PGA Championship 2011: Odds, Predictions and Favorites
PGA Championship 2011 Preview
The final major of the year is completely wide-open. After Darren Clarke took the Open, it's clear that anyone can rise to the occasion and steal a major from the rest of the pack.
Of course, Rory McIlroy will be gunning for his second major of the year, Luke Donald is trying to get his first major before he's ousted from the No. 1 ranking in the world, and Tiger Woods is lurking in the field, starving for a victory.
Even so, this thing isn't in the bag for anyone. Phil Mickelson narrowly missed victory at the Open and could make a resurgence. There is really no telling what's going to transpire, which makes this major the most highly anticipated of the year.
We've already seen one of the most memorable majors ever when McIlroy put forth a historic performance at the US Open. The PGA Championship has a lot to live up to, but with so much ambiguity swirling around the tournament, it's going to be must-see television.
Will this major, like the other three this year, produce a first-time major winner? The top of the world's golf rankings is riddled with elite players in search of their first major. Perhaps this could be the tournament where they finally get over the hump.
Regardless of who walks away victorious, it's going to be an incredible tournament. We could look back on this tournament as the venue where Tiger turned it around or where McIlroy became the face of golf.
Whatever the case may be, you don't want to miss a second of the action.
The event runs from August 11th-14th.
To make sure you don't miss any of the action, keep it tuned to Bleacher Report's Golf Page, where we'll have you covered every step of the way.
Rory McIlroy is the favorite this week and he should be the favorite.
That doesn't necessarily mean that he will win, but he's earned the right to be the favorite. Additionally, nobody has stepped up to claim that title.
Still, maybe it's just a hunch; Phil Mickelson is the man that you should look at to win this week.
While he has only won once since winning the Masters in 2010, Mickelson's still generally been a force at majors.
At the most recent major, the British Open, Mickelson tied for second place with Dustin Johnson. That's significant because that's a tournament that's always given him trouble, so a second place finish was quite remarkable, especially given his recent troubles.
What does that mean? Well, anyone can have a good week, just like anyone can have a bad week. But it signals something different to me.
Mickelson realizes that his prime is winding down. Is it possible that he’s loading up for what will surely be his final serious runs at majors?
That’s not to say that he only has one real crack at them, but in three or four years, do we really expect Mickelson to be a favorite at the majors? Probably not.
Keep in mind that this major is being played in Georgia, where Mickelson’s enjoyed tremendous success.
Most of that success has come at a different time of the year (the Masters and BellSouth Classic wins fell in April) but it does signal a comfort in the climate, and the way that courses that experience that climate play.
Lefty also had four rounds in the 60’s in 2001, which was the last time that the PGA Championship was held at this venue.
Granted, David Toms, who also recorded four rounds in the 60’s, did sink a 20-foot putt on the last hole to beat Mickelson by shot. Still, Mickelson’s performance that week would have been good enough to handily win most majors.
Mickelson may only have a few serious wins at winning a major left in him. One of those will come here, and he should close the door and claim his fifth major and second PGA Championship.
Phil Mickelson begins his bid to win the PGA Championship on the 10th tee on Thursday morning.
As is custom at the PGA Championship Mickelson, the 2005 champion will be paired with two other past champions: David Toms (2001) and Vijay Singh (1998, 2004).
The pairing with Toms is interesting, as Toms sunk a 20-foot putt to beat Mickelson at 2001. That was the last time the PGA was played at the Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands Course.
The Good: While the conditions will be dramatically different, Mickelson had a very solid showing at the British Open in July. Mickelson tied for second place, notching only his second top-10 performance ever at the British.
Even before winning his first major at the 2004 Masters, Mickelson was a frequent contender and that has continued.
The last time the PGA was played at this venue, Mickelson was not only the runner up, but recorded four rounds in the 60's.
In total, Mickelson has eight top-10 showings at the PGA. He didn't reach that level last year, but had a respectable finish, tying for 12th place.
The Bad: Mickelson is clearly on the tail end of his prime. He's only won one tournament this year, which is his only win since the 2010 Masters.
He's also coming off of a poor showing at the Bridgestone.
In general, Mickelson has been inconsistent over the last two seasons. He wasn't playing particularly well when he won the 2010 Masters.
