Golfers Who Will Be Under the Most Pressure at the 2014 PGA Championship
At this time of year, PGA Tour golfers from top to bottom are under pressure.
Those at the bottom are hoping for a big week, one in which they can make enough money to earn their tour cards for next year or improve their statuses for 2015.
At the elite end of the PGA Tour spectrum, players are trying to sharpen their games to do well in the annual end-of-season money grab, otherwise known as the FedEx Cup playoffs.
And then there's the PGA Championship, the last major of the year and the last chance for someone to win his first title or enrich his reputation as a major champion by winning another.
The names on this list might surprise you: Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, just to name a few.
Check out the list to see if you agree or disagree.
The PGA Championship could be very important for Tiger Woods.
If he plays well at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational—of which he's the defending champion—he'll need to do exactly the same thing at Valhalla.
Woods has plans to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup team. He faces long odds in both situations, and the only way either will happen is if he does something he hasn't done in quite a while.
Play good golf.
Top-five finishes in both of those events will get him into the playoffs and most likely onto captain Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team.
It's really amazing, isn't it, to think the man with 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour victories has the most pressure on him going into the PGA Championship?
The pressure on Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship won't be quite as intense as what Tiger Woods will be feeling.
Despite having no top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, Mickelson is already assured of a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs and most likely will be a much more deserving captain's choice to the Ryder Cup team than Woods, as Mickelson is 11th on the Ryder Cup points list.
Seeing Mickelson play well would be a good thing for Watson, who hopes to be able to put together a team with some leadership. And he's likely counting on Mickelson to be one of those leaders.
One of the most talented players on the PGA Tour and a guy who has made over $30 million in his career, Matt Kuchar remains winless in major championships.
That seems absurd considering the abilities Kuchar has shown over the years and the fact that he's posted five top-10 finishes in the last five years.
But Kuchar will come to Valhalla on a 0-of-36 streak in the majors, with only a single third-place finish to show for his efforts.
Kuchar is 36 and still in his golfing prime. It stands to reason, however, that pressure will build with each passing major.
He's had a good season so far, winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, posting 10 top-10 finishes and going T5, T12 and T54 in the first three majors.
Sergio Garcia finished second in the 1999 PGA Championship, a tournament that made golf fans aware of his flair for the dramatic early on. As we approach the 2014 PGA Championship, Garcia is still chasing his first major victory.
He's not as old as Kuchar, having turned 34 earlier in the year, but there has been a lot of wear and tear on his body. And there is plenty of scar tissue in his mind from his 10 top-five finishes in major championships.
Garcia is playing as well as he has in some time, and this would seem to be the best chance he's had to win a major, especially after finishing tied for second with Rickie Fowler at the British Open.
Valhalla is the type of course that suits his game, and if he plays the way he did at Royal Liverpool, his 0-of-64 streak could come to an end.
If Patrick Reed is not feeling a great deal of pressure when he gets to Valhalla for the PGA Championship, I'm not sure why.
The 23-year-old had a spectacular beginning to his 2014 season, winning the Humana Challenge in January and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in March. Jimmy Walker has posted one more win, but Reed's style and aggressiveness have caught the golfing world's attention.
Then came his now-infamous post-round interview in which he declared himself to be a top-five player in the world for his accomplishments.
Since then, Reed and his game have plummeted faster than a bad stock. There could be many reasons for this.
Perhaps three PGA Tour victories in two years created a major hangover for him. Perhaps the birth of his first child had something to do with it.
Since his win at Doral, he's missed six cuts in 11 starts and has now fallen to 10th in the Ryder Cup points standings. If he doesn't play well at the PGA Championship, he could be passed by as many as three players.
The end of Reed's 2014 season might turn out to be not nearly as nice as the beginning.
Keegan Bradley wants very much to be on Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team at the end of September.
Right now, it looks as though he has little or no chance to make the team. He's 16th in the Ryder Cup points standings, and captains normally focus on those between 10th and 15th to make their choices.
A win in the PGA Championship could solve that problem for Bradley, but that doesn't seem likely. He had a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2014, but that has been it.
Wonder what happened to all the enthusiasm and experience he gained from playing with Phil Mickelson in the 2012 Ryder Cup, when they were such a successful team?
A lot of pressure comes with a must-win situation, and that's where Bradley finds himself.
Dustin Johnson has a spot locked up in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He's also a lock to make Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team.
He has a win this year as well as a pair of second-place finishes and has earned over $4 million.
Johnson just turned 30 in June, and, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, he's entering the best years of golf.
That might very well be true, but if he doesn't get a major victory soon—after blowing three chances he had earlier in his career—who knows if he'll continue to chase that rainbow as long as Mickelson did before he won the Masters in 2004?
Johnson is among the longest hitters in the game, isn't afraid to move it as needed and is a streaky putter.
This is his last chance to get a major this year, and you can bet he'd love to get that hurdle behind him.
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