PGA Championship Favorites 2012: Championship Odds for World's Top Players

Carlos TorresContributor IAugust 8, 2012

PGA Championship Favorites 2012: Championship Odds for World's Top Players

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    Tomorrow, the world's top players will face what, according to Golfdigest.com, is the USA's toughest golf course as they play for the win at the year's final major: the 94th edition of the PGA Championship.

    The difficulty of the very long and windy Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina, promises to keep the "no lead is safe" trend going forward.

    To put the length of this course in perspective, consider that at 7,676 yards, the Ocean Course is 200 yards longer than Augusta National, 450 yards longer than Olympic and 540 yards longer than Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

    Also, of all the majors in recent times, the PGA Championship has attracted the strongest field. This week, the world's top 108 players are all scheduled to compete.

    Still, if the trend that has been the norm of the past 16 majors continues, we could be in line for another surprise winner, who would most likely come and snatch the win in the final hole or extra holes.

    The last 16 majors have had 16 different champions and that is the longest streak since the Masters began in 1934.

    Will that streak continue?

    Let's take a quick look at the winning odds—according to vegasinsider.com—and recent play for the world's top 20 players in the official World Golf Rankings.

Rickie Fowler (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 20

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-51st (2011)

    Fowler got his first PGA Tour win at the Wells Fargo Championship in early May. He then almost won The Players Championship in his next start and followed it with a tie for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

    Since then, he has been virtually a non-factor in four starts, cracking the top 40 only once and reverting to his form prior to his win at the Wells Fargo.

    Fowler has played the PGA only twice and his best finish was a tie for 51st last year. He has the skills and poise to have an impact this weekend but must he find a way to get back to the form he had back in May of this year, otherwise it could mean an early exit.

Phil Mickelson (20-1)

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    World Ranking: 19

    Best PGA Championship Finish: Won (2005)

    Since finishing tied for third at The Masters earlier this year, Mickelson has been struggling with his game.

    He has said that his recent slump can be blamed on his golf swing, not an arthritic condition, establishing that his swing is definitely a problem with his game.

    The only thing left for him to do is to try and play right-handed to see if he can find his game, which is missing right now.

    But this course, although punishing, rewards inventive and gambling players that go for their shots and attack the flags—assuming they succeed at it.

    Mickelson is one of those players and one that at this tournament cannot be counted out, even with his lackluster play of late.

Dustin Johnson (30-1)

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    World Ranking: 18

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-5th (2010)

    In 2010, a ruling cost Dustin Johnson two strokes and a spot in a playoff at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which, like the Ocean Course, was built by golf architect Pete Dye with an abundance of sand.

    The Ocean Course has more than 30 acres of waste area, and, while much of those areas are made of sand, none of it is considered a bunker.

    The PGA learned from that, and Johnson—and any other player—can now ground their club in the waste area, take practice swings in it and are not required to rake the sand afterward either.

    Johnson won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in his second start after three months off and tied for ninth at The Open three weeks ago.

    Last week he shot a 73 in the third round at Firestone and finished tied for 19th, otherwise he could have been challenging for the win.

    Johnson has the game to conquer this course, much like he almost did two years ago at a similar venue, and his odds reflect that.

Ernie Els (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 17

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 3rd/t-3rd (1995, 2007)

    Els has seen a resurgence of his career this year which he capped with his recent win at The Open three weeks ago.

    Many will say that Adam Scott collapsed and Els got the benefit of it, but he was the only player to get in position to put pressure on Scott and earned the win.

    When Els started to push himself to avoid missing The Masters earlier this year, his game started to come back after a down 2010.

    He didn't get into The Masters but he was well on his way to start climbing the World Rankings once again, and is now in 17th place.

    Since the Transitions Championship in mid-March, Els has played 14 tournaments and has one win, four top fives and two additional top 10s.

    At the PGA he has four top-five finishes and a tie for sixth as his best finishes in 20 starts.

Louis Oosthuizen (50-1)

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    World Ranking: 16

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 73rd (2008)

    The 2010 Open winner got hot earlier this year going into The Masters and lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson thanks to the hook shot seen around the world.

    He then cooled off for the U.S. Open where he missed the cut, but seems to be getting back in the hot zone, as he has progressively improved his finishes in his last four tournaments.

    He just finished fourth at the WGC Bridgestone and this course sets up well for a great ball striker like Oosthuizen. He leads the European Tour in stroke average and scrambling and is third in putts per greens in regulation.

    At the PGA Championship, he finished tied for 73rd in 2008 and has missed the cut the last three times.

Keegan Bradley (60-1)

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    World Ranking: 15

    Best PGA Championship Finish: Won (2011)

    Bradley comes to the PGA Championship looking to follow up Sunday’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational victory with a successful defense of his PGA Championship title, which he won in his first major start.

    If he succeeds, he will be the first to accomplish the feat since Tiger Woods in 2007.

