Would you believe that Rory McIlroy is the favorite to win the PGA Championship? That's pretty crazy, right?
The guy only won The Open Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational in back-to-back weeks in addition to becoming the No. 1 golfer in the world. There are hot streaks, and then there's the streak McIlroy's riding right now.
As a result, the odds that he'll prevail at Valhalla Golf Club this weekend are heavily in his favor.
A few guys in the field will give him strong runs, though. This major will be anything but a walk for McIlroy.
Below are the 10 golfers with the shortest odds of winning the PGA Championship, followed by an in-depth breakdown of three top stars.
PGA Championship Odds
|PGA Championship Odds|
Note: Odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider and are up-to-date as of Tuesday, Aug. 5, 6:16 p.m. ET.
Breaking Down Top Favorites
Although McIlroy is the best golfer in the world, he's far from any sort of lock to win the PGA Championship. Since World War I, 12 different golfers have won back-to-back majors. Not only does Rory have the field to worry about, but he's also facing off with history.
With Tiger Woods' career at a nadir, golf is looking for that one star to dominate like no other and make a run at Jack Nicklaus' major record. McIlroy admitted that he'd love to be the guy to carry the PGA flag, but he feels it's way too early to anoint this the "Rory McIlroy Era," per The Guardian's Ewan Murray.
"I’m not necessarily sure you can call that an era or the start of an era but I’m just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible," he said. "People can say what they want to say, that’s fine. But I can’t read too much into it."
Lack of focus won't be McIlroy's problem at Valhalla. Golf is more than just a skill game; otherwise, the best players in the world would win every single tournament. You have to get some lucky bounces and lies and hope the competition opens a nice path up the leaderboard.
The 25-year-old is playing some of the best golf of his life, but he's received his fair share of luck in the last two weeks. He should remain in the discussion throughout the weekend, but McIlroy will level off a bit at the PGA Championship, opening the door for somebody else to get the win.
Look at the tweet below, courtesy of CBSSports.com's Kyle Porter. Adam Scott did all of that but still managed to fall to No. 2 in the world behind McIlroy:
Even Scott had to acknowledge that the numbers don't lie.
"It's not extremely disappointing, the right guy is at No. 1 at the moment," he said, per GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard. "He's played the best over the last couple months. The No. 1 guy who is winning the most tournaments probably should be the No. 1 player."
The 34-year-old has just one major tournament to his name, so let's not get too carried away with his chances, at least in terms of winning the whole thing.
Scott's insane consistency this season does bode well for him at Valhalla. In 12 PGA Tour events, he's ended up in the top 10 eight times—including at The Open Championship and the U.S. Open. Another top-10 finish should be in the cards.
With Tiger likely out of the picture, somebody has to have really strong odds almost on reputation and name recognition alone. Right now, that's Phil Mickelson.
With all due respect to Lefty, you can't look at his numbers this year and view him as the fifth favorite to win. He hasn't finished in the top 10 in any of the 17 PGA Tour events he's played in this year. His highest finish at a major was 23rd at The Open Championship.
Mickelson's 15th-place finish at the Bridgestone Invitational, which included a final-round 62, does offer some hope, per Golfweek.com's Alex Miceli:
It's a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round. You don't want to put too much emphasis on just one round. But the way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well and wedge play started to get good, short irons got better. Really, two days prior, it was just horrific. So it was an important day for me to get some momentum.
One round doesn't a contender make, though.
Mickelson has struggled throughout the year. Although his driving accuracy and greens in regulation are largely where they were last year, in the context of the PGA Tour as a whole, they're slightly worse.
Here's a comparison of some key stats from this year and last, per PGATour.com:
|Phil Mickelson—2013 vs. 2014|
|Year||Driving Acc.||GIR||Scoring Avg.||Par-3 Scoring||Par-4 Scoring||Par-5 Scoring||Total Putting|
|2013||57.30% (149)||66.67% (43)||69.773 (12)||-4 (4)||+22 (29)||-97 (22)||84.0 (11)|
|2014||57.58% (152)||66.57% (50)||70.238 (28)||+18 (90)||+8 (20)||-61 (121)||171.2 (58)|
As you can see, Lefty is struggling much more on par threes and is failing to make up the strokes on par fives.
Many will have high hopes for Mickelson simply because he's Phil Mickelson. Thinking like that would be ignoring the larger body of evidence saying otherwise.