As the final major of the season, the PGA Championship is a prestigious event, and this year's tournament at Valhalla Golf Club has all the makings of a classic.
With Rory McIlroy playing the best golf of his career, Tiger Woods trying to fight through an injury and so many other top golfers vying for a major title, there will be no shortage of storylines to follow at the 2014 PGA Championship.
The action is already underway for Thursday's first round, and there will be much more to come over the next few days. Plenty of viable contenders have a legitimate shot to win this event, but here are a few in particular who bear watching along with a look at the current leaderboard.
Golfers to Watch
Having won The Open Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational in recent weeks, McIlroy is quite clearly at the top of his game. Comparisons to Tiger's dominant runs are already being thrown in Rory's direction, but he has many more wins to accrue before he can enter that conversation. Winning the PGA Championship would certainly help his cause, though.
The Northern Irishman has already won the PGA Championship once before, and it happens to be his best major by a substantial margin, according to ESPN's John Buccigross:
Rory McIlroy Career by Major (to par) PGA -18 Masters +8 Open Champ. +15 U.S. Open +26— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) August 6, 2014
With three major titles to his credit already at the age of 25, it is conceivable that he could become one of the greatest golfers ever.
In fact, 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus believes McIlroy has what it takes to break his record at some point, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig: "It depends on what he feels his priorities are, and that's his call. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing. But you just don't know what the guy's priorities are going to be in life 10 years from now."
There is no questioning McIlroy's priorities currently, as he continues to prove that he is the best player in the world right now. He is quite deserving of the overwhelming favorite role that he will assume at Valhalla, but he will have to beat out many capable golfers in order to win his second major championship of the year.
With two wins this year, including the Masters, there is no doubt that Bubba Watson is a threat to make some noise at Valhalla. The big-hitting lefty sits second in the FedEx Cup standings, behind Jimmy Walker, so there are incentives galore for Watson to perform well and perhaps win this tournament.
His recent form hasn't been the greatest, as he missed the cut at The Open Championship, but he finished second at this tournament in 2010 and has the ability to turn his play around at any time. Even so, he isn't receiving much love from the oddsmakers.
Despite being a longer shot than he has been in most events over the past couple of years, Watson doesn't appear to be particularly fazed by it, according to NBC Golf Central:
"I don't gamble. If I did, I'd always pick Tiger Woods." - Bubba Watson when made aware he and Tiger were both 33 to 1 odds at the #PGAChamp— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) August 5, 2014
Odds rarely tell the whole story in golf, since so many guys have come out of nowhere to win major championships. Watson won't have to take that route in order to win the PGA Championship, but the fact that he is flying under the radar to some degree could work in his favor.
Who is most likely to win the 2014 PGA Championship?
For more than a decade, Sergio Garcia has been considered one of the best golfers to never win a major. He has been a pro since 1999 and has yet to triumph on the major stage. With that said, it can be argued that the 34-year-old Spaniard is playing better and more consistent golf than he ever has.
Although he was unable to hold off McIlroy to win the Bridgestone Invitational last week, Garcia incredibly has three consecutive second-place finishes to his credit on the PGA Tour. He has eight top-10 results in 12 tournaments this year and has a win on the European Tour as well.
No matter how well he continues to play, though, there will always be a stigma attached to him until he wins a major. As pointed out by the PGA Tour on Twitter, Garcia's run of major futility is a lengthy one:
Based on how he is playing right now, it can be argued that Garcia has never had a better opportunity to become a major champion. He has come close on so many previous occasions, and all indicators point toward him being in the mix this weekend.
He still has to prove he can finish the job, but he definitely has the talent to make it happen.
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