What to Expect: Mickelson seems to be at the point of his career where he has nothing more than a few more runs at winning a major in him.
Call it a hunch if you want to, but I believe that one of those runs will come here.
As for the opening round, look for good things. If he’s not the opening round leader, then he’ll be within one or two shots.
If that’s not the case, then my hunch is probably wrong, as Mickelson will have a hard time charging from the middle of the pack.
But let's live dangerously and predict Mickelson to win his fifth major here. The opening round will be a strong one and send him well on his way.
Tiger Woods will begin the PGA Championship on the 10th tee on Thursday morning. As is custom at the PGA Championship, he'll be paired with two former past champions, Davis Love III and Padraig Harrington.
The Good: Before teeing it up at the Bridgestone last week, Tiger hadn't played a single round of golf since the Player's Championship in May. The last full round he played came at the Masters in April.
Still, while he was inconsistent, he didn't play terrible golf. His finish gave Tiger and his fans reason to be optimistic.
Woods will also be playing with two guys that he knows well and has a lot of familiarity with. Never underestimate how important that is for a person trying to return to a somewhat normal life.
The Bad: Again, he was inconsistent. The putter was not there, which was almost never the case when Tiger was winning.
He's struggled with controlling his distances for a long time, which continued at the Bridgestone.
What could really hurt him is that the control with his driver was poor. Granted, Tiger's never been the most accurate player, but the rest of his game has always been sharper than it is now.
What to Expect: If you guessed inconsistency, you guessed correct.
Tiger’s still in preseason mode right now. That’s not to predict the same long term doom that you hear from a lot of people, but his return to the top won’t begin here.
Expect more of what you saw at the Bridgestone in the first day of the PGA Championship. Woods will hit good shots, but back them up with too many errors that shouldn’t be made.
Look for Tiger to be in the middle of the pack after the opening round and expect him to basically hold that spot through the weekend.
Realistically, predicting a top-25 performance is reasonable, but much more than that is just picking Tiger Woods because he’s Tiger Woods.
The major that we should be focusing on as it relates to Tiger is the 2012 Masters.
Rickie Fowler certainly knows how to draw attention to himself even when he's not playing well on the course. His eccentric choice of clothing, hair and hat have actually drawn more attention than his golf play at times, but he's trying to change that.
A fifth place finish at the Open Championship is easily his best finish in major yet, and he followed it up with second-place finish last week at the Bridgestone Invitational behind Adam Scott.
The 22-year old American is, by all accounts, one of the most promising players in all of the US. But he's not all there, not yet, and the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia will be a huge test for the youngster.
The Highlands Course that will be played this weekend will test every golfer in the field, but Fowler, who outdrives the Tour average by nine yards, but misses the average Tour accuracy by six-percent, needs to find a consistent base if he wants to make a legitimate run at his major.
Fowler has played in seven career majors to this point, that last of which was by far his best performance, but there is a lot more to winning a major than what Fowler has exhibited thus far.
He's played in 19 events so far in 2011, made the cut in 15 of them and finished in the top 10 four times; he's currently ranked No. 28 in the world.
But the biggest knock on Fowler is that he's never won anything, and it's terribly difficult to win a Major without knowing how to win at all among the best the sport of golf has to offer.
We've seen him contend, we've seen him also fade, but we've never seen him put it altogether and make a legitimate run at win.
Just contending in majors is great, but we've seen Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and even Phil Mickelson (for a while) do it without winning a major. Fowler's still very young, but he has to learn to win first if he ever truly wants to win a major.
I'm not saying it is out of the question, gifted golfers can catch a streak and run hot at any time, but to truly battle the best this sport has to offer Fowler still needs to learn how to win first.
Last week at Firestone, Tiger Woods began his comeback tour in solid fashion, recording a two-under-68: that was a good start, but now he has to back it up with an even better finish.
Tiger's 68 had everyone in the sports world holding out a little bit of hope that he could flick the switch, return to the Tour, and play like it's 2000, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous that was. So anything short of a victory and he was bound to disappoint on that front. But since he really played mediocre golf after Thursday--a combined three-over-par on a course that was tore up by most of the field--he went out with a whimper, not a roar.
