PGA Championship 2011 Leaderboard: Top 10 Players Who Could Win
After two rounds on the Atlanta Athletic Club's Highlands Course at the 2011 PGA Championship, the leaderboard is crowded with unexpected names, along with a few familiar ones.
Of the top 35 players, only three have won major championships—Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Trevor Immelman. But 10 of the last 11 major championships have realized first-time winners, so that might favor some of the lesser known players who are playing well so far this week—like PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, who share the 36-hole lead at five under par.
The 70 players with the lowest scores—and ties—will be around for the weekend. And any one of them has a legitimate shot at winning this golf tournament. Here are the top 10 players who will make a move on "moving day"—and who could walk away with the Wanamaker Trophy when all is said and done.
Saturday morning update: Given what we now know about Rory McIlroy's injured right arm—that is has improved—I would have to include him in this group of favorites. Sure, McIlroy is eight shots back, but if he is 100%—or close to it—he has to be considered as a threat to get himself into contention.
If it weren't for a triple bogey seven on the difficult par-four 18th hole, Gary Woodland would be a lot closer to the lead. As it stands, he's five back. Assuming that seven wasn't unlucky and didn't leave so bad a taste in his mouth that he can't recover, Woodland is not only a player to watch on the PGA Tour these days, but a player to watch attempting to win his first major this week.
Rickie Fowler is still without a win on the PGA Tour, but he's getting closer.
Fowler's improvement from Day 1 to Day 2 this week was noticeable enough that I think he's learned what he can and can't get away with on the difficult Highlands Course layout. In fact, I expect Fowler to make a significant "moving day" move; which he'll have to do because he's currently eight shots behind the leaders.
Fowler's a different player than he was earlier in the year and his first professional win would be major in more ways than one with an unprecedented come-from-behind victory this weekend.
Sergio Garcia has a long history of coming close but not winning majors, including the PGA Championship, where just three years ago he finished tied for second place. He also finished second back in 1999, and he was T3 in 2006.
Garcia improved by three shots from Day 1 to Day 2 to get himself to within six shots of the lead. He's got the experience, he just needs to cash in. Why not this week?
Like Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, the No. 2 player in the world, hasn't enjoyed major championship success despite coming close a number of times.
Westwood finished tied for third place just two years ago at the PGA Championship and overall he has 11 top-10 finishes in the majors. He also improved by three shots from Day 1 to Day 2 this week at AAC. And while I feel like I'm rewriting Garcia's part of this article, Westwood is three shots closer to the lead.
He has the experience, he just needs to cash in. Why not this week?
Keegan Bradley is making a strong case for the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year honors.
The 25-year-old has the genes. He's the nephew of former LPGA player and World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley. And he's a Phil Mickelson protege, having been tutored by "Lefty" on how to prepare to win, which Bradley did earlier this year at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Bradley had his name on the Sunday leaderboard last week at WGC-Bridgestone, but faltered to T15 with a closing 74. He'll try to show he learned from that experience by better responding to the pressure—major championship pressure, no less—this weekend.
Davis Love III
Is Davis Love III getting better with age?
It's been 14 years since he won the PGA Championship at Winged Foot, but at 47 years old, he's been playing some pretty good golf this year. He has six top-25 finishes including a T11 at the U.S. Open and a T12 at the Players Championship.
The U.S. Ryder Cup captain faltered a bit today, shooting a one over par 71, but he's still only four shots out of the lead and might still have the moxie to get this job done. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
Steve Stricker held the first-round lead outright after a major championship record-tying 63. But he stumbled to a second-round score of 74 to not only lose his lead but fall two shots back.
If he can shake off the forgettable second-round performance—let's just call it a bad day at the office—he arguably still has more going for him than anyone else in the field. Generally speaking, he's still playing the best golf right now, and he will probably win PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
Of course, hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening would not only seal that deal but also give him his first major championship victory.
Adam Scott held the second-round lead for a brief time at five under par. But his double bogey at 18 ruined an otherwise outstanding round of golf.
Fresh off his runaway win at the WGC-Bridgestone last week, Scott still has the pedal down and he's playing very well right now. He's been consistent on the Highlands Course, shooting two rounds of 69. If he continues down that path, then, well, let's just say four rounds of 69 might be enough for him to win his first major.
Where have you been, Jim Furyk?
Just last week I was commenting on how quiet Furyk has been this year. He only has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts—this after winning three tournaments and Player of the Year honors in 2010.
But that was then and this is now. Furyk fired a sizzling second-round five under par 65 to get himself to within one shot of the lead. That's as good as a lead as far as I'm concerned and that's where Furyk is most comfortable. He's one of the game's best front-runners.
I picked Phil Mickelson to win the Masters. I picked him to win the U.S. Open. Yes, I even picked him to win the British Open. The way I see it, he owes me.
Mickelson's game has been way too erratic to seriously contend in any of the majors this year, but he did give everyone a thrill for nine holes at Royal St. George's.
Everyone knows he won't suddenly find the patience to plod through the weekend and sneak into the lead from six shots back. But if he can hang around and eventually get on one of his hot streaks at just the right time, he could provide some fireworks in the process of winning his fifth major.