The last major of the 2013 PGA Tour season is upon us in Rochester, New York, and for many golfers it is one of, if not the last chance to make this season a successful one.
The one golfer on everybody’s mind, especially when it comes to majors is, of course, Tiger Woods. Woods won his PGA Tour high 5th tournament on Sunday at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational by 7 strokes after a masterful 61 on Friday. The question that everyone is now thinking is, “Is Tiger back?” and to put it simple terms, yes he is, and has been. Is he ever going to be the dominant golfer that he was in the late 1990s and early 2000s? No, but he still has shown over the last two years that he is still the best golfer on the planet. When he is on his game there is not a single person on the Tour that can compete with Tiger, but those weeks just have not come in a major week the last few years, but it will come soon. Maybe not this week but soon enough major number 15 will happen. That being said, Tiger will obviously be the favorite going into the PGA Championship, but here is a few other golfers that should be in contention come Sunday.
1. Brandt Snedeker– 7th in World Golf Rankings. Masters-T6. US Open-T17 British-T11
The first two major winners of the year, Justin Rose and Adam Scott are 32 year olds with no previous major wins and in the top 20 in the World Golf Rankings. Well Snedeker is a 32 year old with no major wins and in the top 20 in the world. It would be a huge coincidence if Brandt could pull this off and make it 3 out of 4 for the year, but this is not the only reason Brandt is a contender. Snedeker is one of the best putters on tour and in every tournament, especially true in majors, the flat stick is the great equalizer (10th in Strokes Gained Putting). On days where scoring is tough to come by, putting is the one area that can keep a bad day from getting worse, and in majors, every golfer is going to have at least one day where they struggle. Sned has been in contention all year and even has 2 wins, so keep an eye on him throughout the weekend.
2. Hunter Mahan– 25th in World Golf Rankings. Masters-CUT. US Open-T4. British-T9
Hunter is another golfer that has been on the cusp of breaking out over the last few years and winning a major would solidify his place as one of the best American golfers. He has been knocking on the door the last couple majors and has played fairly consistent all year making the cut in 17 of his 20 events this year. Hunter is not of those golfers that do one thing exceptionally well, like Mickelson’s short game and Dustin Johnson’s drives, but he does do everything above average. If he can keep the ball in the fairway and hit a couple putts he should be in contention again come Sunday morning. Also, Mahan just had a very public addition to his family when he left the RBC Canadian Open before his 3rd round began even though he was leading because his wife went into labor three weeks early. Although this does not have much to do with golf, just keep in mind last time a new baby was publically announced around the time of a major (see 2012 Masters).
3. Henrik Stenson– 11th in World Golf Rankings. Masters-T18. US Open-T21. British-2
This Swedish golfer may be the hottest player on tour, and should have a lot of eyes on him in New York this week. At the Open Championship a few weeks ago, all eyes were on the English players, Westwood, Donald, and Poulter, but it was Stenson who came out and beat all three of them with a very consistent week and ended up finishing 2nd. His last two tournaments on tour were that 2nd at the Open Championship and a T2 at the Bridgestone, which also has a major quality field. Stenson is due to finally take that step up and win not only just any old tournament, but a major, and this week is probably his best chance to date. The only two players on tour that can claim they are on as good a streak as Stenson are Tiger and Phil. Tiger won the Bridgestone and once again has the pressure and media on him about winning his first major in over five years. Phil, on the other hand, just won the Open Championship and is probably still on cloud 9 so his focus may not be 100% there. This is the perfect time for Stenson to sneak up and shock the PGA world with their Champion coming from Sweden.
The 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club stretches out to about 7,163 yards and plays as a Par 70. Unlike the previous major at Murifield during the British Open, the PGA Championship will require players to pull the driver out of the bag. Without further, here are my three picks to win the PGA Championship (Tiger excluded):
1. Dustin Johnson: 23rd in World Golf Rankings. Masters-T13. US Open-55. British-T32
Dustin Johnson can hit long, and I mean really long. Still without a major on his resume, the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill GC, could finally be the place where he gets that victory. Johnson’s ability to crush the ball will allow himself to get in great positions around the golf course. As long as Dustin Johnson can hit the ball in the fairway and putt above average, he will be in contention come Sunday afternoon.
2. Hunter Mahan: 25th in World Golf Rankings. Masters-CUT. US Open-T4. British-T9
Two weeks ago, Hunter Mahan was leading the RBC Canadian Open after two rounds and decided to withdraw to be with his wife who was giving birth. At the British Open, Mahan was in contention late on Sunday, until Phil Mickelson started playing incredible golf. Like Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan is also without a major on the resume but he has been very close. Hunter ranks in the top-10 in driving distance and he prides himself on his deft touch around the greens. I really like Mahan’s chances, but it Is essential that he starts off the week playing well, If Hunter is within 1-2 shots entering the weekend, watch out.
3. Jason Day: 20th in World Golf Rankings. Masters-3rd. US Open-T2. British-T32
Jason Day is one the finest young golfers on the PGA TOUR currently, I struggled with this final pick going between Day and Ian Poulter. Both have not won a major, but I decided to go with the Australian Jason Day because he seems to be in contention at almost every major and it’s very rare that you ever see the guy flustered. Maybe, Jason Day can take some inspiration from Adam Scott’s victory at Masters back in April.
Combined, Josh and I, we have selected 3 Americans, 1 Australian, and 1 Swede. Golf’s last major can’t start soon enough, who will grab ‘Glory’s Last Shot’?