PGA Championship 2011: 10 Dream Pairings for Final Day
The first two rounds of the PGA Championship are in the books.
While there is still an entire third round to play on Saturday, it's never too early to look forward to Sunday.
More so than any of 2011's previous majors, this one is truly showing off the parity in the game. If you look at the top 10, you will see one player (Jim Furyk) with a career major win.
Branch out and look at the top 25. Only Furyk, Trevor Immelman, and Davis Love have a major. Even at that, none of those three have more than one and Immelman is the only player to have recorded his major win in the last five years.
So, many the biggest names don't appear to be serious factors this week. There is a very good chance that this will be first year since 2003 to have four new major winners.
But how can we make this final round interesting for everyone? Well, good golf is the best way to have that happen.
Beyond that, a few interesting pairings on Sunday wouldn't hurt. How many of us remember the show that Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods put on in 2009? They weren't the final pairing and neither man won, but at the time they were the two biggest names in golf and had six Green Jackets between them (they now have seven).
It was an event, and neither man disappointed.
With 18 holes to play before the final day, let's take a look ahead at some of the better pairings that we might see during the final round.
Before we do, know two things.
One: Most of the players listed are several shots behind the current leaders. While there are a few deviations, this list is meant to focus on guys who are not in contention that can serve as a good warm-up act for Sunday's leaders.
Two: This list is presented in no particular order.
Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer
Why it's a dream: Allow me to paint you a picture. Two golfers, both ranked in the top 10 in the world. One man is from Europe, the other is from the United States.
This was a final day matchup in last year's Ryder Cup. Also, both men are under 30, so it's a potential Ryder Cup match for years to come.
Now, let's add to the intrigue that these were the two most important golfers in last year's PGA Championship.
In one corner is Martin Kaymer, the reigning champion. In the other is Dustin Johnson, the man who many feel was unfairly kept out of the playoff that Martin Kaymer won.
Yes, in every way this is a dream pairing in every sense of the word. There is only one problem.
Remember when I said that it's a dream pairing in every sense of the word? This will only happen in your dreams, at least this year.
Neither man made the cut.
Shots apart: Kaymer two shots better, but both missed the cut.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 0
Okay, I promise, all other pairings listed here are at least mathematically possible.
Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy
Why it's a dream: Now this is a Ryder Cup match that we will almost definitely be seeing for years to come.
We've actually already seen these two together at majors this year. At the Masters, they were paired together for the opening two rounds. McIlroy won the head-to-head battle.
At the British Open, they were paired together for their opening two rounds, were tied, and then paired together again in the third round. That battle went to Fowler.
McIlroy's the more accomplished of the two players, but Fowler's been playing very well recently.
Both are young (22) and will be around for an awfully long time. Neither man is in serious contention, but a pairing between the two would get the juices of the fans flowing for the later groups.
Shots apart: Tied. Fowler and McIlroy are both at three-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 8. Call it a hunch. I know that lots of golfers are around them, but these two just seem to be on a long-term collision course with plenty of showdowns.
Ben Crane and Rory Sabbatini
Why it's a dream: We'll get to the actual history between these two in a minute. Individually, you have quite a contrast in styles.
Sabbatini is one the least liked golfers in the world. He just can't seem to avoid controversy for any extended period of time.
Crane is generally one of the better liked golfers on tour. He's also one of the slowest golfers in the world. Watch this video and get a sense of how broken up Crane is about those accusations. But the pace of play issue is where their history comes in.
At the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, Sabbatini protested Crane's slow play by playing out of turn, putting out while Crane was in the fairway, and then walking off of the green while Crane was putting out.
The reason is that the group had already been warned for slow play. Pace of play penalties are applied to a group, not the player in it responsible for the slow play. In this case, that was clearly Crane.
Six years have passed, but any time these two are in the field together, it's hard to not revisit.
Shots apart: One. Sabbatini is at two-over, Crane is at three-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 3. There are just too many golfers that are tied or within a shot of one of these two.
Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, and Ben Crane
Why it's a dream: How can we miss a chance to see any two of golf's four "Golf Boys" reunite?
While none are really in contention, these are actually four of America's best golfers. Seeing two of them together would be a nice look at some of the best the U.S.A. has to offer, especially for American fans.
In reality, the possibility of being reminded of that video is what makes this pairing a dream. While we won't see all four of them together, it's actually not impossible that we can see them paired off in two groups of two.
Shots apart: Two shots between top and bottom.
