage events. But he sure seems to have embraced them and learned how to play them. He’s got a win and two other strong efforts (T-14 at 2011 US Open, T-16 at 2011 Open Championship), and like Dufner, he seems to be on every leaderboard. He's also rested, having taken four weeks off after the birth of his second child.
Webb Simpson looked in top form on his last start at the Greenbrier Classic even though he didn't win. But that was five weeks ago, and the only knock on his chances this weekend is how rusty he might be.
This is not an easy course, and he better come ready from the layoff, or he might make the third early exit on a tournament in his last six starts.
From Jonathan Wall at Yahoo.com:
McIlroy was asked on Saturday following a third-round 67 when the last time was he felt this good. His answer? "Not for a while, probably going into Quail Hollow." That was back in May. In other words, it had been a while. Even though he didn't exactly set the world on fire this week at Firestone, McIlroy put together four solid rounds of golf, finishing inside the top-5 for the first time since the Wells Fargo Championship. He also finished 2nd in the field in driving distance and greens in regulation, two stats that could come in handy at Kiawah.
Rory McIlroy has been fairly consistent in his last nine starts. Four Top 10s and four missed cuts. While he did played well for four rounds last weekend, the question here is which McIlroy will show up.
One thing he certainly will have to erase is the consistency of poor showings in the majors, a streak he started after winning the U.S. Open last year.
If there is a time and a course for McIlroy to finally contend again in a major, it is this weekend at the Ocean Course.
From Justin Ray at ESPN.com:
This might not be the week to wager on Woods. It's impossible to count him out of a major championship before it begins, but he has a couple of things stacked against him at Kiawah this week. For one, he hasn't had a great amount of success in recent years on Pete Dye courses. Woods has one top-10 at TPC Sawgrass since 2002 and finished tied for 28th at Whistling Straits two years ago. Second, Tiger is admittedly unfamiliar with Paspalum grass, which is what makes up most of The Ocean Course. Tiger's green-reading problems have been well-documented recently (he was 56th in strokes gained-putting last week at Firestone), and it's difficult to believe that will improve on an unfamiliar putting surface.
Surprising? Not at all.
While he remains a threat to win anywhere, anytime, Woods has really struggled at Pete Dye courses, and his inability to put four straight good rounds in a major so far has many wondering if he can win a major again.
Still, this is Tiger Woods, and this could be the week he proves his doubters wrong.