Even for Tiger Woods, that can be expected following a long, injury-induced layoff. But the fans, the media, and especially Tiger himself aren't going to be pleased with a similar showing--major or not a major--this week at the PGA.
The only "flaw" on Tiger's resume--and it's not a flaw when you've won 14 major titles--is that he's never comeback on the final Sunday of a major to win. That means he almost always gets off to good or exceptional starts. In fact, in all but three of his major victories, he was either at or below par.
So clearly he needs to start well if he's going to contend this week at the AAC. But it's more important that he finish strong and build some momentum heading into the final stretch of the season.
Never before has the post-PGA, pre-Masters period of the golf schedule been so important (or basically important at all) for Tiger. He must snap this "losing" streak which dates back to November 2009 and he can do so later this month at the Barclays, or in September at the Deutsche Bank, or a few weeks later at the Tour Championships.
But any of those goals will be a lot easier if he proves to himself that he can finish a tournament with a pair of 60-something rounds or a handful of strokes under par.
If I were Tiger, I'd be much happier barely making the 36-hole cut and climbing the leaderboard over the weekend, than grabbing an early lead on Thursday or Friday and having it whittled away slowly, ultimately falling out of the Top 20.
Believe it not, two guys who've choked on the biggest stage are the only two worthy favorites heading into the PGA Championship.
However, and recognizably ironic, is the fact that they are the only two players in the top in terms of odds who have ever actually won a major.
Rory McIlroy, according to Bodog, is the current 10/1 favorite. Phil Mickelson, the 41-year old lefty who finished second the last time the PGA Championship was in Johns Creek, Georgia, is a 20/1 shot.
Lefty shares these odds with returning superstar Tiger Woods and last week's winner at the Bridgestone Invitational, Adam Scott.
The latter two are linked by more than just odds right now, they share the common bond of knowing what a good caddie can do for one's game, but this has nothing to do with Steve Williams any more.
Scott is coming off a phenomenal performance in Akron, Ohio while Tiger is just getting back to the game he dominated for so long.
Neither one of them, Tiger nor Scott, are realistic winners this weekend. I'm of the belief that Tiger is never out of the running when he has golf club in his hand, but it would take a remarkable turnaround from his performance at the Bridgestone to topple the field this week at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
As for Scott, consistency is key and while he's played great golf at times this year, he'd have to play even better than Bridgestone to win again.
The other favorites inside 20/1 are unrealistic for the same reason as always; they have yet to win a major despite being ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have sat atop the golf game for some time now but have yet to break through for the their major win. The two Brits are always a threat to win, but when it comes to a Major they have yet to put it all together for a win.
It is wild to think about, but both McIlroy and Mickelson are the only two "favorites" with any credence to their names right now.
Of the last five major championships, three have been won by Northern Irishmen, and since all three of those title holders are in this year's PGA expect at least one of them to be a factor on the back nine Sunday afternoon.
It's a bit strange to see Darren Clarke--the winner of the most recent major championship, July's British Open--so far down the list of favorites this week. BoDog has him at 125-to-1 odds. Nevertheless, it's going to be a tough road for the man who will turn 43 on the Sunday. His win at Royal St. George's was one of the more emotional and long-overdue in recent history, so it's quite understandable if soaked up the celebration, basked in the glow of his win, and let his game fall by the wayside a bit. And since he barely made the cut and finished 68th last week at Firestone, that sounds about right.
So if a Northern Irishman is going to take the Wanamaker Trophy across the pond for the first time ever, it's going to one from the younger generation: Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell.
Now of course everyone is still on the McIlroy bandwagon following his win at Congressional. And since he recovered from a somewhat disappointing British Open to take sixth at Firestone--closing with a pair of 67s--he's a very deserving favorite at 10-to-1 odds. The way he hits the ball he'll have no trouble in the hot Georgia summer: they ball will roll for days on the fairway and because he hits it so high he should be able to stop it on the greens, even if they are baked.
Still, I like McDowell's chances better. After a great start to the 2011 season, he's been through a real rough patch, missing the cut at four of seven tourneys and not doing much better last week at Firestone, finishing 65th.
