Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Heading into the 2015 PGA Championship
Now that August is well underway, it's finally time we turn our attention to the final major tournament of the year: the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.
With the Wanamaker Trophy on the line, there are dozens of players who have made strong cases for contending this week along the bucolic shores of Lake Michigan.
Odds Shark favorite Jordan Spieth may have narrowly missed out on his Grand Slam on the final green in Scotland at St. Andrews, but the young man with a short memory for poor performances will be entirely focused on the task ahead as he tries to make it three major wins out of four.
Joining him as favorites are world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who has recovered from his July ankle injury in time to defend the title, and perennial contenders Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, among others who have strung together impressive streaks on the PGA Tour this season.
But where do they rank in this year’s PGA Championship field, which features debutants, former major champions and everything in between? To get a better idea of where the contenders stack up at this point in the season, let’s give a nod to a few honorable mentions then take a look at the top 25 golfers heading into Thursday’s PGA Championship.
The Irishman just won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but it was his first-ever PGA Tour victory. The only other tournament he has won as a professional was the Portugal Masters in 2012. He has played in major tournaments before, including tying for ninth at this year’s U.S. Open and tying for ninth at the 2014 British Open, but he has never contended at the PGA Championship.
Last year, Lowry tied for 46th, and the year before he tied for 57th. His only other appearance at the year’s final major resulted in a missed cut in 2010.
Ryan Moore hasn’t won on tour since the CIMB Classic in November 2014. This year, his best finishes include a fifth place at the Valspar Championship, a tie for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and a tie for 17th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Moore hasn’t claimed a top-10 finish since March, though, and has missed three cuts in his last six outings.
Moore’s best-ever finish in a major came at the PGA Championship. Granted, it was all the way back in 2006, but his tie-for-ninth finish is still worthy of note. Aside from that top 10 (his debut at the tournament), Moore has only managed to crack the top 50 once (that was last year).
Ben Martin has actually had a fairly decent year in outside of the majors. His most notable results include tying for fourth at The Players Championship, taking fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tying for 10th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
His career at the PGA Championship is as short-lived as it is forgettable. Since Martin turned pro in 2010, he has only played for a single Wanamaker Trophy—that was last year, when he missed the cut with opening rounds of 74 and 71 despite tying for 26th at the British Open just a few weeks earlier.
Martin had a pedestrian Bridgestone Invitational and tied for 57th at nine over par. That hurts his momentum heading to Wisconsin, but he's buoyed enough by his positive performances this season to rank just outside the top 25.
The 38-year-old from San Diego did not fare well at the U.S. or British Opens, as he missed the cut at both. He did, however, bookend those poor results with a tie for second at the AT&T Byron Nelson at the end of May and a tie for seventh at the Canadian Open at the end of July. Not to be overlooked are Hoffman’s tie for second at the Humana Challenge and—perhaps most impressive—his tie for ninth at the Masters.
Hoffman’s tie for 31st at the Bridgestone is worthy of a hearty “meh,” which is more or less in tune with the shape of his 2015 season so far.
Aside from his tie for ninth place at this year’s Masters, Hoffman has never broken into the top 20 at any major tournament. What’s more, his most disappointing record among those four events has been the PGA Championship, where his best finish was a tie for 40th in 2013. Hoffman has competed for the Wanamaker six times in the last decade and only made the cut once.
25. Matt Kuchar
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 16
Best of 2015: Matt Kuchar has been a busy man. So far this calendar year, the 37-year-old has played in 18 events and claimed seven top-20 finishes. Among the most impressive are a fifth-place finish at the RBC Heritage, a tie for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a tie for second at the Humana Challenge. More recently, Kuchar will like to think his tie for seventh at the Canadian Open will give him some momentum heading to Whistling Straits.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Kuchar finished at even par for the tournament by carding a two-under 68 and claiming a share of 23rd place at the Bridgestone. His seven top-20 finishes this season make him hard to ignore, but that should be taken with a grain of salt when we remember Kuchar’s best results weren’t exactly at major tournaments. All things considered, he earns a ranking in the mid- to low 20s on this list.
