PGA Championship Favorites 2012: Bold Predictions for Golf's Top Players

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 7, 2012

PGA Championship Favorites 2012: Bold Predictions for Golf's Top Players

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    The 2012 PGA Championship will play host to many of golf's top players who are coming into the year's final major in top form.

    The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, like many other events in 2012, was not short on drama.

    The winner was defending PGA champion Keegan Bradley, but six of the world's Top 10 players registered Top 10 results at Firestone Country Club.

    Who will grab the Wanamaker Trophy this time around?

    Here are bold predictions on how golf's elite will fare at Kiawah Island, with the latest Vegas odds included.

Luke Donald

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    Odds: 15-1

    Now the No. 1-ranked player for the majority of the past year, Donald has still managed to avoid capturing the first major of his otherwise outstanding career.

    Back in 2006, Donald co-led the PGA Championship entering the final round. The problem was, he shared that lead with Tiger Woods.

    His final round of 74 was six shots worse than his playing partner's, and any hopes he had were quickly dashed. Since then, Donald hasn't come much closer to a major title.

    His resolve to salvage a tie for fifth at the British Open was encouraging, as well as another Top 10 result last week in Akron.

    If Donald gets off to one of his notoriously slow starts at majors at Kiawah Island, any major ambitions will be crushed immediately. His experience with seaside courses growing up in England should give him some advantage on the South Carolina coast though.

    Prediction: Unfortunately, this is not Donald's week to win. The course is playing at nearly 7,700 yards, which is too long for Luke to overcome despite his world-class short game.

    I see Donald making the cut, but not finishing inside the Top 20.

Tiger Woods

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    Odds: 7-1

    Once again, Tiger is the favorite to win major No. 15. When was the last time he won one of these things though? It's been nearly four and a half years, yet he's still the perennial alpha dog.

    It's hard to argue, I suppose. This is arguably the greatest golfer ever, who has won the most tournaments of anyone on the PGA Tour this year.

    To say Tiger is overdue at a major seems fair at this point, since he contended at various points during the previous two.

    After his best round of the week to close out the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, Tiger walks into the PGA on a high note.

    Prediction: For the third major in a row, Tiger will be in contention entering the weekend. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but I feel he will finish in the top-three.

Rory McIlroy

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    Odds: 15-1

    Finally! Maybe.

    McIlroy just logged his first top-five result since May. Everything looks to be clicking just in time to redeem himself for what has been a woeful year at the majors.

    More than any elite player in the field, McIlroy's game is suited for the Kiawah Island Ocean Course. He has incredible power, and has plenty of experience playing along the coast growing up in Northern Ireland.

    The wide driving areas and McIlroy's ability to adjust to blustery conditions will serve him well. As long as he can get the putter going, he has to be considered among the heavy favorites.

    Prediction: All signs are pointing to major No. 2 for the 23-year-old, but he's been too inconsistent this year at golf's biggest tournaments.

    That said, I expect McIlroy to register a Top 10 finish, because he's too talented to perform poorly at all four majors.

Lee Westwood

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    Odds: 25-1

    Westy is in the midst of his worst three-week stretch in two years. When was the last time such a consistent ball-striker like Westwood shot an 81, as he did in Saturday's third round in Akron?

    After struggling in the first round of the British Open in July, Westwood admitted he had been struggling, as reported by Rob Hodgetts of the BBC:

    I aim at a point and it either goes left or right, not often straight. On tight golf courses if you can't pick a point and shape it off it...you're going to struggle.

    Westwood was referring to Royal Lytham & St Annes as the course, and Kiawah Island has a little more forgiveness off the tee.

    Unfortunately, not much since last month's assessment has changed for Westwood. Unless he really figures something out, Westwood enters golf's final major in uncharacteristically poor form.

    Prediction: It's impossible to imagine Westwood not winning a major at some point, but then again he's been so close so many times and not pulled through.

    The state of the Englishman's game on a brutal course like this will likely be exposed. I don't see Westwood around for the weekend.

Webb Simpson

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    Odds: 40-1

    With the birth of his second child, Simpson has been missing in action on the PGA Tour as of late. The reigning U.S. Open champion played well after his stunning victory at the Olympic Club though.

    Despite fading on the final day at the Greenbrier Classic, Simpson managed a tie for seventh in his last competitive event ahead of the PGA Championship.

    Whether the arrival of his new daughter will distract one of golf's rising stars or give him positive vibes to contend this week remains to be seen.

    Prediction: Simpson is the biggest wild card in the world's Top 10, but if I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet against him.