But he's such a grinder and doesn't seem to let anything bother him on the course. He puts mistakes behind him as well as anyone on the Tour: remember, when he won at Pebble Beach, it came with four bogeys and no birdies on his last 13 holes. He was able to make the pars he needed and even save bogey when he had to to avoid giving away the lead. That type of mettle will be required this week when the heat is going to be borderline unbearable and the rest of the field is already a bit drained from seven months on Tour and three-plus major championships.
Besides, McDowell has the benefit--unlike McIlroy and Clarke--of not winning a major this season: that makes him both hungrier and not worn down by the coronation that follows a US Open or British Open triumph.
Rory McIlroy is the most talented young golfer the world has seen since Tiger Woods.
With that talent comes immense expectations and a lot of criticism if the expectations aren't met. McIlroy is still in the process of growing into his new-found fame as evidenced by his recent comments about a Golf Channel analyst.
After a couple poor shot selections in the middle of a three-over round, Jay Townsend sounded off about McIlroy's decision making by saying, “McIlroy's course management was shocking. Some of the worst course management I have ever seen beyond under-10 boys' golf competition.”
What McIlroy will eventually come to learn is that you can't please everybody. When you're on the top of the mountain, people are going to try to knock you down. When Woods was at his peak, he was frequently criticized for his on-course language and press conference attitude.
There was debate whether Townsend was criticizing McIlroy or his caddie JP Fitzgerald. Either way, McIlroy fired off a tweet that said, “Shut up, you're a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!”
As he continues his ascent to the top of the game, he won't be able to silence all of the negative comments. He would be better off doing what Woods did and bottle up all of that extra frustration and take it out on the golf course.
The transition from teenager to superstardom isn't easy and it turns out Woods didn't handle it as well as we all thought he did. It is even tougher when you can tweet to millions of people in a matter of seconds and have countless media outlets trying to break big stories.
McIlroy is going through a growing process right now and that mini-feud with Townsend was the first of many learning experiences he will undergo over the next few years. Right or not, people anticipate somebody in McIlroy's situation to act like an angel all the time, so an ill-worded tweet will become a major story.
McIlroy is a great golfer, it is the other things he's still working on.
Although he is one of the most accomplished players in the field, Phil Mickelson would need too many things to go right for him to claim the 2011 PGA Championship. The media likes to say Mickelson rises to the occasion in big tournaments, but his average finish of 28 in majors this season tells a different story.
Mickelson's biggest problem this week will be his lack of accuracy off the tee. Playing a course that favors straight hitters, Mickelson hits the fairway just 53 percent of the time. It's unlikely that he'll be able to make enough saves to remain in contention throughout the weekend.
Being paired with fellow veterans David Toms, the winner of this event in 2001, and Vijay Singh should help Mickelson. He should be able to watch Toms thrive using his accurate approach instead of the power game most guys are using today.
Mickelson is a birdie machine when he's playing his best golf, but if he spends the entire week in the thick rough, he'll struggle to stick with the leaders in what should be a good tournament for scoring.
If he doesn't leave Atlanta Athletic Club with the trophy on Sunday, it will mark the fourth year out of the past five that Mickelson didn't win a major. That comes after he won at least one in every season from '04-'06.
At 20-to-1, Mickelson is tied with Tiger Woods and last week's winner, Adam Scott, as the fourth choice on the board behind Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, according to Bodog.
That just isn't a big enough pay off when you consider everything that has to go right for “lefty.”
What kind of chance does Steve Stricker have to win his first major at the PGA Championship this week?
Well, he has a chance, but it's not a very good one.
This is a long course and Stricker is not a long hitter. The Highlands course will also feature a lot of flags that will be nearly impossible to attack if from far away.
Certainly, any golfer who doesn't hit the ball far and still misses the fairway (Luke Donald) will have a hard time making any birdies.
That brings us back to Stricker. Stricker will need to drive the ball in the fairway and putt extremely well to have a chance this week. If he doesn't do both, he'll have a hard enough time making the cut.
So, he has no chance, right?
Not quite. Fortunately for Stricker, driving accuracy and strong putting are some of the better parts of his game.
It doesn't sound great to say that he needs to have two parts of his game be perfect to contend, but with Stricker, the odds aren't so long.