PGA Championship History: Despite being a pro since 2000, Kuchar has only competed in six PGA Championships—and those half-dozen outings were evenly split polar opposites. Three were solid performances (a T22 in 2013, a T19 in 2011 and a T10 in 2010), while the other three were missed cuts (2012, 2009 and 2002). Looking ahead to this year’s final major, history suggests Kuchar’s performance will either be somewhat of a hit or a total miss.
24. Paul Casey
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 26
Best of 2015: This English pro was all over the top of the leaderboard during the first half of the season. He took second in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open, tied for third at the Honda Classic, placed ninth at the Shell Houston Open, tied for sixth at the Masters and tied for fifth at the WGC-Cadillac. Aside from taking second place in a playoff at Travelers Championship in June, though, Casey seems to have lost a lot of steam coming down the home stretch.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Casey barely broke even par with a one-under 279 to finish tied for 19th at the Bridgestone. You could call it something of a rebound after what he’s been through on the course over the past few months, but it’s not enough to push him too far up this list.
PGA Championship History: Over the course of his career, Paul Casey has managed at least one top-10 finish in each major championship…except the PGA. His best finish at the year’s final major was a tie for 12th back in 2010. Aside from that and a tie for 15th in 2008, Casey has never finished inside the top 30 at a PGA Championship.
23. Kevin Kisner
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 34
Best of 2015: Kevin Kisner has five top-10 finishes so far in 2015. After suffering through four consecutive missed cuts in January and February, he turned his form around in April by finishing second in a playoff at the RBC Heritage. Kisner then went on to finish runner-up in a playoff at The Players, tie for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, tie for eighth at the Memorial Tournament and finish runner-up yet again in a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Kisner tied for 37th after getting a couple of strokes back in Sunday’s final round at the Bridgestone. Like others on this list, that middle-of-the-road result doesn’t sway our pre-Whistling Straits opinion of the player much in either direction. It’s Kisner’s frequent appearances at the top of the leaderboard this spring and summer that have earned him a position of consideration on this list.
PGA Championship History: Kisner’s PGA Championship career is quite literally nonexistent. Despite turning pro in 2006, he has yet to play in either the year’s first or final major.
22. Kevin Na
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 31
Best of 2015: The South Korean boasts five top-10 finishes so far this calendar year, including a tie for sixth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and another at The Players Championship. Na also managed to tie for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and claimed an impressive tie for 12th at the Masters. Overall, he’s only missed two cuts in his last 18 events.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Na finished tied for 15th at two under par at the Bridgestone. That top-20 result will give him confidence going into the PGA Championship, but it’s not a game-changer for re-evaluating his overall performance this season. Based on his play this year, Na warrants recognition, but he won’t be a serious contender at Whistling Straits. Watch for him to place in the top 35.
PGA Championship History: Na has not featured much at the majors since he turned pro in 2001, but his best attempt at one of golf’s highest honors came at the PGA Championship. Back in 2011, he tied for 10th at Atlanta Athletic Club, which was the only time he was able to finish in the top 40 at the year’s final major. In six career attempts, Na played through the weekend on three occasions (2009-2011), missed the cut twice (including last year) and withdrew once (2012).
21. Sergio Garcia
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 10
Best of 2015: Sergio Garcia hasn’t been the most active player on tour this season, having only competed in 11 events so far, but he began the calendar year with a tie for fourth place at the Northern Trust Open. He followed that up with a string of unremarkable finishes in the 30-40 range before taking second in The Players Championship playoff, tying for 18th at the U.S. Open and tying for sixth at the British Open.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Garcia finished in the middle of the pack at the Bridgestone when he tied for 38th at three over par. His major performances this year, however, provide him with solid credibility for a top-25 ranking going into the PGA Championship.
