This is the week of the PGA Championship, the final golf major of the season. It is at Hazeltine National outside Minneapolis, MN. It has always been the red headed step child of the four for a number of reasons. It doesn't have something that truly identifies it, course selection has been questionable, and people are starting to think about pennant races and football season when August comes around.
Having said that, it has gone up in stature over the past decade. They have both selected to have the championship at more well-known courses that have previously hosted the U.S. Open. The PGA has always found new courses which have become very successful venues (Valhalla, Whistling Straits). It has probably had more dramatic finishes/ playoffs then the other majors in the past decade. There have been a few seasons where Tiger Woods has come to the championship needing it to get one major win on the season and because he has made it meaningful, it has gotten more attention from golf fans.
Here we go with the picks. The standard is that I pick five that have very good odds to hoist the trophy and five "second tier" players that would not surprise me if they are in the mix/on top on Sunday night.
1. Phil Mickelson-This is a course that overwhelmingly favors a long hitter and since it is not a U.S. Open setup, longer hitters will have more of a green light to hit driver. I expect him to add one more Masters and one PGA to his resume and given the next few venues for the PGA this maybe one of his best chances to get a major.
1A. Tiger Woods-I could not make him the favorite solely considering his performance at the British Open and his performance in majors this year. I also could not make him a number two pick as he is at the top of his game coming into the championship. He also played well at this venue the last time the PGA was here. Now that I questioned Mr. Woods' ability to win majors he will probably win by five shots!
2. Padraig Harrington-He has not had the best year, but he had a strong showing the WGC Bridgestone event this past week until the crackup at the 16th hole and still holds the trophy.
3. Stewart Cink-It is not uncommon to do a British/PGA double in a calendar year. I am sure he will have a lot of confidence this week coming off the British Open win.
Five that could surprise
1. Sergio Garcia-He would be on the favorites except he hasn't had the strongest year. One of these days he is going to win one and I want him on the list when he does.
2. Justin Leonard-He played well the last time the PGA was here until a Sunday fold. He has always given himself opportunities to add a PGA to his British Open title.
3. Jim Furyk-He hasn't one is a while but it always seems like he has lightning in a bottle and not only will he break out of his losing streak he will do it at a major.
4. Ernie Els-My favorite player who I still think has one more major left in him and I want him on the list should it happen.
5. Lee Westwood-He had made runs in majors coming agonizingly close, expect him to break through at some point as well.
It all begins Thursday. Should be exciting.