PGA Championship
August 10, 2009

Sliding Scale

Given the other challenges he faces, a good week for Phil Mickelson doesn't have to mean a win.

CHASKA, Minn. -- There was some important re-stocking done Wednesday in the merchandise tent at Hazeltine National, where copies of two of the four shirts Tiger Woods will wear at the PGA Championship sold out almost as soon as they threw open the doors on Monday.

Meanwhile, the guy who is going to be wearing his own version of those shirts spent less than two hours at the course Wednesday morning. And then Woods left to consider whether the 91st PGA Championship will turn out to be a good fit for him.

"How they set up the par fives will certainly determine what guys do," Woods said.

It's going to be the same for everyone this week, when the 7,674-yard layout and its four mammoth par-5 holes test 99 of the top 100 ranked players in the world. They are the 633-yard 3rd, the 572-yard 7th (29 yards longer than it played in the 2002 PGA championship), the 606-yard 11th and the 642-yard 15th. It could turn out that the 7th is the only one of the bunch where a forward tee may be used, and the upshot of that would be the other two are all then lay-up holes, which could take away some advantage held by the longer hitters.

But length and par fives and ball striking are only part of the equation at the fourth and final major of the year. There are questions left to be answered scattered all over the lush fairways and still-soft greens at Hazeltine. The top players, led by Woods, are going to have their hands full at the PGA Championship, where there's more at stake than $7.2 million in prize money.

Beginning with ...

Woods: He's winless in the majors this year and missed the cut in the last one, at the British Open. That's the negative. On the other hand, he's won twice in the last two weeks and five times this year. He said he will consider his year a success even if he doesn't win here, considering a year ago he was just tossing away his crutches after having knee surgery.

"To be honest with you, I don't think any of us would have thought I could have won this many events this year," he said.

As usual with Woods, driving is the key. His swing coach, Hank Haney, flew under the radar here, working quietly with Woods on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then getting out of town. Haney expressed admiration for the way Woods is swinging, and his absence means that Woods must be able to self-correct if he has any problems. When he won at Bridgestone, he kept the ball in play for the most part, which wasn't always true the week before at the Buick Open, but he won there anyway.

"Watch the way he drives the ball," said Lanny Wadkins. "If Tiger is driving it good, I think he's going to have a very good week."

What's a good week: At his level, his 15th major is the only goal, and after winning twice in the last two weeks, he should be at the top of his game.

Phil Mickelson: He said he played a lot better than his score showed last week at Bridgestone, where he tied for 58th. That's going to come in handy this week if Mickelson is going to contend.

At least he's going to be rested. Mickelson didn't arrive until Tuesday night and was on the course playing a practice round at 10 a.m. Mickelson didn't play the British Open in order to spend time with his wife and mother, who both had surgery for breast cancer. He said there's no sense of relief that the fourth and final major during a challenging year has finally arrived.

"Everybody's in the field here. This is their opportunity to finish the year with a high note and be able to be the last major champion until Augusta comes around in April. So this is a big week for everybody."

Including Mickelson.

What's a good week: His third top-10 in a major this year.

Padraig Harrington: After spending most of the year making swing changes and having little to show for it, he was in control at the Bridgestone, with a one-shot lead over Woods with three holes to play, and then promptly triple-bogeyed the 16th in the infamous "on the clock" hole. Harrington wound up tied for second, but that's his only top 10 in 15 PGA Tour events this year. Harrington missed six cuts and has played just four tournaments under par -- the Bridgestone the only one since April.

The defending PGA Championship winner said he's coming around and not worrying too much about his swing changes.

"I haven't quite perfected it … but it's obviously put my mind at rest. And I'm focusing more on playing gold, and that's what you would have seen last week."

What's a good week: Making the cut.

Sergio Garcia: He's no kid anymore, not at 29, but he's still waiting for his first major championship. The record so far in majors: 0-for-42 as a pro.

Garcia has come close before at the PGA Championship, where he was second in 1999, tied for third in 2006 and tied for second last year. If anybody needs to add a major to his resume more than Garcia … well, no one does.

What's a good week: He's got to win.

Stewart Cink: Once he won the British Open at Turnberry, he shed his flying-under-the-radar image. Cink can no longer fade into the scenery and he needs a strong week to cement his status as a bona fide challenger in majors and to prove what happened at Turnberry was no fluke.

"All of a sudden I feel like I can do it every time. It's a huge confidence builder, so it can only help."

What's a good week: Top 20 (Tweet that).

Lucas Glover: Remember the U.S. Open champion? It isn't easy to forget victory under trying conditions at Bethpage Black, but Glover has been on a frenetic pace and no one can blame him if he's running out of gas. Glover has taken only three weeks off since the last week of May, which means that after this week, he will have played nine of the last 12 weeks.

He tied for 11th at the Travelers, the week after Bethpage, and tied for fifth at Congressional, then hit the wall (T-66 at the John Deere, MC at the British Open), before rebounding a little last week at the Bridgestone, where he tied for 19th, 11 shots behind Woods.

What's a good week: Backing up his U.S. Open victory with a top 10.

__Rory McIlroy:__The PGA Championship means he's playing in all four majors this year, and at 20, that's a big step for the player already believed to be the next European superstar. He's already won this year, at Dubai on the European Tour, and no one should be surprised if there's a major coming out party for McIlroy on Sunday night.

What's a good week: A top 20 and a nice (age-appropriate) party.