PGA Championship History: He’s had many close calls in majors over his career, but Garcia hasn’t been at his best form at the PGA since 2008, when he tied for second place. In his first 10 attempts at a Wanamaker, the Spanish player had three top-three finishes and one top 10. In his last six attempts, Garcia has missed the cut three times and only broken into the top 30 once.
20. Danny Lee
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 66
Best of 2015: The New Zealander has played well all year long, but he found an all new gear about a month ago. After missing consecutive cuts at the Memorial Tournament and U.S. Open, Danny Lee tied for 25th at the Travelers Championship, won the playoff at the Greenbrier Classic, tied for third at the John Deere Classic and tied for fourth at the Quicken Loans National. Overall, he has recorded five top-10 finishes this calendar year.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Danny Lee tied for sixth at the Bridgestone, meaning his momentum over the past five or six weeks is still rolling. He hasn’t been dominant, but he showed he has what it takes to challenge in recent tournaments. Unfortunately for him, a lack of experience at the majors is a serious drawback that has curbed our enthusiasm for the streaking Lee.
PGA Championship History: Danny Lee’s major history is so unimpressive that it’s practically not worth mentioning. Since 2009, Lee has only played in three major tournaments (the 2009 Masters, 2015 U.S. Open and 2015 British Open) and missed the cut in each one. He has never played in the PGA Championship, but—we promise—he is in the field for the first time at Whistling Straits.
19. J.B. Holmes
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 17
Best of 2015: J.B. Holmes has played his way to five top-10 finishes in 2015. The most impressive of those were his silver medal in the Farmers Insurance Open playoff, second place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and playoff victory at the Shell Houston Open in April.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Holmes’ one-over final round at the Bridgestone means he settled for a three-over 283 and a share of 37th place at that PGA Championship warm-up event. That trio of top-two finishes noted above, however, carries far more weight than one weekend in Akron, Ohio, so Holmes comfortably makes this list.
PGA Championship History: In the last 11 years, Holmes has only entered the field at the PGA on six occasions. He withdrew from two of those and has never finished in the top 20, making his best-ever result a tie for 24th in 2010. Last year, Holmes finished tied for 64th after a PGA Championship hiatus of two years.
18. Adam Scott
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 11
Best of 2015: Adam Scott began the year with a tie for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He then proceeded to produce a string of unremarkable finishes (mostly in the 30s) before recovering with a share of fourth place at the U.S. Open and a share of 10th at the British Open.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Scott tied for 45th after carding a three-over-par 73 in the final round to finish five over for the tournament. It’s not what he would have wanted, but it is on par with many of his performances this year. Scott mostly gets a nod on this list because of his history at the PGA Championship.
PGA Championship History: The Aussie has finished in the top 15 at the PGA for the last five years running—including a tie for fifth in 2013 and a seventh-place finish in 2011. His best finish was a tie for third back in 2006. Overall, he’s had nine top-25 results at the year’s final major.
17. Jimmy Walker
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 14
Best of 2015: Jimmy Walker began the calendar year by taking runner-up honors in a playoff at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions before winning the Sony Open in Hawaii one week later. The 36-year-old also won the Valero Texas Open, tied for second at the AT&T Byron Nelson and more recently tied for third at the CVS Health Charity Classic.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Walker will hope to forget his Bridgestone performance as he plans for Whistling Straits. His seven-over 278 was only good enough for a share of 53rd place. Though he hasn’t had much PGA Championship experience, he is no stranger to scoring low at the majors in general. Combine that with his top finishes this season, and Walker earns a nod for a mid-table ranking on this list.
PGA Championship History: Walker made serious efforts at all four of the 2014 majors, including tying for seventh at the PGA Championship. Before that, his best finish was a tie for 21st in 2012. His only other attempts resulted in missed cuts in 2013 and 2010.