Having said that, Bodog has Stricker at 25/1, and those odds probably aren’t god enough to take a chance on.
After all, Stricker’s history at the PGA Championship is mixed. He’s had two top-10 performances. The highlight there came in 1998, where he finished second place to Vijay Singh, two shots behind. Stricker also finished in a tie for seventh place in 2006.
But other than those two weeks, he’s only notched three top-25 performances. That’s not a bad career record, but it doesn’t bring a lot of confidence that he’ll actually win.
Still, Stricker is a consistent golfer. While I wouldn’t take him at 25/1, there are worse bets. Stricker will likely make the cut and play consistent golf.
That formula means it’s hard to imagine him being completely out of contention over the weekend.
He probably won’t win, but it wouldn’t be a tremendous upset if he did. More than that, he probably will have another solid week. That’s just what he does.
Bodog gives Anthony Kim a 66/1 shot at winning the PGA Championship.
One of two things will happen with Kim.
One: He'll miss the cut.
Two: He'll make a lot of bogeys but also a lot of birdies and contend (or better).
That's pretty much been Kim's M.O. throughout his short career.
Kim hits the ball a long way and plays at an extremely aggressive style. That's gotten him into some trouble, but it's also given him some brilliant performances. Remember that Kim has more birdies in a single round at the Masters than any player in history.
In that round, Kim shot a 65. The par at Augusta is 72. So he made the 11 birdies, I'll let you do the math on the rest of his round went.
Kim's battled some injuries recently, which has kept him off of the course and out of contention when on the course for a while.
But at 66/1, this is a guy who can generate a big payoff for you. He’s demonstrated the talent in the past to show that he’s at least worth a second look.
The PGA Championship and US Open are the only majors where Kim has never notched a top-10 performance. In a relatively short career, he’s made plenty of impact.
What are his drawbacks? Well, Kim is a crooked driver. That causes him to miss a lot of greens.
Putting statistics are normally misleading on tour. If a player misses a lot of greens, it means they’re chipping the ball close to the hole and making a lot of one-putts. That makes their putting look better than it actually is
If they hit a lot of greens, they’re probably not near the hole. That would create a lot of two-putts, making the putting statistics deceptively bad.
But Kim misses a lot of greens and has bad putting statistics. That’s a terrible combination.
His aggressive play creates a lot of those stats.
Kim’s not a slam dunk investment this week. He certainly has drawbacks.
But he has a lot of talent and the kind of game that can make noise at the PGA Championship.
With 20/1 odds, Adam Scott is one of the favorites at the PGA Championship. It makes sense; he just had a dominant week at the Bridgestone, which is a big tournament.
Still, don't buy the hype just yet.
For one, Scott has never won a major. When you've been around as long as Scott has, that is an issue.
That's not to say that he will never break through and win a major. Something that Scott has going for his favor is caddy Steve Williams, who's been on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods' 14 major wins.
So how big a role did Williams have in that? Well, that's debatable. But even if he had literally nothing to do with a single win, it is nice to have someone on the bag who has been there before.
And Williams did have something to do with the wins. It helped that Tiger Woods was one of the best players in the history of the game during that stretch, but Williams was what he needed as a caddy.
He understood that Woods was the boss, but wasn't afraid to stand up to Tiger at times. He also knows how to control the big galleries that come with major championships, especially if you're in contention.
But Williams did Scott no favors with his comments after the win at Firestone. He may not have meant to, but Williams inadvertently put Scott right in the middle of a PGA Tour love triangle.
Now, think about all of that and think about how hard it is to win a major the week after winning a regular tournament. Scott’s chances aren’t great.
If Williams and Scott becomes a long term partnership, Scott will win a major at some point. Actually, he could very well win a major with or without Williams.
Remember that Scott played a great Masters without Williams. He didn’t win, but that was because of Charl Schwartzel’s brilliance, not Scott playing poorly.
But this is not the week where Scott will win his first major.
Quick, name fives caddies other than Steve Williams. If you couldn't do it, don't worry, you represent the vast majority of golf fans around the world. On Sunday, Williams did what no caddie should ever do by outshining his employer during one of the biggest wins of his life.
