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PGA Championship 2011: Who Is a Serious Contender on the Leaderboard?

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PGA Championship 2011: Who Is a Serious Contender on the Leaderboard?
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Brendan Steele

Brendan Steele? Jason Dufner? Keegan Bradley?

After 54 holes at the 2011 PGA Championship, these are the three players on top of the leaderboard—Steele and Dufner at seven under par and Bradley at six under par. And it has left casual golf fans scratching their heads in disbelief, wondering who these guys are.

Avid followers of the PGA Tour know that Steele and Bradley were first-time winners this year—Steele at the Valero Texas Open and Bradley at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. But they're still relatively unknown. And Dufner has exactly no victories to his credit in five seasons on tour.

If you look at the Official World Golf Ranking, Dufner is 80th, Bradley is 108th and Steele is 121st. It's hardly impressive. But giving credit where credit is due, the trio is playing the best golf so far this week and deserves to be on top heading into the tournament's final round.

Tiger Woods is long gone. Same with defending PGA Champion Martin Kaymer. Ditto for Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, reigning British Open champion Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover, Graeme McDowell, Anthony Kim, Vijay Singh—the list of favorite and familiar names that missed the cut this week goes on and on.

The question remains, however, whether Steele, Dufner and Bradley can continue their stellar play with the Sunday pressure of a major championship?

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Phil Mickelson

Perhaps they can, but my money remains with those players who have more experience. And there are plenty of them within striking distance.

Veteran Scott Verplank is just two shots back at five under par. Player of the Year front-runner Steve Stricker is three shots back at four under par. And former PGA Champion David Toms, reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and last week's WGC-Bridgestone winner Adam Scott are only five shots back at two under par.

I think any player within seven shots of the lead is a serious contender to win this golf tournament. After all, Stricker proved a 63 is out there with his incredible seven under par opening round.

But more likely, the current leaders will need to fall back to the pack to enable those who are one under par or even par to catch them.

Well-known and supremely-talented players like Nick Watney, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan or Phil Mickelson still have an outside shot to win the 2011 PGA Championship.

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