16. Louis Oosthuizen
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 13
Best of 2015: Louis Oosthuizen has six top-10 finishes stretching all the way from a sixth place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March (his first event of the calendar year) to his second place in the British Open playoff against Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman. Other notable performances include a tie for second at the U.S. Open and a tie for fifth at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship in May.
Why He’s Ranked Here: He finished the Bridgestone with a share of 41st place at four over par. That’s not very eye-catching, but Oosthuizen’s other performances in some of this year’s toughest events certainly are worthy of note. Like Odds Shark, we’re looking at the whole picture for the South African’s season—and that picture looks pretty good in advance of the PGA Championship.
PGA Championship History: Oosthuizen has a record of close finishes at the majors over the last five years (including his 2010 British Open victory), but none of them has come at the PGA. The best he has managed in six attempts was a tie for 15th last year. Aside from that, the South African has a tie for 21st (2012), a 73rd (2008) and three consecutive missed cuts between them.
15. Robert Streb
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 50
Best of 2015: Robert Streb has missed his share of cuts this season (five—but who’s counting?). He’s also claimed second place in a Greenbrier Classic playoff, tied for fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship and tied for eighth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. Overall, Streb has recorded five top-10 finishes and nine top 25s in 2015.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Streb took sixth place with a tournament score of six-under par at the Bridgestone, so he’s got that going for him. He’s had a promising year and will be headed to Wisconsin with a positive attitude after a fine weekend in Akron, but his lack of PGA Championship experience has caused us to shy away from bets (and a top-10 ranking here) on the 28-year-old.
PGA Championship History: This 28-year-old is surprisingly a PGA Championship debutant. This year was the first time Streb has featured in any major tournaments, but if there’s any truth to his 2015 majors trend (missed the cut at the Masters, tied for 42nd at the U.S. Open, tied for 18th at the British Open) and if you’re feeling optimistic, he may just be in contention this championship Sunday.
14. Brandt Snedeker
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 29
Best of 2015: Brandt Snedeker ended 2014 with a string of top-10 finishes and seems to have rediscovered that inspired vein of form over the last few months. In May he tied for second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and tied for sixth at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Later this summer, he took eighth at the U.S. Open and tied for 10th at the Travelers Championship. Add to that Snedeker’s win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it’s clear the 34-year-old has already had a year to savor.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Snedeker is yet another player on this list who finished in the 30 range on this week’s Bridgestone leaderboard. Why he’s ranked so highly here, though, is a result of his performances of the last few months. Though Snedeker hasn’t had a phenomenal relationship with the PGA Championship, this might be the year he cracks the top 10.
PGA Championship History: Like seemingly so many others on this list, the PGA Championship is clearly Brandt Snedeker’s hoodoo. Despite finishing in the top 10 at least once in every other major, he has yet to replicate the feat at the PGA Championship. Snedeker came close last year when he tied for 13th, but aside from that he only has one top-20 finish in seven attempts.
13. Bill Haas
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 27
Best of 2015: Bill Haas has eight top-25 finishes and four top 10s that all began with a victory at the Humana Challenge back in January. He tied for seventh at the WGC-Cadillac Championship before going on to claim part of fourth place at The Players. In his last five outings, Haas tied for seventh at the CVS Health Charity Classic, tied for fourth at the Quicken Loans National and missed two cuts between them.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Haas tied for 25th at Bridgestone with a tournament score at even par. We were looking for something to differentiate between those solid finishes and missed cuts over the last month-and-a-half, but this result (unhelpfully) falls somewhere in the middle. Lucky for Haas, though, his PGA Championship record gives us the confidence to place him in the teens on this list.
PGA Championship History: Haas has played in five PGA Championships and been in the mix almost every time. After missing the cut in 2010 (his first attempt), he responded by tying for 12th, tying for 32nd, tying for 25th and tying for 27th in the ensuing attempts. Aside from the Masters, the PGA has been Haas’ best career major by far.
