COMMENTARY | The PGA Championship tees off on Thursday morning at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY. The year's final major championship - formerly and lovingly referred to as "Glory's Last Shot" before the PGA Tour decided that the moniker discounted the FedEx Cup - will be all but three players' last chance to cash in on one of the four biggest tournaments of the year in professional golf.
Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson all have major wins to their credit in 2013, while names like Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood are optimistic that they can round out the possible foursome that will play at the Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda in October.
What the PGA Championship lacks in colored blazers, national prominence or knee-high rough, it tries to make up for by honoring the PGA of America professionals who teach everyday golfers the game. Not to mention, the PGA Championship also boasts the strongest field in golf, this year bringing in 99 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Rankings (Louis Oosthuizen is the only player not in the field due to a bad hip).
Picking a winner this week will require a player who is not only relatively straight off the tee, but long as well. Able to be stretched to 7,163 yards, Oak Hill's East Course still only plays as a par-70. The Donald Ross design will host its third PGA Championship this week to go along with its three US Opens, two US Amateurs, one US Senior Open, one Senior PGA Championship and one Ryder Cup.
(*Odds were drawn from the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino Superbook on Aug. 6.)
Tiger Woods (4/1): Coming off of his fifth win of 2013 a week ago at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Woods is still majorless in his last 17 starts. However, having won on the PGA Tour in his last start before a major 19 times in his career, Woods has gone on to win four major championships and finish in the top-five 10 times. Moreover, when he wins in a start the week prior to a major, which he has three other times, he has finished second (2002 PGA), first (2007 PGA) and second (2009 PGA). Similarities between the Oak Hill layout and that of Firestone Country Club, which he scorched for a second-round 61, are evident, but weekend putting woes have recently sunk the world No. 1's chances.
Phil Mickelson (15/1): The left-hander will be making his first start in a major championship since his thrilling triumph at Muirfield three weeks ago. Mickelson is fond of the Oak Hill layout and with the decision to forego driver for the second straight major championship, it seems he understands the onus placed about hitting the fairways. Although he still possesses enough length off of the tee to contend without a driver, Mickelson will have to combat some of the lingering emotional exhaustion that came with his self-proclaimed "greatest accomplishment of (his) career."
Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker (25/1): Justin Rose, the lone major champion in this trio, goes off at equal odds with two players with similar style games. All three are straight off the tee with various strengths buttressing their chances. Rose has already proved to have the game to stand up to major championship pressure so long as he gets his putter going. Westwood was in the hunt and held the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship before Mickelson swooped in and lapped the field. Snedeker, perhaps the most consistent of the triumvirate, has the iron game to put him in position and is one of the best putters in the game today.
Henrik Stenson (30/1): The Swede has gone from being a darkhorse early in the year to one of the betting favorites thanks to his recent run of good form. Stenson recorded his fifth top-10 of the year with a tie for second at the Bridgestone last week. In the majors this year, he has finished T-18, T-21 and solo second three weeks ago at the Open Championship. Boasting some of the best ball striking in the game, you could do worse than picking the 37-year-old.
Others: Jason Day (35/1), Keegan Bradley (30/1), Graeme McDowell (50/1), Jason Dufner (35/1).
Hideki Matsuyama (100/1): A head-scratcher as to why Matsuyama is paying off 100-to-1, the 21-year-old has proven to be more of a major championship threat than his compatriot Ryo Ishikawa. Making the cut in all three majors in 2013, Matsuyama has only gotten better, finishing in a tie for 10th at the US Open and a tie for sixth at the Open Championship.
Jordan Spieth (100/1): Another value pick with the chance to really make a splash in his first year on the PGA Tour, Spieth deserves a look. A whirlwind last couple of weeks has seen the Texas native guarantee his spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Open Championship with a win at the John Deere. After playing the Open, Spieth took two weeks off, including an unprecedented skipping of a WGC event to prepare for the PGA.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (125/1): The Mechanic has proven that he won't be the type of player to ride off into the sunset without making a stab at a few major championships. After missing the beginning of the year recovering from a broken leg, Jimenez jumped out quickly at the Open to take the 36-hole lead before fading on the weekend. He also finished tied for fourth last week in Akron.
Others: Bubba Watson (50/1), Ernie Els (60/1), Ian Poulter (50/1), Bo Van Pelt (150/1), Tim Clark (125/1).
Pick: One name that has fallen under the radar heading into Oak Hill has been Hunter Mahan, going off currently at 30/1. Mahan famously withdrew from the Canadian Open after leading through 36-holes to return to Dallas to witness the birth of his first child.
Out of sight for the last few weeks, Mahan has been out of many minds as well. Oak Hill sets up perfectly for Mahan who both hits the ball long (291.1 yds.) and straight (66.34-percent), ranking ninth in the PGA Tour's total driving category.
Mahan has played in the final group in each of the last two majors and seems to be the prototypical player to cash in on his first major championship this weekend. The only question mark surrounding Mahan coming into this week will be how he handles his baby hangover. Will it hinder his focus or round out his perspective?
Chris Chaney is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based sportswriter. He has written for multiple outlets including WrongFairway.com, Hoopville.com, The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer and The Clermont (OH) Sun.
Follow him on Twitter @Wrong_Fairway.
- Sports & Recreation
- PGA Tour
- Justin Rose
- Tiger Woods
- PGA Championship
- Lee Westwood
- Brandt Snedeker
- Oak Hill Country Club
- Open Championship