The PGA Championship may give Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson each the opportunity to put their signature on the current golf year.
Johnson won the U.S. Open by overcoming personal demons, hitting long, straight drives and knocking in birdie putts to get the best of the field at Oakmont, Pennsylvania. Stenson was even better in taking the British Open, firing a final round of 63 to get the best of runner-up Phil Mickelson and take home the Claret Jug.
If either of them can win the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, this weekend, it will mark their second major of the year and give that golfer a legitimate claim on being the best player of the year.
Those two are playing together in the opening two rounds at Baltusrol, along with surprise Masters champion Danny Willett, who could also claim his second major with a victory here. The Englishman is a strong player, but he is not quite in the class of Johnson or Stenson.
Willett ranks 59th in FedEx Cup points, while the American is first and the Swede is 15th in that category.
Baltusrol is a course that favors long hitters, but that won't be enough to get the job done. The course features huge greens, and if players don't get their approach shots close to the pin, they have a much better chance of three-putting than they do at other major venues.
The greens are likely to be quite quick, and players with long putts are likely to see their misses slide a lot further away from the hole than they are used to.
The field is a powerful one, with 49 of the top 50 players in FedEx points participating. Nobody is happier about that development than PGA of America president Derek Sprague.
"It's about having great past champions, having the strongest field in golf, played at one of the best courses in America, and I think that sums up our week here for the 98th PGA Championship," Sprague told the media Wednesday (h/t Kyle Porter of CBS Sports).
Challengers for the Wanamaker Trophy include Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jhonattan Vegas, who won last week's Canadian Open.
Day, who won the PGA Championship last year with a spectacular 20-under-par performance at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, knows that the depth of the field means he has his work cut out for him.
"It just goes to show how stiff the competition has gotten over the years that I've been out here," the Australian told Jason Sobel of ESPN.com. "And then on top of it, the guys are just younger and stronger and fitter and faster, and they are just long out there."
Day's victory in last year's tournament was his first in a major, while Garcia is still trying to pick up the first of his career. The Spaniard comes into the PGA Championship playing near the top of his game, as he won the AT&T Byron Nelson in May and finished tied for fifth in the U.S. Open and the British Open in his last three starts.
Garcia ranks 13th in FedEx Cup points, and one of the main reasons for his recent success is his ability to hone in on the flag stick with his approach shots. The 36-year-old ranks sixth on the tour in shots gained on his approach shots, according to PGATour.com.
If Garcia can play at the same level he has been at in recent tournaments, he has an excellent chance to put his name at or near the top of the leaderboard because the greens at Baltusrol are so large and challenging. Finding a way to put approach shots close to the pin appears to be essential, and Garcia has been excellent in that category.