12. Rickie Fowler
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 5
Best of 2015: Were it not for his mind-boggling performances at every one of the 2014 majors, you could say 2015 has been the best year of Rickie Fowler’s career. In total, he has five top 10s so far this year, including wins at The Players Championship and Scottish Open and, more recently, a second-place finish at the Quicken Loans National.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Fowler tied for 10th at the Bridgestone—something he’s made a habit of this year—but we can’t help but concern ourselves with his PGA Championship history. Given his performances at non-major events in 2015, though, he certainly warrants a top-15 ranking. Could this be the year Fowler silences his critics with a Wanamaker?
PGA Championship History: Fowler’s tie for third place at last year’s PGA was by far his best result in five tries. Before that, the 26-year-old had only one top-20 finish (in 2013) to go along with one missed cut (2012) and a pair of 50ish finishes.
11. Hideki Matsuyama
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 15
Best of 2015: Hideki Matsuyama has finished in the top 10 approximately half the time he’s made the cut this year. That’s not bad, especially for a 23-year-old. He began 2015 with a tie for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, added to that medal finish a month later with a tie for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and picked up a tie for fourth at the Northern Trust Open soon after that. Matsuyama also finished fifth at the Masters and tied for fifth at the Memorial Tournament in June.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Despite rallying with a furious four-under-par Round 4 at the Bridgestone, Matsuyama still had to settle for a tie for 37th at three over par for the tournament. That final round, however, reminded us of the skill that brought the Japanese player a series of top-10 finishes and some respectable (though not fantastic) results in past PGA Championships.
PGA Championship History: Of all the majors, the PGA Championship has been Matsuyama’s Achilles’ heel. The relatively young pro has only been part of the field twice at the year’s final major, finishing tied for 19th at his 2013 debut and tied for 35th last year at Valhalla Golf Club.
10. Brooks Koepka
Official World Golf Ranking: 23
Best of 2015: Brooks Koepka may have only a few seasons on tour under his belt, but he’s been playing like a veteran in 2015. He started the year with a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open before tying for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and following it up with four consecutive top-20 finishes. Overall, he has nine top-20 finishes to his name this season.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Koepka tied for sixth at the Bridgestone to keep his late-season momentum on the bounce. It’s play like that that catches our attention and earns a spot in the top 10 on this list. Given his PGA Championship history, a little momentum may be all he needs to carry him to the top this year.
PGA Championship History: In his first (and only) two attempts at a PGA Championship title, Koepka managed a tie for 70th in 2013 and a tie for 15th just a year later. If he can maintain that meteoric trend of improvement, it won’t be long before we see the 25-year-old lift his first major trophy—maybe even at Whistling Straits.
9. Henrik Stenson
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 9
Best of 2015: Henrik Stenson has had a so-so year on tour in 2015. He started off well with a tie for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March followed by a fourth-place finish at the Valspar Championship and a second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Why He’s Ranked Here: He may have started the calendar year well, but Stenson has only played seven events since March. Aside from Sunday’s tie for sixth at the Bridgestone, he only managed to finish in the top 20 on two occasions in the last four months. Still, that early run was impressive, and so is his incredible run of form in recent years at the PGA Championship.
PGA Championship History: The 39-year-old Swede has had an excellent run of form at the PGA Championship since 2008. That year, he tied for fourth and followed it up in 2009 with a tie for sixth. After missing the cut in 2010 and not playing in the tournament over the next two seasons, Stenson returned to the year’s final major with a third-place finish in 2013 and a tie for third in 2014. To put it simply, Stenson has five top-six finishes in his last six attempts at the Wanamaker.