Williams has since apologized for his actions, saying he got caught up in the heat of the moment, but the damage was already done. Now, instead of the focus being on Adam Scott after a tremendous showing at the Bridgestone Invitational, Williams is the story.
The general rule of thumb is that caddies should be seen an not heard. Williams is a great caddy that undoubtedly helped Scott win the tournament last week, but should have politely declined to be interviewed. After all, he didn't hit a single shot.
Moving forward, the best thing Williams can do it keep his mouth shut. Scott is enjoying some of the best golf he has ever played and the last thing he needs is the extra pressure of having to play well to show the world Williams' comments didn't effect him.
Scott could very well be in contention again this week, where his ninth ranked driving abilities set him up to succeed on a tough course. The last thing he should have to worry about is what Williams might say if he wins a major.
Williams' comments were very revealing and it is clear there is even more to the story between him and Tiger Woods than has been told. However, while he is carrying the bag for another golfer, now is not the time to try to steal the spotlight.
There is probably a book deal in his future to document the time he spent with Woods, but for now, he just needs to shut up and focus on the wind speed.
Lee Westwood has finished in more top three's of Major championships than Jason Day has even competed in, but it is the younger Australian who looks poised to win his first Major before the world's No. 2 player.
At 23-years old Day has three top ten finishes in five Major appearances while Westwood, 38-years old, has five top five finishes in his last eight appearances.
Ironically, Westwood didn't compete at last year's PGA Championship when Day notched his first top career top 10, but the two have put up great numbers since.
Day is still chasing Westwood in the world rankings - Day is No. 7 and Westwood is No. 2 - and both players played well at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio last weekend finishing fourth (Day) and ninth (Westwood).
Like most of the world's top players, Day suffered at the Open Championship and Westwood was cut. They both enter this year's final Major opportunity with one thing on their mind: winning.
But since 1997 Westwood has failed to fully grasp the PGA Championship earning only one top ten finish (2009), the same amount as Day who has played it only once.
Westwood holds the dubious distinction of being the best player to never win a Major - you could argue Luke Donald as well - while Day is one of the best young players in the game today.
Together they make an intriguing pair, an older player who has finally put it together in recent years and an upstart youngster who is hell-bent on landing a Major soon.
Day's game has been tremendous this year all the way around though. He's shown good poise in the face of the big stage and has yet to reach his full potential as a golfer.
This weekend will be demanding on every player in the field, and the Highlands Course will test those you can't stay out of trouble, but that shouldn't be a problem for Day, and if he can stay consistent this could be the weekend he finally breaks through for his first Major.
As ridiculous as it sounds, Tiger Woods would kill to swap places with Bo Van Pelt....at least on the golf course....in 2011. That's how special BVP's year has been.
It's been more than two full seasons since Van Pelt won his first and only PGA Tour stop, but after a rough start (missing the cut at four of his first five tournaments) he's put together arguably the best year of his career.
Back to back sub-70s scores coupled with an amazing half hour or so at Augusta National (two eagles in the span of three holes) put him in serious contention for a Green Jacket--closing with two late bogeys and Charl Schwartzel's four-birdie finish dropped him down to eighth. Still, that was by far the best he had done in 16 major championship appearances.
But Van Pelt proved it was no fluke, taking third at the Crowne Plaza Invitational a month later (by way of a closing round 65), then putting together a string of four consecutive Top 15 finishes, including a tremendous recovery at the US Open. After a brutal opening round 76 (which ironically enough started with a birdie), he stormed back with a 67-68 to reach red numbers, ultimately tying for 14th, easily his best performance at the US Open.
Currently he is 32nd on the money list an having made seven consecutive cuts, he's playing some of the best golf of his career.
Is that enough to make him a favorite to win the season's final major? No. But he is an 80-to-1 longshot, which is the same odds given to former major champions Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Lucas Glover, and Graeme McDowell.
Aside from his string of high finishes, the sports books in Vegas must have taken note of a few other stats. Van Pelt is seventh on the Tour in total driving so he'll be in position to hit good approach shots at the Atlanta Athletic club. And since he's also 18th on Tour in Greens-in-Regulation, you've got to like his chances of collecting several birdies each round.