The first round of the 2010 PGA Championship is officially underway with half the leaderboard on the course as of early Thursday afternoon.
Obviously, much of the attention on this tournament will be how Tiger Woods rebounds from his ghastly performance last week at Firestone. Phil Mickelson will also draw attention after publicly disclosing his battle with a form of arthritis.
But there is still the rest of the field out there who are all gunning to lift the trophy come Sunday evening. It is that dectet which is the focus here; 10 players who all wish to be crowned champions but may so far fly under the radar.
Why not John Daly. Sure he is already 3-over after four holes (as of this writing), but Whistling Straits is built for a big hitter like Daly. The course measures roughly 7,500 yards with massive par 5s that could give long hitters like Daly a significant leg up on the rest of the field.
Whether Daly can control his iron and short game will determine his ability to compete near the top of the leaderboard, but do not discount that driver.
Why not Mike Weir? The PGA Championship just beckons for a former major champion to pop up and grab his second title under limited attention.
Now, Weir has missed six cuts this season and has only one Top-10 finish (his first tournament of the season), but the seize of the course and the possibly rough conditions could allow for a stable, consistent Weir to be there at the end on Sunday.
Appleby had a disappointing showing at Firestone last week, finishing tied for 63rd one week after winning the Greenbrier Classic on the heels of his final round 59. Appleby has three Top-10 finishes this year and is playing fairly consistent golf over the second half of the season.
He was due for a drop off last week after his 59, but Appleby could get back on track and outlast the field with his consistency and big shot ability. Appleby didn't place high at Whistling Straits in 2004, but he did shoot a first round 68 that year and is off a good start in 2010.
Poulter won the Accenture Match Play to begin the season but has endured a rocky season since. However wouldn't it be appropriate for the Englishman to bookend his seasons with big tournament victories? Poulter has two Top-10 finishes this year and fits that aforementioned mold of the unassuming player who withstands the field and takes a surprising victory.
Choi has struggled as of late. He has only one Top-25 finish in his last five tournaments, but he is a player who was in contention on the final day of the 2010 Masters. He has the discipline and the length to handle the extremely long Whistling Straits without taking too many sloppy risks.
Choi finished tied for sixth the last time the PGA Championship was at Whistling Straits in 2004.
Cink is another one of one-time (or more) major winners who could be prime to jump and snag his second major at the PGA. Cink's play and results have improved over recent weeks to go with a season that has featured three Top-10 finishes and seven Top-25 finishes.
Clark has never won a major, but he just feels like one of those guys due to hoist a major trophy at some point in his career. He has finished in the Top 10 in two of his last four tournaments plus a T-12th place finish at the U.S. Open before that. He also won The Players Championship this season.
Clark is a total roll of the dice, but the PGA Championship always seems to place where players can grab their first major. Why not Clark?
Van Pelt has endured and up and down season, but things seem to be heading in his favor over the last two months. Van Pelt has three Top-11 finishes in his last six tournaments including T-3 finishes at the Memorial and last week at Firestone. Van Pelt also finished tied for fourth at The Players. If he keeps that rhythm going, he could land his first major win.
The young gun may just have enough to take home his first major as long as he can maintain a stable swing and keep his shots off the tee in order. He finished tied for 14th at The Open Championship at second at the Memorial. Is that enough experience this season to push him all the way through Sunday at Whistling Straits?
Leonard epitomizes the one-time major winner. A second major title has evaded Leonard since he won the 1997 Open Championship, but he is also the preeminent sleeper. Very few will entirely give up on the 38-year-old's chances at getting a second major. Why not this weekend when he is completely under the radar?