8. Dustin Johnson
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 7
Best of 2015: Dustin Johnson has seven top-10 finishes in 2015. After starting the year with a missed cut, he tied for fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and took second in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open. Add to that a win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, a tie for sixth at the Masters and a tie for second at the U.S. Open, and Johnson has an impressive resume heading to Wisconsin.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Johnson was within striking distance of the top 10 at the Bridgestone, but a final round at six over par sent him plummeting down the leaderboard all the way to a tie for 53rd. The fact that he has been a serious contender for much of the majors this season gives him serious credibility heading to Wisconsin, but his frequent inability to close out tournaments prevents him from ranking among the truly elite contenders on this list.
PGA Championship History: The 31-year-old from South Carolina has had close brushes with every major championship title, and the PGA is no exception. In his five total attempts, Johnson best finishes include a tie for fifth in 2010, a tie for eighth in 2013 and a tie for 10th in 2009. He has only missed one cut in his career at the PGA (in 2011) and did not play last year.
7. Zach Johnson
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 12
Best of 2015: The unquestionable crown jewel of Zach Johnson’s 2015 season so far has been the Claret Jug. Aside from that British Open victory, he has also registered an impressive seven top-10 finishes beginning with a seventh place at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. In the last two months, Johnson placed fifth at the AT&T Byron Nelson, sixth at the Travelers Championship and tied for third at the John Deere Classic to go along with his win at St. Andrews.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Johnson’s tie for 33rd in Akron tells us little except that he might as well have taken the week off as far as these rankings are concerned. It wasn’t anywhere near good enough to get us truly excited, but it also wasn’t bad enough to detract from his British Open win or his overall record on tour this year. As a result, Johnson misses out on the top five but is an easy lock for the top 10.
PGA Championship History: Since 2009, Johnson achieved three top-10 finishes at the PGA Championship—the best of which was a tie for third at Whistling Straits in 2010. He has only missed three cuts in 11 total attempts, all from the span of 2006 to 2008. Last year, though, he only tied for 69th.
6. Rory McIlroy
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 1
Best of 2015: Rory McIlroy’s year—especially the buildup to the PGA Championship—has been significantly overshadowed by his ankle injury this summer. Before having to sequester himself on the couch for a month or so, the 26-year-old collected five top-10 finishes in 2015. That looks even more impressive when you realize McIlroy had only played eight total events this season. His best performances were wins at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and the Wells Fargo Championship. He also came in fourth at the Masters and tied for ninth at the U.S. Open.
Why He’s Ranked Here: McIlroy is still the world No. 1, but he hasn’t played a competitive round of golf in over a month. What can we make of the phenomenal Northern Irishman who is returning to one of golf’s biggest stages after suffering a serious injury? Though the oddsmakers at Odds Shark still consider him a favorite, five weeks on inactivity forces us to drop this No. 1 just outside the top five.
PGA Championship History: The four-time major winner collected two of his titles at the PGA Championship. McIlroy’s wins came last year and in 2012 after beginning his career quest for Wanamakers with back-to-back ties for third in 2009 and 2010. He also tied for eighth place in between titles in 2013. The Northern Irishman’s only poor performance at the year’s final major was his tie for 64th in 2011.
5. Bubba Watson
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 3
Best of 2015: Aside from the majors, Bubba Watson has excelled on tour this season. After taking 10th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he tied for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, took third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, won a playoff for the Travelers Championship and placed second at the Canadian Open.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Add to that list above a second-place finish at the Bridgestone, and Bubba has reason to set his sights on the Wanamaker with confidence. He went four-under in the final round to climb the leaderboard and just come up short against Lowry, suggesting he’s feeling comfortable with his swing at the best possible moment. That’s why he’s in the top five.
PGA Championship History: Watson’s next-best result at a major (after his two Masters victories, of course) was his second place at the 2010 PGA Championship. In eight attempts since his 2008 debut at the tournament, he has missed the cut three times and only finished in the top 20 twice. Last year, Watson tied for 64th after missing the cut in 2013.
