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PGA Championship Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 3

Mike DudurichContributor IOctober 19, 2016

PGA Championship Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 3

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    While the day wasn't as bad as the forecasters believed it might be, Friday was difficult at Valhalla Golf Club.

    It rained heavily early, forcing a nearly hour-long delay. That left the course damp and fairly defenseless the rest of the day.

    Going into Saturday's third round, there are plenty of questions to be answered and several key players to watch:

    • Is Rory McIlroy as locked-in as he seems?
    • Will this be the week Rickie Fowler breaks through?
    • Is Lee Westwood going to be 0-of-67 in majors?

    Check out the following list of players to watch on Day 3.

Rory McIlroy

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    Associated Press

    Tee Time:  3 p.m. ET (with Jason Day)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    Because McIlroy is playing golf better than anybody in the world right now. He wasn't at his sharpest Friday, yet he was still able to post a 67 and enter play Saturday with a one-shot lead. Remember when Tiger Woods was must-see TV during his most dominant days? McIlroy is on the verge of being that now.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    McIlroy is doing so many things well at this point that it's hard to pinpoint one aspect that could cause him to go south. Only a catastrophic failure by his driver can derail what is the PGA Tour's version of a runaway train. "I'm feeling good about my game. I'm confident," McIlroy said, via PGATour.com. "I didn't hit it quite as well as I did yesterday, but still really in control of my game and my emotions."

     

    Prediction

    Anything less than McIlroy leading or being within a shot or two of the lead after the third round will be shocking. Because the fairways are soft after Friday's rains, McIlroy may not be able to run away, but there are plenty of opportunities to score.

Lee Westwood

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    Warren Little/Getty Images

    Tee Time:  2:10 p.m ET (with Henrik Stenson)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    Lee Westwood made nine birdies and shot 65 in the first round of the PGA Championship. It's not the first time the Englishman has put together a low round early in a major, but he's never maintained it. A double bogey and two bogeys knocked him off the top of the leaderboard as he stumbled to 72.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    Westwood has long been viewed as one of the best ball-strikers in the game, but if he starts missing fairways and playing from the lush rough at Valhalla, you'll know he's quickly heading south.

     

    Prediction

    Based on previous performances, I'm thinking Westwood won't be able to get into low-round mode again. A score of mid-to-high 70s wouldn't be a surprise.

Jim Furyk

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Tee Time: 2:50 p.m. ET (with Ryan Palmer)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    The 2003 U.S. Open champion, now 44, shouldn't be able to contend on a big, brawny golf course like Valhalla, but he is. And it's for that reason you need to watch as he continues to maneuver his way around the PGA Championship. There's no quit in this guy, and it's fun watching him. Four of his last eight finishes have been top-fives.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    Furyk needs to keep making putts; that's his major weapon when he's facing a beast like Valhalla. If putts don't drop early, it could be a long day for him.

     

    Prediction

    Furyk's not going anywhere. He might not be able to go low, but he'll stay relevant going into Sunday's final round.

Rickie Fowler

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    Associated Press

    Tee Time: 2:40 p.m. ET (with Mikko Ilonen)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    Because the maturation of Rickie Fowler is making him a lot like Robin to Rory McIlroy's Batman. The youngster has become a serious contender this year. He doesn't have McIlroy's resume, but Fowler seems to be getting better and should be fun to watch Saturday. He had eight birdies overall Friday, seven in his first 11 holes, on the way to a 66.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    It's almost identical to McIlroy's. There will have to be some sort of unforeseen collapse for him to stumble. He sets himself up on most holes with his driver, and it's been working for him. "I'm pleased with where my game's at, and with the three finishes I've had in the majors this year; it's been a lot of fun to go through each one and to come out and reflect on each one, as well," Fowler said after his round, per Kelly Elbin of PGA.com.

     

    Prediction

    He might duplicate Friday's 66. Fowler has made 13 birdies, which is the most in the tournament.

Sergio Garcia

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Tee Time: 10:10 a.m. ET (with Shane Lowry)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    It could be a crash-and-burn day for Sergio Garcia on Saturday. The man has had some serious meltdowns in his career, and when he wakes up and finds himself back in the middle of the field, conditions could be ripe for another.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    Just as McIlroy has found peace and contentment in his personal life, Garcia appeared to be rolling nicely, contending in the British Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. If it starts going sideways early, so will Garcia.

     

    Prediction

    Don't expect much from him on moving day. A round in the mid-70s seems about right. He'll be off early Sunday morning.

Ryan Palmer

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Tee Time: 2:40 p.m. ET (with Jim Furyk)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    At seven under, Ryan Palmer is two shots off the lead with 36 holes left in the final major of the year. This is the same guy whose best finish in a major championship was tied for 10th in the 2011 Masters. His last two PGA Tour starts have resulted in T55 and T58 finishes, which doesn't exactly foster warm and fuzzy feelings about him staying in the hunt Saturday.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    Considering Palmer's resume, it's pretty simple: If he is unable to control his emotions on moving day and those big booming drives of hishe's ranked 24thhis descent will come quickly. "I really feel I will be there come Sunday and I'll have a chance. That's all I'll ask for. It's nice to be up there now," Palmer said in his press conference. "It's a matter of just staying patient with myself and keep attacking."

     

    Prediction

    A round of right around par will make for a good day.

Henrik Stenson

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Tee Time: 2:10 p.m. ET (with Joost Luiten)

     

    Why You Need to Watch

    Henrik Stenson knows about excellence. He won the Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai last year. He dominated the game on both sides of the ocean. At Valhalla, he's posted rounds of 66 and 71; he hit only seven fairways Friday, as compared to 12 Thursday.

     

    Saturday’s Pass or Fail

    Stenson is hitting the ball well this week, but he knows he can improve. The key for him will be his putter. If the putter betrays him, ouch. "There's still a lot of golf to be played," Stenson said in his post-round press conference. "It's more of a question if I can turn it up a notch. Like I said, today wasn't a great day for me so I need to play better over the weekend."

     

    Prediction

    Stenson is trying to become the first Swede to win a major. Look for him to put a good number on the board to be part of a Sunday shootout.

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