Rory McIlroy bagged the top prize at the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational and the No. 1 rank in the world in the process, but he is not the only golfer who established strong form heading into the PGA Championship.
In fact, when one peruses the list of top finishers from last weekend, a few men stand out as having strong shots to win it all once the action starts Thursday.
No, McIlroy is not one of them. Too easy. The same goes for Sergio Garcia, the world No. 3 who comes in hot with three consecutive second-place finishes.
As the action at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, approaches, here are three names to watch thanks to positive performances in Akron that mesh nicely with a variety of other factors.
The No. 21 golfer in the world would not normally come to mind first in a scenario such as this, but the complete package makes sense.
Keegan Bradley seemed to find himself last weekend in Akron, where he tallied no round over 69 on his way to a nine-under-par finish and a tie for fourth place. His strokes gained putting average was a season-best 1.690, a number that is even more impressive when you consider the following information provided by the PGA Tour on Twitter:
Keegan Bradley entered the week ranked 99th in putting from greater than 25 feet. He'll move up after this 46-footer. http://t.co/z7BcUULsqA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 2, 2014
Bradley has six top-10 finishes on the season now, two of which came in his last three starts. Perhaps more encouraging is the fact that he also finished fourth at the U.S. Open.
Let's mix in a little history. Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship as a rookie after a three-hole playoff against Jason Dufner. He finished third in 2012 and came in 19th last year.
That is a bit of a dip, sure, but it is an encouraging string of consistency nonetheless, even if this particular tournament has not been played at Valhalla since 2000. Bradley has picked the right time to rediscover his top form and is due for a win. What's not to like?
Of course, the No. 39 golfer in the world is not typically such a hot topic, either.
But here we are with Marc Leishman, who has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, including a tie for fifth at The Open Championship and a third-place finish at the Bridgestone Invitational.
"I am feeling good about my game. It is the first time I am in the top 50 and I feel like I am good enough to be in there and I have to try to sneak up higher and higher," Leishman said, per ABC Grandstand Sport. "The last few years I probably haven't played as well as I would have liked but these last few months I feel like I am playing the way I can and the way I should."
As if his performance in Akron is not impressive enough (his 1.176 strokes gained putting average was his best in quite a few starts), Leishman also continues to improve each year at the PGA Championship, finishing 27th in 2012 and 12th last year.
There was a point last weekend that Leishman actually held the lead. Confidence and some well-refined consistency equate to a strong push yet again for the Australian star.
The No. 2 player in the world appears ready to strike.
Less than a week removed from losing his top spot, Adam Scott sounds motivated, to say the least, as captured by Ben Everill of the Australian Associated Press, via Yahoo Sports:
The last two majors it has been pretty clear that the guy who has won has been on his game, he hasn't backed down, he's created a lot of chances and created some separation from the field.
My strategy at times is more conservative, less chances, less mistakes but it might not compete against a Rory McIlroy at full throttle who is not making an error. No one likes to sit back and just watch someone else win and I certainly feel like I am playing some of the best golf of my life and think, `why am I not closer in the last two majors, I should be there.'
Those last two majors are a scary trend for the opposition indeed—a ninth-place finish at the U.S. Open and a fifth-place finish at the The Open Championship—especially if Scott believes he can improve.
In fact, Scott's last five outings are rather intimidating, and they suggest he is due for another triumph:
|5/25/14||Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial||P1||71||68||66||66||-9|
|6/01/14||The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance||T4||69||70||68||71||-10|
|7/20/14||The Open Championship||T5||68||73||69||66||-12|
|8/03/14||World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational||T8||69||68||65||71||-7|
That last outing was especially impressive thanks to a strokes gained putting average of 1.070 and an average drive distance of 314 yards.
Scott is no stranger to playing well at the PGA Championship, either. He wound up in seventh in 2011, followed that up with a tie for 11th and improved even further last year for a fifth-place finish.
No longer resting his foot on the brake now that a drop in the world ranking has him motivated, Scott might just steal the whole thing this weekend.
Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise indicated.