    He can certainly use the momentum and confidence boost from his win last Sunday. Before that, in 12 starts, his best finish had been in the top 30 only twice with his best a tie for 24th at the HP Byron Nelson, as well as missing the cut four times.

    Bradley seems ready for his title defense and should be able to play well at the Ocean Course.

Hunter Mahan (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 14

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-16th (2009)

    Mahan has won twice this year, but, for the most part, has been really inconsistent since his last win at the Shell Houston Open in early April.

    Since that win, he has made 10 of 11 cuts but has only one top 10.

    There is no doubt that Mahan has game and is capable of winning anywhere, anytime. But that remains the million dollar question with him: When is that week that he will show his A-game?.

    Mahan should have incentive enough to bring it this week as he is on the bubble for the Ryder Cup. He trails Phil Mickelson for the final automatic spot by 81.38 points.

    At the PGA Championship, Mahan has six starts and has been in the top 20 three times, with his best finish a tie for 16th in 2009, and has missed the cut twice.

Zach Johnson (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 13

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-3rd (2010)

    Johnson is having a very strong season. He has won twice and is solidly in sixth place of the Ryder Cup points standings.

    After his win at the John Deere Classic, he tied for ninth in the British Open and then finished tied for 40th at the WGC Bridgestone last week.

    It was a disappointing finish as he had said that the Firestone course felt like home and he had a lot of momentum going into the tournament. 

    Johnson has eight starts at the PGA Championship and, after missing the cut three straight years from 2006-2008, he finished tied for 10th, tied for third, and then tied for 59th last year.

Graeme McDowell (30-1)

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    World Ranking: 12

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-10th (2009)

    McDowell is having a very good season, although he has yet to win. He has finished second three times and third once.

    One of those second-place finishes was at the U.S. Open where he was a putt away from sending the tournament to extra holes.

    He also finished tied for 12th at the Masters and tied for fifth at The Open, so he has brought his A-game to the previous three majors this year and should do the same this weekend.

    McDowell led the PGA Tour earlier this year in driving accuracy and, while he has slipped to fourth, that stat can help him a lot on this windy course.

    McDowell has seven starts at the PGA Championship and has a tie for 10th as his best finish in 2009. He has missed the cut four times.

Steve Stricker (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 11

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 2nd (1998)

    Stricker's strength has always been his putting ability. He had been struggling with it recently but seemed to find his stroke last week as he almost won the WGC Bridgstone—finishing second.

    He started the year well and ranked fifth in the world at one point. At that time, his presence on the Ryder Cup team was a lock and his play was backing that up.

    But he started playing inconsistently and has slipped to 10th place in the Ryder Cup points standings, and will certainly have that on his mind going into this weekend.

    Stricker has to leapfrog over Hunter Mahan (ninth) and Phil Mickelson (eighth) to earn his automatic berth, and certainly his great showing last week could carry over to this weekend.

    Stricker leads the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole, making it imperative that he makes the very important putts this weekend.

    In 14 career starts at the PGA Championship, he has a second place in 1998, but since he has only one top 10—a tie for 7th in 2006—and missed the cut five times. The last two years he has finished in the top 20.

Justin Rose (40-1)

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    World Ranking: 10

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-9th (2008)

    Rose has started to pick up his game after struggling at the start of the year.

    He won his first WGC event at the Cadillac Championship and has five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts.

    He is enjoying his best year as he leads the Race to Dubai on the European Tour where he ranks second in stroke average and fourth in sand saves—too bad there are no official bunkers this weekend.

    On the PGA Tour, he ranks second in greens in regulation (GIR) which will come in handy this weekend.

    In nine PGA Championship starts, his only top 10 was a tie for ninth in 2008. He has only one more top 20 and five times he has missed the cut.

Matt Kuchar (30-1)

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    World Ranking: 9

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-10th (2010)

    Kuchar got the biggest win of his career this year as he won The Players Championship this past May.

    He co-leads the PGA Tour in top-10 finishes with eight and is second in stroke average.

    He has played well in the majors as he finished tied for third at The Masters, tied for 27th at the U.S. Open and tied for ninth at The Open.

    Kuchar has three top 10s in four starts, which gives him very good momentum coming to the tournament this weekend.

    He has played the PGA Championship only four times. He finished tied for 10th in 2010 and tied for 19th last year, missing the cut the previous two times.

Jason Dufner (25-1)

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    World Ranking: 8

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 2nd (2011)

    Dufner has played in the PGA Championship only three times. He missed the cut the first time, finished tied for fifth in 2010 and finished second after an epic collapse last year.

    Last year, Dufner was walking tall and confident leading by five shots with four holes to play. But then, the unthinkable started to happen as he made three straight bogeys and eventually lost in a three-hole playoff.

    But Dufner has arrived and this year he already has two wins, is ranked eight in the world and ranks in the top 10 in greens hit, birdie average, scoring average and total driving on the PGA Tour.

Adam Scott (25-1)

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    World Ranking: 7

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-3rd (2006)

    Scott is looking this weekend to put his infamous Open collapse in the past.

