Despite ever-changing conditions at Valhalla Golf Club, the 2014 PGA Championship has played host to some fantastic golf through two rounds.
The third round is well underway, and a bevy of the world's elite golfers are within shouting distance of the lead. Rory McIlroy has been the story thus far with the 36-hole lead on the heels of two consecutive victories, but he won't simply be able to waltz away with this one.
There are many great golfers who see an open window of opportunity and are hoping to take advantage of it.
Here is the current status of the 2014 PGA Championship leaderboard along with a look at which players fans should watch closest on Saturday.
Day 3 Leaderboard
Golfers to Watch on Day 3
Despite all the pressure on his shoulders after winning the Open Championship and Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy continues to play the best golf of his life.
After a five-under 66 in the first round, the 25-year-old phenom followed that up with a four-under 67 Friday to hold a one-shot lead at nine-under entering the third round.
McIlroy winning his fourth career major is far from a guarantee considering the strength of the competitors lurking behind him, but nobody can beat him if he continues to play his very best.
As pointed out by ESPN Stats & Info, the Northern Irishman has simply been playing lights-out golf since the start of the British Open:
Rory McIlroy has 5 rounds of 68 or better in his last 6 rounds at a major. In those 6 rounds, he is a combined 26-under par— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 8, 2014
Which player is most likely to win the 2014 PGA Championship?
The main thing working in McIlroy's favor right now is the fact that he has a killer instinct. He allowed majors to slip from his grasp in the past, but he has no interest in doing that again.
McIlroy closed out the Open Championship in convincing fashion and is hoping to do the same at the PGA Championship, per ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski.
"I've went protection mode once in my career and it was the 2011 Masters," McIlroy said. "That didn't work out very well. So I said to myself I'll never do that again."
McIlroy hasn't shown any signs of slowing down yet, but all it takes is one bad round to end a hot streak. If he can avoid that, though, his second career PGA Championship victory could be in the offing.
With seven top-10 finishes in 17 career major appearances to his credit, Jason Day always seems to find himself in the mix.
He is still searching for his first major title, and it could possibly come at the 2014 PGA Championship as he entered the third round just one shot behind McIlroy for the lead at eight-under.
The 26-year-old Aussie boasts a complete game that gives him a chance to win each and every time he takes the course. He is so good, in fact, that ESPN's Trey Wingo views him as a true threat to stop the incredible run McIlroy currently finds himself on:
When healthy..... Jason Day could be the one guy who's game could challenge Rory's...— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 8, 2014
As Wingo points out, though, the one caveat with Day is always his health. Day has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, and he is suffering through yet another one right now.
Per Golf Digest, however, Day doesn't want to use his thumb injury as a crutch if he ultimately falls short:
Jason Day, about his injured left thumb: "It's not 100 percent, but it's not an excuse."— Golf Digest (@GolfDigestMag) August 8, 2014
Day hasn't shown any ill effects through the first two rounds of the tournament, but thumb injuries can obviously be quite troublesome for golfers. With that said, he has a fantastic chance to win if he can block out the pain and maintain his current form.
Much like Day, Rickie Fowler is constantly knocking on the door at major championships. The PGA Championship is no different, as the rising American star entered the third round just two shots off the pace at seven-under par.
Even though Fowler has yet to win a major this year or at any point in his career, his consistency on the big stage is remarkable.
According to the PGA Tour on Twitter, Fowler is in position to record a top-five finish at all four majors this season:
Rickie Fowler is one round closer to finishing top 5 in each major this year. He's two off the lead after a 66. pic.twitter.com/0s9yZDAd0J— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 8, 2014
A top five of any kind would be impressive, but there is no doubt that Fowler would love to punctuate it with a win.
It seems like a matter of when rather than if the 25-year-old star will win a major. He'll have to overcome the hottest player in golf in the form of McIlroy to close the deal this weekend.
In many ways, this could be a preview of the upcoming Ryder Cup. McIlroy will lead the European team, while Fowler will be thrust into a similar role for the Americans. If Fowler can upend McIlroy at Valhalla, it will give him a major title and a ton of momentum leading up to the Ryder Cup as well.
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