4. Jason Day
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 4
Best of 2015: The 27-year-old Australian has five top-10 finishes so far this season. Like many others on this list, he began the year positively at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Day tied for third there before winning a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open and tying for fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the British Open. Missing a chance at a playoff for the Claret Jug was painful, but Day responded well with a victory at the Canadian Open one week later.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Day tied for 12th at the Bridgestone, which is just good enough to allay any concern we might have had about a post-Canadian Open malaise. The Aussie couldn’t continue his winning ways to make it two in a row, but finishing just outside the top 10 in Akron is no cause for concern. Given his career consistency at the PGA (and the majors in general), Day is easily among the most elite active players vying for this year’s Wanamaker.
PGA Championship History: Jason Day is among the best active players never to have won a major championship, but he has come very close on numerous occasions. Among those close calls were his tie for 10th place at the 2010 PGA Championship, his tie for eighth in 2013 and his tie for 15th just last year. In five career attempts, Day has only missed the cut at the PGA twice.
3. Jim Furyk
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 6
Best of 2015: It may be more than two decades since Jim Furyk made his tour debut in 1992, but he hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down. The 45-year-old is fresh off a fourth-place finish at the Canadian Open—one of four top-five finishes in the last four months. The others were a tie for fifth at the Memorial, a fourth place at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and a playoff victory at the RBC Heritage.
Why He’s Ranked Here: He was in the mix for a long time at the Bridgestone, but Furyk ultimately settled for a two-over-par final round and a share of third place. Opening rounds of back-to-back 66s suggest one of the tour’s most experienced players may yet have what it takes to claim the year’s final major. When it comes to majors, anyone hanging around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday could outlast the field for the win—and Furyk has practically set up shop in the top five over the last four months.
PGA Championship History: After roughly a decade of pedestrian results, Furyk seems to have found his best form yet again at the PGA Championship in recent years. Last year, he tied for fifth. Before that, he was runner-up in 2013. Altogether, Furyk has had six top-10 finishes at the PGA over the last two decades, with four additional finishes in the top 20.
2. Justin Rose
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 8
Best of 2015: Justin Rose has recorded four top-five finishes since April. Starting with a tie for second at the Masters, he went on to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, took second in a playoff at the Memorial Tournament and tied for fourth at the Quicken Loans National. Add to that his tie for sixth at the British Open, and Rose has had an impressive four months leading up to the year’s final major.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Rose tied for third with Furyk at the Bridgestone, but he just edges him on this list thanks to his exceptional major form over the summer. His record at the PGA isn’t quite as good as the No. 3 man on our list, but his overall play in recent months has been hot enough to assuage our doubts.
PGA Championship History: The 35-year-old Englishman’s best result at the PGA was a tie for third in 2012. Since his debut at the tournament in 2002, Rose has managed a total of two top-10 finishes in 12 attempts. He has also missed five cuts over that period. The last two years, though, Rose has not been able to crack the top 20.
1. Jordan Spieth
Official World Golf Ranking: No. 2
Best of 2015: Unless you’ve been living in a cave on Mars for the past year, you’ll know Jordan Spieth won both the Masters and U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the British Open. But the 22-year-old’s success extended well beyond the majors. Spieth has recorded 11 top-10 finishes so far this season, including winning a playoff for the Valspar Championship, winning another playoff at the John Deere Classic, taking second at the Valero Texas Open, tying for second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and finishing runner-up in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open, among other top finishes.
Why He’s Ranked Here: Is this even a question? No one is asking this question. There’s not a player in the world who has played as well and sustained it for as long as Jordan Spieth has this year: That’s why he’s No. 1.
PGA Championship History: Given Spieth’s total reinvention at the majors this season, it seems unfair to mention his past PGA Championship performances—but here we go anyway. Since turning pro in 2012, the Texan has only played in the final major twice. He missed the cut on both occasions. That brief history seems almost irrelevant now, and it almost certainly will not bear any relevance this year at Whistling Straits.