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What Each of Golf's Top Stars Must Prove at 2014 PGA Championship

Mike DudurichContributor IOctober 11, 2016

What Each of Golf's Top Stars Must Prove at 2014 PGA Championship

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    PGA Championship week could be a very big one for Tiger Woods.
    PGA Championship week could be a very big one for Tiger Woods.Jon Super/Associated Press

    It's hard to imagine that Tiger Woods would have the most to prove when the PGA Championship gets underway next week at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville.

    But that's the way it's working out.

    His hopes to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs and be on the United States Ryder Cup team will depend on his performance at Valhalla, as well as how he does this week in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

    But there are others who have things to prove as well.

    Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar, proving they can win a major; Phil Mickelson, proving he can put four good rounds together.

    Check out the list of what some of the best names in the game have to prove at the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods

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    The next two weeks will determine Tiger Woods' immediate future.
    The next two weeks will determine Tiger Woods' immediate future.Jon Super/Associated Press

    It's very simple for Tiger Woods.

    Play well, contend and, if possible, win at Valhalla as he did in a 2000 playoff over Bob May.

    Woods would very much like to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs and do well enough to convince U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson to choose him as a captain's choice.

    That is said, of course, assuming Woods plays reasonably well this week in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods has won eight times at Firestone Country Club.

    Woods has struggled in his comeback from back surgery in March, but maintains his interest and his belief that he deserves to be on that Ryder Cup team.

    But he needs to play well and post some good scores, proving that he's worthy of extending his 2014 season.

Phil Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson hasn't had a top-10 finish this year, but keeps smiling.
    Phil Mickelson hasn't had a top-10 finish this year, but keeps smiling.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Phil Mickelson is in much the same situation as Tiger Woods: He needs to prove to Tom Watson that the Phil Mickelson who hasn't had a single top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event in 2014 would make a worthy addition to the 2014 Ryder Cup team.

    The most consistent thing about his game is the inconsistency.

    Whether it's his age, he's 44, or the psoriatic arthritis that he lives with or maybe just his game that's slipping a bit, Mickelson is not the player he was even a few years ago.

    He hasn't seriously contended in an event all year, but yet finds himself 10th in the Ryder Cup standings. The top nine automatically qualify, meaning captain Tom Watson would have to make him a captain's choice.

    Unlike Woods, Mickelson knows he'll be in the FedEx Cup playoffs and will have more opportunities to make his point with Watson.

Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy enjoying the fruits of his British Open labor.
    Rory McIlroy enjoying the fruits of his British Open labor.USA TODAY Sports

    Rory McIlroy's resume is fairly impressive at the ripe old age of 25.

    Victories in three different major championships, 13 professional victories around the world and the kind of golf game and personality the sport needs as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson slowly back off from the excellence they've shown over the years.

    A McIlroy victory at Valhalla would make him the first winner of back-to-back majors since countryman Padraig Harrington won the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008.

    While he wasn't perfect at Royal Liverpool, he was good enough to go wire-to-wire in winning. He made the shots when he absolutely had to and held off Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia in the process.

    Winning the PGA Championship next week would prove that it's just a matter of time before he's the No. 1 player in the world again.

Rickie Fowler

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    Rickie Fowler's new swing has made him a better player.
    Rickie Fowler's new swing has made him a better player.USA TODAY Sports

    Arguably, nobody has played better in the majors this year than Rickie Fowler.

    A T5 in the Masters and T2s in the U.S. and British Opens is pretty tough to beat.

    Fowler needs to prove in the PGA that the maturation in his game has reached the point where he can close in golf's biggest events and get his hands on one of those big trophies.

    His work with renowned coach Butch Harmon has paid obvious benefits as Fowler now has plenty of substance on the golf course to go along with the considerable flash he has always had with his colorful, hip clothing.

    He's still a threat because he hasn't won a major yet, but when he does, he'll take that big step up into elite class and has the kind of game that could make him a serious contender for years.

Adam Scott

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    There have been plenty of smiles for Adam Scott this year.
    There have been plenty of smiles for Adam Scott this year.Peter Morrison/Associated Press

    Adam Scott is golf's quiet assassin, the man who has worked his way to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and has then quietly gone about the business of having a very good season.

    It's time for Scott to make a little noise. Scott had a top-15 finish and two top-10 finishes in the three majors thus far.

    Those are among his seven top-10s on the PGA Tour this year. 

    With all of Rorymania dominating the game at the moment, Scott needs to prove he's still the top dog in the game.

    Scott has the game and the mindset to win big events and this would be a great time to remind everyone of that.

Bubba Watson

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    Can Bubba Watson win a major not named the Masters?
    Can Bubba Watson win a major not named the Masters?Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    Bubba Watson is a two-time major champion. Those victories earned him a pair of green jackets, symbolic of winning the Masters.

    His record in the majors following his win at Augusta in April is symbolic of how it's been in the past: He's missed the cut in both Opens.

    Yes, Watson won the Northern Trust Open prior to the Masters, but he's beginning to establish a pattern that makes him look very much like a one-trick pony.

    Watson needs to prove to the world that he can win a major title at somewhere other than a course in Georgia.

    He also needs to prove he has the capacity to adjust to different course layouts and make his game fit courses that don't have fairways lined with Georgia pines.

Jimmy Walker

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    Jimmy Walker hasn't found himself in these sort of situations very often.
    Jimmy Walker hasn't found himself in these sort of situations very often.USA TODAY Sports

    Jimmy Walker is experiencing the season of his life on the PGA Tour.

    He's made nearly $5 million, has won three times (after making 188 starts without a win), has a pair of top-10 finishes in the first three majors, has maintained the top spot in the FedEx Cup points race all season and is a lock to be on captain Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team at the end of September.

    He has validated his place as a bonafide PGA Tour player and really has nothing to prove at this point. The 35-year-old may never have a season like this one, but he'll always be able to look back at what he accomplished in 2014 with a great deal of satisfaction.

    If he looks at it this way, next year his goal may be to back this season up with a good one in 2015.

Matt Kuchar

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    Matt Kuchar is one of the elite players still looking for his first major win.
    Matt Kuchar is one of the elite players still looking for his first major win.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The clock is running on Matt Kuchar.

    The 36-year-old has seven PGA Tour victories, but is 0-for-36 in major championships. As a matter of fact, his best finish has been a third, that coming in the 2012 Masters.

    A guy with as much talent as Kuchar has should be doing better than that in golf's four biggest stages.

    He needs to prove he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence with the best players in the world. 

    Victories in regular PGA Tour events are good, but only those who win majors are remembered forever.

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