    His iron play and putting should serve him well this week, but his final round scoring average ranks 136th on Tour this season. I feel he will have a shot on Sunday, but will settle for a finish somewhere in the teens.

Bubba Watson

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    Odds: 30-1

    Like Webb Simpson, Watson is dealing with exciting times in his personal life on top of a massively successful year on the course.

    Since his Masters victory in April, Watson has only played in six tournaments. Aside from a tie for second at the Travelers Championship, he hasn't managed better than a tie for 18th.

    No one's blaming Watson for enjoying time with his new baby boy, but the more fans can see of "Bubba Golf," the better.

    Prediction: The PGA Championship nearly gave Watson his first major title back in 2010, where he lost in a playoff to Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits.

    Bubba is due for an impressive showing, and his nearly unmatched distance and Tour-leading GIR percentage will net him a Top 10 finish.

Adam Scott

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    Odds: 30-1

    After years of being labeled a prodigy, winning dozens of tournaments worldwide, and generating tons of hype, Scott finally had a chance to back it all up by winning his first major title.

    Unfortunately, it was not to be last month at Royal Lytham & St Annes. If you're a golf fan, you probably don't need to be reminded that the Aussie blew a four stroke lead in the final four holes to lose to Ernie Els by one.

    In his only tournament since that crushing defeat, Scott finished tied for 45th, unsuccessfully defending his title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

    If anyone can get a player to rise to the occasion and bounce back, though, it's probably Scott's caddie, Stevie Williams. He knows a thing or two about winning majors, having caddied for Tiger Woods for many years.

    Prediction: Nothing recently has indicated Scott has recovered from the heartbreak at Lytham, but who could blame him?

    It would be a wonderful comeback story if Scott somehow pulled it out this week, but I just don't see it. Sadly, a missed cut will be his fate.

Jason Dufner

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    Odds: 25-1

    This very tournament last year was the site of a pretty epic meltdown by Dufner, who held a five-shot lead with four holes to play. Of course, he wound up losing by a stroke to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.

    While many relatively unknown players may have shrunk, Dufner truly took the positives from his experience and translated it into two PGA Tour wins this year and a rapid rise in the game of golf.

    This late-blooming Cleveland native is not only known for his waggling setup and tobacco habit, but also has to be considered the best ball-striker in the world.

    Prediction: Dufner has gotten off to hot starts at tournaments this year, ranking first in scoring average before the cut at 68.55.

    That same success is naturally harder to find on the weekends, but nonetheless, Dufner's play tends to dip considerably after the halfway point of tournaments.

    It's almost impossible to discount Dufner on a course that puts such a premium on accuracy. He will finish in the top-seven, but hot-and-cold putting will keep him out of contention.

Matt Kuchar

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    Odds: 30-1

    One of those nice family guys on Tour. A solid citizen. Oh, and he's a consistently fabulous golfer.

    Kuchar's biggest highlight of 2012 was his victory at the PLAYERS Championship, which is considered by many to be golf's unofficial "fifth major."

    Here are Kuchar's finishes this season in the events that actually have that "major" distinction: T3-T27-T9. Not too shabby.

    Like five of his counterparts in the Top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking, Kuchar just finished with an encouraging result at Firestone.

    Prediction: Kooch arguably has the best all-around game in the world right now, with a knack for hanging around the leaderboard just about every time he tees it up.

    I have a hunch that will change this week. Like TPC Sawgrass where Kuchar won the PLAYERS, the Ocean Course is designed by Pete Dye. This is a whole different animal, though.

    Expect Kuchar to finish somewhere outside the Top 25.

Justin Rose

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    Odds: 30-1

    The 32-year-old has had one of the best years of his career in 2012, with a win and six Top 10 finishes.

    It hasn't been the best go at it on the greens for Rose, who ranks 93rd on the PGA Tour in total putting. However, he ranks second in greens in regulation, and 17th in total driving.

    As good as he is striking the ball, Rose just needs to get hot with the flatstick to have a shot. It's that simple. He is riding a nice wave of momentum after a tie for fifth last week.

    Prediction: Rosie gets it done! He is of the classiest players in the game who has persevered to be an elite golfer despite a rocky beginning to his career.

    Well, "rocky" is putting it lightly—he missed 21 straight cuts.

    To go from finishing tied for fourth as an amateur in the British Open to that would be too devastating for most to recover from, but Rose has in a big way.

    Rose will finally be properly rewarded for his winning attitude, beautiful swing, and hard work with the Wanamaker Trophy in his hands on Sunday evening.