2012 PGA Championship: What the Top Players Need to Do to Be in Contention

Rob Beuerlein@TxStateSID_RobContributor IIIAugust 8, 2012

2012 PGA Championship: What the Top Players Need to Do to Be in Contention

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    Every player establishes a game plan in the days leading up to a tournament, especially a major. The players assess the strengths and weaknesses of their game, in relation to the golf course.

    The player’s game plan does not necessarily mean the player will win the tournament, but it gives them the best chance to be in contention.

    Kiawah is a long course with winds coming off the ocean for 10 of the holes. Players need to be able to get the ball down the fairway enough to set up a good approach shot. They must also keep the ball in play and navigate the winds as much as possible.

    A player capable of being in contention, will not only be able to manage the elements, but also manage the stress and pressures that will be thrust on him.

    Keep reading to see what the top players in the world need to do in order to be in contention during the back nine on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald has been ranked the No. 1 player in the world for a while. He has often been criticized, however, for not showing up in the majors. His best finish this season is a tie for fifth at the British Open.

    He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and tied for 32nd at the Masters. In order for Donald to be in contention, he needs to get off to a good start. At the Masters, he had a first round 75, and at the U.S. Open he had a first round 79.

    If Donald can be around even par, like he was at the British Open, his game should be able to contend even on the most difficult track.

Lee Westwood

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    Lee Westwood tends to find a way to get in contention at most majors. He has nine top-10 finishes since 2008, including six top-three finishes. What seems to derail Westwood is his putting.

    He enters the week ranked 178th on the PGA Tour in putting. He is known as one of the best ball strikers in the world, which should help his chances on this course, which puts a premium on it.

    Westwood is known for having the crucial putts on Sunday that tend to make or break his chances. 

    Expect Sunday afternoon to provide the same circumstances for Westwood. If the putts fall, he should have a good chance to win his first major.

Phil Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson is one of the most creative players on tour. He designs clubs specifically for tournaments and cares about angles and trajectories more than most players.

    With all the knowledge in his head, Mickelson has not been the best player in the wind, as evidenced by his poor British Open record. At Royal Lytham last month, he had a difficult time keeping the ball out of trouble.

    If Mickelson can keep the ball in play, his short game and experience could be enough to vault him to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.

Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy can be viewed a lot like Mickelson. He has all the talent to dominate a course, like we saw at the 2011 U.S. Open.

    We’ve also seen McIlroy get overwhelmed by both the elements and internal pressure. When winds pick up like the last two British Opens, McIlroy’s game does not yet have enough counters to keep the ball in play.

    When McIlroy’s game starts to go awry, he often starts fighting his confidence. In order for McIlroy to contend at Kiawah he must first focus on the technical swing aspects of playing in the wind. If he can have success early, it should feed on each other, enabling him to grab his second major.

Tiger Woods

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    We’ve seen glimpses of the Tiger Woods of old this year. He’s won three events—Bay Hill, the Memorial and his own tournament, the AT&T. His most brilliant shot was at Memorial, when he hit a patented flop shot reminiscent of 16 at Augusta a few years back.

    Unfortunately in the majors, we’ve seen where Woods seems to be lacking—his short game. It started from 120 yards and in during the final two rounds at the U.S. Open and continued in the British Open. Then in the World Golf Championship at Bridgestone he took 33 putts in the first round.

    If Woods’ short game can get dialed in, he may be able to do more than just be in contention at Kiawah. He could potentially grab his 15th major.