BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The PGA Championship begins Thursday at Oakland Hills CC, where it will be about 20 degrees cooler that it was at Southern Hills CC in Tulsa a year ago. The excitement meter might be ratcheted down a few notches as well. Tiger Woods, the two-time defending champion is home in Florida resting and rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee, the first time since Ben Hogan failed to play in 1949 that the defender didn't return the following year.
Woods said he's "frustrated" and doesn't intend to watch this year's tournament. But we'll watch, and we expect someone near the top of the World Ranking to pick up the slack in Woods' absence. Here's at look at the rest of the top 10 as they prepare for the PGA.
Phil Mickelson (World Ranking: 2): Lefty said he didn't like the way he finished at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week. Who besides winner Vijay Singh did? But Mickelson's bogey-bogey finish overshadowed the fact he would have put the tournament away earlier if he had made more mid-length putts. But there's no truth to the rumor that the guy who has played majors with two drivers, no drivers or five wedges, will play Oakland Hills without a putter. "I obviously didn't like the way I finished the event last week," he said. "But I was glad to have an opportunity where every putt counted and mattered and put myself in a pressure situation heading into this event."
Padraig Harrington (3): Harrington can join Tiger Woods, Nick Price and Walter Hagen as winners of the British Open and PGA Championship in the same year. But making history is not weighing on him. He said he played the WGC-Bridgestone a little tired last week, but claims he's fine now and will be mentally ready by tournament time.
Vijay Singh (4): The fluidity of the World Ranking after Woods and Mickelson was proven by the climbs of Harrington and Singh to Nos. 3 and 4 after neither was in the top 10 a month ago. Singh, who had gone more than a year without a tour win, emerged with the WGC-Bridgestone title last week. It was quite an improvement after a disastrous British Open where he opened with an 80 and missed the cut.
Ernie Els (5): Els brings positive memories to Oakland Hills, where he finished T-5 in the 1996 U.S. Open. "I remember I was hitting nice power fades off the tees and I feel quite comfortable with that again this week," Els said. "Even the greens are soft, like they were in 1996." Els was T-14 in the U.S. Open and T-7 in the British Open, but wasn't a contender in either major.
Sergio Garcia (6): If Els has positive memories, Garcia's are off the charts. But the star of Europe's rout of the U.S. in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills cautions that the course won't play the same. "Yesterday morning we played early and I almost wore out my 6-iron," he said. "It seemed like I was hitting my 6-iron on every hole, and that's not the way it was at the Ryder Cup. With the yardages they added, obviously they made the holes tougher. If you miss a fairway, instead of hitting 9-iron or 8-iron, you're hitting a 6-iron, and from this rough it's a lot tougher."
Geoff Ogilvy (7): After three straight top-10 finishes, Ogilvy missed the cut at the British Open and was a paltry T-68 at Firestone. But he could rebound this week, as the Aussie hasn't finished worse than T-9 at the PGA since 2004.
Adam Scott (8): It has been an up-and-down year for Scott, who won the Nelson, but didn't shoot a round in the 60s on tour from the Wachovia Championship in May until last week's WGC-Bridgestone. Perhaps the hand he injured by closing it in a car door had a bigger impact on his game than he admitted.
Stewart Cink (9): One of golf's hottest players at the beginning of the year, Cink couldn't break through with a win despite four top-three finishes (he finally reached the top at the Travelers Championship). Since then he has missed the cut at the British and was T-43 at Firestone.
Steve Stricker (10): Once fourth in the World Ranking and almost a lock to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Stricker has struggled in 2008 and has a tenuous hold on the final automatic spot on the American squad. He finished T-43 at Akron after a back-door T-7 at the British Open.
-- John Antonini