    He finished tied for 45th at the WCG Bridgestone last week, which doesn't bode well, but he certainly can bounce back this weekend.

    He was playing at his peak going into The Open, and he just has to look back at Rory McIlroy and his Masters collapse last year and then coming back to blow away the opposition at the U.S. Open.

    Scott has 11 starts in the PGA Championship and has three top-10 finishes, which includes his seventh-place finish last year, and has missed the cut three times. 

Bubba Watson (30-1)

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    World Ranking: 6

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 2nd (2010)

    Watson broke through this year by winning his first major championship at The Masters.

    Everyone remembers how, when after missing the fairway badly with his tee shot on the 10th hole in the playoff, he masterfully hooked a gap wedge 40 yards and onto the elevated green, which allowed him to earn his first green jacket.

    Watson's length and inventiveness fit this tough, 7,676-yard course perfectly. He is leading the PGA Tour in driving distance and greens in regulation percentage.

    He also has done well at a Pete Dye course before. He made the PGA Championship playoff in 2010 at Whistling Straits before losing to Martin Kaymer.

    Watson has played the PGA Championship five times. His second place finish in 2010 is his only top-10 finish. He has a tie for 26th and a tie for 70th to go along with two missed cuts.

Webb Simpson (30-1)

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    World Ranking: 5

    Best PGA Championship Finish: Cut (2011)

    Simpson had a great year in 2011, where he almost won the FedEx Cup and the money title on the PGA Tour.

    That was his breakthrough season with two wins, but his breakthrough win came this year at the U.S. Open—his first major victory and third career win. He had missed the cut twice going into that tournament which made it more remarkable at the time.

    He then said he would take some time off for the birth of his second child, missing The Open and last week's WGC Bridgestone Championship.

    The only question with Simpson will be: How rusty he will be coming to this tough course? He will need to be sharp to avoid an early exit.

    Simpson made his first start at the PGA Championship last year and missed the cut.

Lee Westwood (15-1)

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    World Ranking: 4

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-3rd (2009)

    Westwood, along with Luke Donald, are the players that everyone's had their eyes on in every major the past two years, as they are still looking for that elusive first major.

    Westwood has won twice overseas this year, but contrary to the previous three majors this season, he is coming off three awful starts that have seen him finish tied for 40th, tied for 45th and 70th.

    Having his momentum go backwards is not the way Westwood would like to approach this course, where he will need to be at his best to contend.

    Westwood has 15 starts in the PGA Championship and his only top-10 finishes have come in his last two starts—in 2009 finishing tied for third and last year with a tie for eighth. He did not play in 2010.

    In his previous 13 starts, he has two top-20 finishes and has missed the cut five times.

Rory McIlroy (20-1)

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    World Ranking: 3

    Best PGA Championship Finish: 3rd/t-3rd (2009, 2010)

    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.

    McIlroy has to go back to being the golfer that ran a streak of 13 top-five finishes in 16 tournaments and saw him reach the world's No. 1 ranking after his win in the Honda Classic in March.

    McIrloy finished third and tied for third in his first two starts at the PGA Championship in 2009 and 2010. Then last year, he finished in a disappointing tie for 64th.

Tiger Woods (13-2)

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    World Ranking: 2

    Best PGA Championship Finish: Won (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007)

    Woods has been the favorite going into every major this year and has failed to deliver his 15th major win.

    He won the previous week going into The Masters and the U.S. Open, and finished tied for 40th and tied for 21st at each tournament respectively. He then missed the cut prior to The Open and finished tied for third.

    What is left is to just finish a tournament without winning it prior to a major and maybe that will do the trick. He finished tied for eighth at the WGC Bridgestone, but was never a factor in the tournament.

    A lot of the concern regarding Woods this weekend is the fact that he hasn't been successful in recent years on Pete Dye courses. Woods has one top-10 finish—at TPC Sawgrass—since 2002 and finished tied for 28th at Whistling Straits two years ago.

    Woods is in third place on the PGA Championship all-time wins list with four. He has played 14 times and has also finish second two times and tied for 10th once. The only time he missed the cut was last year.

Luke Donald (15-1)

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    World Ranking: 1

    Best PGA Championship Finish: t-3rd (2006)

    Donald has been quietly doing what he does best this season—being consistent.

    After starting the year slow, he has picked up the pace and has two wins to go along with five additional top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts.

    While he failed to contend at The Masters and the U.S. Open, he finished tied for fifth at The Open, which was a nice showing, although he was not a factor during the tournament.

    He finished tied for eighth at the WGC Bridgestone last weekend, which gives him two top 10s coming into this tournament.

    He is leading the European Tour in average one-putts per round and is fifth in stroke average. He doesn't have the length to help him at this course, but he could use that average one-putts stat to his advantage here.

    Donald has eight starts in the PGA Championship and his two top-10 finishes came in 2006, with a tie for third, and last year finishing tied for eighth. In his other starts he has three top-25 finishes and once he has missed the cut.