Which players need this PGA Championship the most?

Shane Bacon
August 7, 2013

The PGA Championship kicks off on Thursday, and while the main names like Tiger and Phil are dominating headlines, there are plenty of other golfers out there that have a solid shot at taking home the Wanamaker Trophy.

But who needs it the most? We looked at the top-30 in the Official World Golf Rankings and picked the 10 players we think need this major championship the most.

10.) Phil Mickelson -- It isn't that pressing that Phil compete, or even win, this week at the PGA Championship. He has won this major in the past and even if he misses the cut on Friday it will still go down as a huge year for Lefty, but a win this week could be a career-defining year. Mickelson has never won two majors in the same season, and if he won this week the threat of a Phil Slam would definitely be in play (just look how he always plays at Augusta National followed by the U.S. Open hosted at Pinehurst). So while it isn't a season-maker if he doesn't win, it would do a ton for his legacy and his place in history if he was able to get a sixth major the same year he checked the British Open off his list.

9.) Ian Poulter -- Earlier this week I commented on Twitter as I always do around this time of year, mentioning how I wished the PGA Championship was still match play. Someone replied to me that I am basically just trying to muster up a way for Poulter to win a major championship, thus defining the career of Ian Poulter; all match play, no majors. The thing is, the Englishman has had some solid finishes of late in the majors, coming in T-3 at this tournament a year ago and another T-3 at the British Open last month. A win here and he moves from "very good professional golfer" to major threat, and I feel if he wins one of these four events he could win a handful more before his career ends.

8.) Bubba Watson -- We've focused a lot on the tough season of one Rory McIlroy, but it hasn't been a great one for another major winner from 2012. Bubba has struggled for most of the year, carding just three top-10s in 17 starts on the PGA Tour. He has played better of late, but if Bubba can't get in the hunt this week, and has another disappointing finish it's going to be very much a tough hangover year following that epic Masters win a season ago.

7.) Luke Donald -- The former world No. 1 is becoming another in the long list of players that we thought were major threats only to realize they might not be. In the last six seasons Donald has more missed cuts in majors than top-10s, and has never really been in contention at a major. He needs a good run this week, and after his T-9 at Firestone it looks like this could be as good a time as any, especially considering how the golf course is set to play.

6.) Sergio Garcia -- Maybe a year or two ago he would have been higher on this list, but Sergio hasn't done much since that Players Championship battle with Tiger Woods. Garcia T-45 and T-21 at the Opens, respectively, and just doesn't seem like the same threat he once was to breakthrough and win a major. That said, if he could do it this week, on a golf course that calls for good driving, it would redefine a man's career that seems all but lost at this point.

5.) Dustin Johnson -- We hear so many things about Dustin Johnson's potential. "He's the next big deal on tour." "He has all the game in the world." "He's a freak athlete." That's all well and good, but the dude needs to win a major before the hype can totally be believable. Johnson is coming off a T-2 at the Canadian Open and a disappointing T-33 at the Bridgestone, but the man that some say hits the driver better than anyone in the world could benefit on a golf course like Oak Hill, and a major win would really show that he's worthy of all this praise.

4.) Lee Westwood -- Last month Westwood had one of his best chances at a major win, heading into Sunday with a two-shot lead at the Open and hopes of finally taking home one of the big four. He couldn't do it, and he's headed to Oak Hill with a "Rory at Congressional, Phil at Muirfield" type of feel. A disappointing tournament last month could all change if he was able to finally win a major championship and silence all the critics that don't think he can putt well enough all four days to do so.

3.) Steve Stricker -- I put Stricker so high on this list because I know his days are numbered in the sense of a viable major championship pick and his schedule continues to diminish as he scales it back to spend more time with his family. The PGA Championship is Stricker's best shot at a major (three top-7 finishes in his career) and what better time to win it than now? Stricker has 12 PGA Tour wins including two WGC events, but a major would prove just how good he was with the putter and take him up a level in what he was able to accomplish in his career.

2.) Tiger Woods -- He's won five times this season, more than twice as many as anyone else on the PGA Tour, but critics continue to look at those events with blinders on, wondering when his next major win will come. Considering how he's playing coming into this week, it should be now, and while we've said it before, this is the best chance that Woods will have at winning his first major in over five years. If he doesn't win this week he will spend seven months answering questions about what is wrong with him at majors and why can't he win one of the big ones, so while he is still having an incredible season it won't be complete to some unless he takes home the Wanamaker Trophy.

1.) Rory McIlroy -- Win and you'll shut them up, lose and it's an entire offseason of answering those same questions over and over again. That is what's at stake for the 24-year-old. A year ago he left this tournament golf's Golden Boy once again, the kid that wins majors by eight shots with the perfect swing and famous girlfriend and Jupiter-sized potential. This season he's the kid with the ridiculous equipment change, unruly girlfriend and bad attitude on the golf course. A good week that ends with another trophy ceremony at the PGA Championship would silence everyone, and put Rory back on track as the next big thing.