Every year, the final major championship on the PGA Tour always provides drama as players compete for the last chance to be crowned a major champion. This year's event will contain no shortage of drama, and many players will enter the week with high hopes for a win. This year, the scene shifts back to Whistling Straits, a picturesque Pete Dye design that imitates a setting on the Irish Sea. In 2004, Vijay Singh tackled the course en route to a win in a three hole playoff over Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco. Here is a look at five players who could make a run for the Wanamaker Trophy in this year's edition of Glory's last shot.
World Ranking: 8th
2004 PGA Championship: Did Not Play
2010 Best Finish: Win (Quail Hollow Championship)
One of the youngest stars on the tour today, McIlroy has proved himself capable of making a run for his first major. His 3rd place finish last year at the PGA should prove as useful experience and could propel him to the top of the leaderboard this week. McIlroy has been playing the best season of his young career, with his first PGA Tour win in Charlotte, and playing well recently with top ten finishes at the Open Championship and at the Bridgestone Invitational. With this course's links layout, McIlory should feel at home at Whistling Straits.
World Ranking: 99th
2004 PGA Championship: T-2nd
2010 Best Finish: T-14th (US Open)
This could be a long shot, but experience is on Leonard's side. His performance in 2004 at Whistling Straits earned him a spot in a playoff for a shot at the title, but a poor hole eliminated him from contention. While having a lackluster year, Leonard has been playing better as of late, finishing in the top 25 each of the last two weeks. He knows the course well, and can draw on past experiences to help him go low this week.
World Ranking: 6th
2004 PGA Championship: T-4th
2010 Best Finish: Win (Arnold Palmer Invitational, CA Championship)
There's no doubt that Ernie has been one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour in 2010. Els earned two wins early in the season, and has placed in the top 20 in two majors this season. When the PGA last came to Wisconsin in 2004, Els was one shot shy of entering the sudden death playoff, so he can dwell on positive experiences at Whistling Straits. At this links-style course, Els can also use his Open Champiopnship victory in 2002 to his advantage. His consistent play and successes this season should produce a good finish this week.
World Ranking: 2nd
2004 PGA Championship: T-6th
2010 Best Finish: Win (The Masters)
Phil has the distinction of being the player in this field with the most major victories not named Tiger Woods. He has PGA Championship experience to his credit, winning at Baltusrol in 2005. He has the length that is required at PGA Championships, and can work the ball well when required this week. If not for his final round 78 at Firestone, he might be the number one golfer in the world. But as it is, he will have to settle for his number two ranking entering this tournament. With a solid performance, Phil can overtake Tiger as the number one golfer in the world.
World Ranking: 51st
2004 PGA Championship: Did Not Play
2010 Best Finish: Win (Travelers Championship)
Call me crazy, but I like Bubba Watson's chances heading into this week at Whistling Straits. The winner this week will have to be a long hitter who can shape shots when the wind gets unruly. No golfer on tour can shape their shots better than Bubba, and the length is no problem.
Of the last 15 PGA Championships, 10 were won by players who recorded their first major victory. Bubba Watson fits into this category, and could make it 11 out of the last 16 champions. Also, last year's champion, Y.E. Yang, won his first major after recording his first PGA Tour victory earlier in the same season. Bubba Watson has not yet won a major, and earned his first Tour win earlier this year.
His game fits the profile of the course. The statistical trends work in his favor. In my opinion, Bubba Watson could be the next playeer to earn his stripes at the PGA Championship.