Watson is at two-over, Crane and Fowler are three over; Mahan is four-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: Two groups of two? 2. Any two of them? 5. Crane and Fowler are the most possible, I just don't see them tying tomorrow. That will need to happen.
The other possible pairings are too reliant on what time of the day the golfers around them go off.
Rickie Fowler and Ian Poulter
Why it's a dream: Here's another one that we've seen at a major this year. It wasn't that long ago that Poulter hadn't won anything, but got attention for his loud outfits.
Now, his outfits aren't quite as outlandish and his performance has gotten better.
Fowler still hasn't won, but gets plenty of attention for his loud outfits.
You have the young, American version of Ian Poulter against the real Ian Poulter. In addition, as we've seen a few times before, this is a potential Ryder Cup pairing for a few more years.
Shots apart: One. Poulter is at two-over, Fowler is at three-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 4. Only one shot between them, but too many people can wreck this.
Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson
Why it's a dream: How often does Bubba Watson hit first into a green? It's a bomber's game, but Watson is still longer than just about anyone he ever plays with.
Woodland would challenge him, as he hits the ball harder than anyone. If you're there, this would be a pairing to watch at the tees, as some extremely impressive drives would be hit. Again, it would be a fun way to get ready for the leaders.
Shots apart: Two. Woodland is at even-par, Watson is at two-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 2. Honestly, if the players are more than one shot apart, nobody can seriously predict that they'll end up together 18 holes from now. There are just too many golfers in the middle of the pack or worse.
Edoardo Molinari and Francesco Molinari
Why it's a dream: These two actually have played together a fair number of times in competition.
They clearly know each other well. Because of their past competitive history, a lot of the drama in this one is taken away, as neither is in contention.
If they were both contenders, a Sunday pairing would dream. It would be Italy's answer to Venus vs. Serena Williams.
Still, even though they're not likely going to get anywhere near the Wanamaker Trophy, seeing two brothers paired with each other is something to catch the interest of people.
Shots apart: One. Francesco is at three-over, Edoardo is at four-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 5. A lot of people sit in that three-over/four-over range. As was said before, the scores need to perfectly align; and the players around their scores need to have not teed off at the wrong time on Saturday.
Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson
Why it's a dream: Two power-hitting, shot-making lefties; what's not to like about this pairing?
It's actually fun to think about these two guys going head-to-head. While the saying is that you're always playing against the course, it's not hard to imagine these two trying to play golf's answer of Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird.
These guys have plenty of experience with each other. Again, neither man is really in contention, but that's the case with most players listed here.
The problem is that one of the best things about watching the early rounds during the final day of a major is getting a preview of what the leaders are going to experience.
In addition to incredible creativity and shot-making ability, these two are also both erratic. It's very possible that they can visit spots of the course that none of the leaders will be within 60 yards of.
So, there isn't much intrigue from a preview point of view, but this one would definitely be fun to watch.
Shots apart: One. Mickelson is at one-over, Watson is at two-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 6. Again, there are a lot of people around, but these two are similar enough to think that they can easily separate themselves from the pack on Saturday.
On a tough course, separation may not come in the right way, but it doesn't need to if all we're worried about is a Sunday pairing.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood
Why it's a dream: Luke Donald is the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. Lee Westwood is the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world. Do we really need any more of a reason to want to see these two together?
If you do need another reason, both men are similar in that despite their rankings, they have never won a major. On that note, Westwood is one of the only golfers listed here who has a serious chance of winning.
Shots apart: Two. Westwood is at one-under, Donald is at one-over.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 2. In addition to the amount of shots separating them and amount of people between them, Donald and Westwood appear headed in different directions this week.
Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker
Why it's a dream: Look at these two. They even dress alike, isn't that cute? Okay, it was at a Ryder Cup, but still.
In all seriousness, these have been two of the best players in the world for a long time. The window for each to win a major (or another in Furyk's case) is running out. Now, both are actually in contention.
With the exception of Westwood, these are the only golfers listed here that are under par for the week.
At the beginning of this week, many thought that the long hitters would have their way with the rest of the field. With a few exceptions, that just hasn't happened.
In addition to being solid golfers for a long time, Stricker and Furyk are not long hitters. It would be a great sign for good, fundamental golf if one of these two claims the Wanamaker Trophy while the other is in the pairing to congratulate him.
Shots apart: One. Furyk is at four-under, Stricker is at three-under.
Scale of 1-10 chance that it will happen: 9. These two are closer to the top than the rest of the field, so they don't have as many people around them as others listed.
Their similar styles make it likely that they will shoot similar rounds and be close again after 54 holes.