PGA Championship 2012 Leaderboard: Front-Runners Who Will Continue Early Push

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2012

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC - AUGUST 10:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits off the first tee during Round Two of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on August 10, 2012 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

You can count on these golfers to stay strong throughout the 2012 PGA Championship.

Some golfers cannot be trusted after one successful day. Carl Pettersson stormed out of the gate to take a surprising lead after the first day at the Ocean Course, but he quickly lost the top spot on Friday.

A few names, however, stand out on the top of the leaderboard as legitimate contenders to win the major at Kiawah Island.

In a wide-open field waiting for someone to seize control, these guys could run away with the lead during the weekend.


Rory McIlroy

After shooting a two-under par in the opening stages, Rory McIlroy looks poised to regain his spot back on top of the golfing world.

Ever since putting his name on the map with a U.S. Open win in 2011, the 23-year-old has failed to match that special performance.

He looked stronger than ever on Thursday, though, which is an unwelcome sight for everyone else.

McIlroy collected four birdies with no bogeys during the opening day. While he took advantage of the calm, wind-free conditions at the Ocean Course, he should be able to handle any possible elements during the weekend.

The Irish star should be considered one of the favorites to capture first place in South Carolina.


Keegan Bradley

The defending winner of the PGA Championship was in line to repeat before a rough Friday, but he's not done with it just yet.

Keegan Bradley was four under after Round 1 before stumbling to one-over par at the halfway point.

The 2011 PGA Rookie of the Year stayed strong after his putter broke earlier in the week. As Bradley told Rob Borges of the Boston Herald, he was grateful that he didn't have to change putters during a more crucial time:

I was walking down the fairway on Tuesday with Phil [Mickelson], and I hear a ping, and part of my putter had fallen off in the fairway. It’s a miracle it didn’t happen on Sunday. I’m thankful that it didn’t.

Maybe Bradley's victory in 2011 was a fluke, and maybe this year's version of Bradley rises from nowhere to steal a major victory.

However, don't count out Bradley just yet as he looks to seize control of the tournament that led to his fame.


Tiger Woods

Slowly but surely, Tiger Woods is edging closer to the Woods of old. 

While he'll never again be the hands-down star whom everyone penciled in at first place, Woods is still a viable contender and is swinging a hot golf club at Kiawah Island.

After holding his own with a 69 on Thursday, Woods currently sits in a three-way tie for first at four-under par. Hungry for his 16th major, the 36-year-old is starting more closely to resemble the enigmatic, fist-pumping player the world fell in love with before his off-the-course scandal.

There's still a long way ahead before Woods passes Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors.

But he might take one step closer to the legendary mark at the Ocean Course this weekend.