PGA Championship: 20 Players To Watch


PGA Championship: 20 Players To Watch

July 11, 2007

Tiger WoodsHis last chance of winning a major this year is at a course that figured to be his worst major. It's a course that has never fit his eye, similar to the winding, tree-lined courses that for whatever reason have given him fits. A victory would give him as many Wanamaker trophies as green jackets. Might navigate his way around with a 5-wood. His putter has been dormant this year. If it awakes, he can win. Has momemtum after winning at Firestone. -- Associated Press

Jim FurykBack injury that forced him to withdraw from the Bridgestone Invitational makes him an unknown quantity at Southern Hills. Along with Tiger Woods, he has been the most consistent in the majors this year. Finally picked up his first victory of the season at the Canadian Open, closing with a 64. Furyk could be atop a new list of "Best to have only won one major." Southern Hills should play into his hands if he can fix an ailing back. -- Associated Press

Phil MickelsonAfter going eight years without missing a cut in a major, Mickelson went home early from the last two. Southern Hills figured to be his best chance at a major this year, and it still is. He contended in the '94 PGA Championship and the '01 U.S. Open, and there's something about this course that suits his eye. A victory would be four straight years winning a major, matching Tiger Woods' longest streak. -- Associated Press

Ernie ElsHe has reason to believe his game is headed in the right direction, after making a spirited run at Loch Lomond and Carnoustie in consecutive weeks. He was one shot out of the lead at the British Open when the birdie putts stopped falling, typical of his recent run. His biggest challenge at the PGA will be between the ears. Els has never been a big fan of Southern Hills dating to the Tour Championship. He knows it, and he knows everyone else knows it. -- Associated Press

Adam ScottHe is getting to the point where he must start contending consistently in the majors for people to take his ranking seriously. The swing is beautiful and fundamentally sound, but needs to show more fire four times a year. Twice had a chance to win until stumbling in the final round this year, at the Memorial and Memphis. This is the 25-year anniversary of when his idol, Greg Norman, made his PGA debut. -- Associated Press

Padraig HarringtonGood players who finally win a major usually threaten in their next start. Harrington is a very good player. He has been working so hard toward winning a Grand Slam event that it should make him only hungrier for the next one. He's also levelheaded, and will prepare for Southern Hills the way he did the other majors before he won. -- Associated Press

Vijay SinghHis opportunities are becoming less frequent with every year, although he is primed for another major. A two-time winner through March, he hasn't done much to scare anyone lately. With an outside chance going into Sunday at the majors, closed with a 73 at the Masters, a 76 at the U.S. Open and a 75 at the British Open. A runner-up in Canada, he might find enough determination to pull through if he gets close enough Sunday. -- Associated Press

Sergio GarciaIn a normal year, this might have been the spot for Garcia to pick up his first major. But this hasn't been a normal year. He figures to be scarred from his runner-up finish at Carnoustie, where he blew a three-shot lead in the final round, made bogey on the 72nd hole to fall into a playoff, and complained after losing that the golf gods are out to get him. If he can find perspective, along with a putting stroke, his shotmaking skills are a beautiful fit for Southern Hills. -- Associated Press

Geoff OgilvyGreater things were expected of this talented Aussie, especially after winning the U.S. Open last year. But he hasn't given himself a serious chance at winning since losing in the final of the Accenture Match Play Championship, and he missed the cut at the British Open. He needs two good rounds under his belt to give his confidence a major boost. -- Associated Press

Luke DonaldHe got loads of experience last year by playing in the final group at Medinah with Tiger Woods, although he closed with a 74 and wound up six shots behind. Still hasn't won this year, and would love to be the player to bring Britain its first Wanamaker Trophy since Tommy Armour in 1930. He has the game for Southern Hills, provided his tidy swing stays compact. He tends to wear white pants in the final round, but will probably leave the red shirt in the closet if he's paired with Woods again. -- Associated Press

K.J. ChoiMajors sometimes are won by guys who are having great years that no one notices until they win a major, such as Mike Weir in 2003 and David Toms in 2001. Choi might be a great candidate, having won at Memorial and the AT&T National at Congressional, both with strong performances on the back nine. He has all the qualities of a major champion. No Asian-born player has ever won a major. -- Associated Press

Steve StrickerHe has done everything except win since pulling himself out of a slump that nearly ended his career. Had a share of the lead going to the back nine at Oakmont, and played in the final group at Carnoustie. His normally reliable putting stroke cost him dearly at the British Open. This course sets up better for him than the other majors. Winless since 2001, and that might be holding him back. But he's gained enough experience in contention this year that it should no longer be a liability. -- Associated Press

Retief GoosenCould become the first player in history to win separate majors on the same golf course, having won the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in 2001. His game has been very inconsistent, and he showed that at Carnoustie by getting off to a hot start, then failing to convert that into a serious shot at contention. Pardon the pun, but it would not be surprising to see lightning strike twice in Tulsa. -- Associated Press

Zach JohnsonOne of five players with multiple victories this year, plus a major. A victory at Southern Hills would make him a lock for player of the year, but it's a tall order. He has been steady since picking up his second victory in Atlanta, although hardly spectacular. This could be a good fit for him as much as Southern Hills requires placement and good putting. -- Associated Press

Angel CabreraStill walking tall after his U.S. Open victory at Oakmont, although he faltered quickly at Carnoustie after opening with a 68. The U.S. Open brought him overdue recognition as one of the premier power players in golf, although power isn't the answer at Southern Hills. He'll need to have the kind of putting week he had at Oakmont. -- Associated Press

Stewart CinkHe plays some of his best golf in August, whether a big tournament or trying to make a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. Southern Hills is a good fit for him and brings mixed memories. He was tied for the 54-hole lead after breaking par three straight days, but is best remembered for a double bogey on the 18th hole. He missed an 18-inch putt that was meaningless at the time, but it left him out of the playoff when Retief Goosen three-putted from 12 feet. -- Associated Press

Mike WeirLoads of pressure at this major, his last chance to either make the Presidents Cup team or at least show captain Gary Player that he should be picked. His game is getting closer to that of a past major champion, with strong play at Congressional and fleeting contention at Carnoustie. The native of Bright's Grove, Ont., hasn't won in three years, which could add to the heat if he's playing late Sunday afternoon. -- Associated Press

Davis Love IIIIt has been 10 years since he won the PGA Championship at Winged Foot, the first of what many figured would be several majors. In a year of first-time major winners, this might feel like one. Once among the elite, he now is considered a long shot. He is having his least productive season in two decades, while coping with back injuries and possibly desire. This would be out of the blue, but it wouldn't be the first time. -- Associated Press

Hunter MahanHe's always had the talent, and now has a PGA Tour victory (Hartford) and loads of confidence. Might be one of the hottest players around, shooting 69-65 on the weekend at Carnoustie, then opening with a 62 in Canada. Had four straight top 10s going into Firestone, and while he has never played Southern Hills in a pro event, knows the course from his days at Oklahoma State. -- Associated Press

Tom LehmanAnother hunch for a guy who hasn't won in six years and whose career has reached the point that he didn't play in a major this year until the British Open, where he is exempt through age 65. This is a course he loves, having whipped the field at the Tour Championship in 1996 to capture the PGA Tour money title. Will need to have the kind of week Ben Crenshaw had at the Masters in 1995, but it's doable. -- Associated Press

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