Through three of golf's major championships in 2013, we have three different winners. As the action shifts to the Oak Hill Country Club for the PGA Championship, it remains to be seen what kind of winner will emerge from the field.
Looking at the golfers who will be on the East Course in Rochester on Thursday, Tiger Woods is once again expected to be the most popular choice to win the tournament outright.
Adam Scott (Masters), Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and Phil Mickelson (Open Championship) are the three major winners this year, and each will try and lay claim to the title in New York by the time Sunday rolls around.
Other big names who will compete at Oak Hill include Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell.
It's prediction time—here's three bold assertions concerning three of the PGA Tour's top stars prior to Thursday's Round 1.
*For a complete look at the tee times and pairings for Thursday and Friday, check out PGA.com.
Rory McIlroy Fades from Contention...Early
McIlroy has had the most disappointing 2013 season of any PGA Tour golfer.
In fact, despite being the defending champion of this event, it doesn't really feel like McIlroy is a golfer to watch at Oak Hill. This tweet from ESPN's Stats & Info confirms that theory:
In the last 9 majors, Rory McIlroy has 1 top-20 finish: his win at the 2012 PGA Championship— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 6, 2013
There's little evidence to suggest that McIlroy will turn things around at Oak Hill.
Where will McIlroy finish?
His best finish on tour this year is a second-place one at the Texas Open. In the previous three majors of the 2013 calendar year, McIlroy has failed to eclipse the top 25. At Muirfield and the British Open, he failed to even make the cut.
He might be the defending champion, but winning back-to-back PGA Championships is very unlikely for McIlroy given the way his game has been so far this year.
Phil Mickelson Leads At Least One Round
Since disappointing at the Masters, Mickelson has been on a tear.
Starting with a third-place finish at Wells Fargo, Mickelson has finished in the top three in four of his last six PGA Tour events. If you include the Scottish Open (European Tour), the ratio jumps to five out of the last seven.
Although he didn't crack the top 20 at the Bridgestone Invitational, Mickelson is expected to contend at Oak Hill. A few mistakes away from having two of the three majors under his belt this year, the lefty is peaking at the right time.
Expect him to lead at least one round of the tournament this week.
As he's done at various tournaments this year, Mickelson is taking his driver out of the bag for the opening round of the PGA Championship. ESPN Golf had the news on Twitter:
Phil Mickelson leaving his driver home to start PGA Championship at Oak Hill -- Golf http://t.co/5OFWvCBwy8— ESPN Golf (@ESPNGolf) August 6, 2013
With Oak Hill offering golfers very little room for error from the tee box to the fairway, Mickelson's decision to use his woods and irons ahead of his bigger club could pay dividends in the long run.
Coupled with his strong play over the past few weeks, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone when Mickelson finds himself in contention over the course of the season's final major. He might not win his second career PGA Championship trophy, but I do expect Mickelson to be the leader after at least one round.
If he plays his cards right, it could be the final round.
Tiger Woods Finds His Putting Stroke, Wins PGA Championship
It's been a long time (circa 2008) since Tiger Woods won a major championship.
Over the course of his dry spell, it's the putter that has hung Woods out to dry when he struggles to contend in big tournaments.
ESPN's Justin Ray noted as much on Twitter:
Tiger in the final round of last 13 major starts: 13 three-putts. In previous 13 major starts he only had 4.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) August 6, 2013
If Woods' putter continues to be a strong part of his game, the dry spell will be over.
All of Tiger's skills were on display at Firestone at the Bridgestone Invitational. Jumping out to a lead and never looking back, the No. 1 golfer in the world reminded us just how dangerous he can be when all of his tools are working together.
ESPN the Magazine posted this tweet on Tuesday, reminding us just how impressive Tiger has been on the green this season:
Oddsmakers say Tiger will win his first major since 2008 this weekend. He's only the world's best putter these days. http://t.co/D9Fjo8z4WN— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) August 6, 2013
PGA.com's Frank Sneed took a closer look at how Woods was able to run away with the World Golf Championship event last week, and the answer was simple: His putting was top-notch.
Who wins the 2013 PGA Championship
When it comes to Woods and his previous 14 major championship victories, strong putting has always been part of the equation. It will be no different if he wins major No. 15 at Oak Hill on Sunday afternoon.
Based on his 2013 season, confidence from Firestone and sheer hunger to eclipse Jack Nicklaus' record, Woods will putt the ball well this week and win the 2013 PGA Championship.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.