LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tiger's not Tiger. Phil is sick. DJ is getting help. Dufner and Day are hurt.
"Yes, but other than that, how'd you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"
With 20 PGA club professionals starting this year's event, none makes the top 25, but I do believe at least one will make the cut. This has been a strange major season that has given us some incredible golf.
Please keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle as we take our final wild major ride for 2014. It's fitting we're playing at Valhalla -- maybe Odin and a couple of Valkyries will make an appearance Sunday afternoon.
|Rank||Player||Analysis||Best PGA Championship finish|
| || Adam Scott |
Let the player of the year debate begin! Say what you want about his extremely limited schedule, but it completely works. Or he could just say, "Gimme my world No. 1 ranking back, kid!" It's almost not fair that a guy this good doesn't play more tournaments as this week is only event No. 13. To think his worst finish in a major this year was a T-14 at the Masters, but that's why he's the best right now.
| || Bubba Watson |
Valhalla has a bit more room off the tee than he saw last week at Firestone. He shot 3 under on the front nine playing with Tiger, but 1 over on the back nine playing a few holes with Russell Henley. That tells me he's able to gear up for big moments. This week is a big moment. Expect him to have at least one round that makes people tune in.
| || Rory McIlroy |
No way he could win three in a row, right? I mean, the only guy who did stuff like that ... Stop it! The thing is, when Rory is on form like this, hitting every drive over 300 yards in the fairway (it seemed), I have a really hard time putting anyone ahead of him. I'm putting him at No. 3, but I'm going to say this loud ... he can win. And if he does, that "thing" we didn't know if we'd ever see again in our lifetime, it is here now.
| || Rickie Fowler |
This has been the year in majors when Fowler has taken all those people who said he's all flash and no game and shoved them under the basement stairs. A fifth at the Masters followed up with back-to-back runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship is proof positive that he has big game for big events. If there were a POTYWAW (Player of the Year Without a Win), he'd be a runaway winner.
| || Henrik Stenson |
This is only his 12th start on the PGA Tour this year and, although he has missed just one cut, he also has only two top-10s. Not quite the follow-up the Swede was hoping for after his FedEx Cup-winning season. Don't get it twisted; his last top-10 was a fourth at the U.S. Open and, even on the bad side of the weather draw, he managed a T-39 at the Open Championship.
| || Charl Schwartzel |
Cracks me up how many times I mention this guy's name and people go, "Oh yeah, forgot about him." Maybe it's because last week's fourth-place finish was his best so far this year on the PGA Tour. Maybe it's because there isn't anything about him (other than his steady play) that jumps out and screams in your face. What should stand out is the fact that this is his fourth tournament in a row but only his 15th start of the season on the PGA Tour, so he's just hitting his stride.
| || Keegan Bradley |
Don't know why I even put him on the list. Not as if he's done anything of note at this major. Seriously, though, since missing the cut at the Quicken Loans National the last week of June, Bradley's game is putting him right where it needs to be before the Ryder Cup. And yes, Tom Watson is watching closely.
| || Gary Woodland |
Zero missed cuts in the calendar year so far. Although I realize his last top-10 was in May at the Byron Nelson, his results have been trending in the right direction since his 72nd-place finish at the Greenbrier.
| || J.B. Holmes |
The last time he was on this course, he was beating Soren Hansen in the Ryder Cup in 2008 to help the U.S. team to victory. Even since having brain surgery, good subconscious memories, along with stellar play, give the native Kentuckian his first top-10 in the PGA Championship.
| || Hideki Matsuyama |
Since earning his first win on tour early this year in a playoff at the Memorial, the 22-year-old hasn't missed a beat (or cut). Matsuyama has an ability to hit his irons extremely high, which will come in handy this week at Valhalla.
| || Graeme McDowell |
Be careful now, Mister! You're gonna mess around and make the European Ryder Cup team and make your team captain's job harder. Not to worry, though, 10th is your best finish ever in this major (2009), and you're not bettering that this year.
| || Sergio Garcia |
Yes, he's disappointed by not being able to close last week. But he's not going to cry when he gets to the car, Craig ("Friday" movie reference). The WGC was the third runner-up finish in a row for the Spaniard. Now do you believe he's in a good place mentally? And although he'll finish just outside the top 10, the good times will continue through the playoffs.
|T-2, 2008; 2nd, 1999|
| || Martin Kaymer |
Right now, it's a toss-up for player of the year honors between this man and McIlroy. This finish won't help his case, but that's through no fault of his own. Still, this will be his best finish in this major since winning the event in 2010. My hope is for Kaymer to not get caught up in the POY race, which would cause him to force things unnecessarily. I'm not that concerned because this Kaymer is no "weiches ei"!
| || Boo Weekley |
I know, I know. We haven't seen him since he missed the cut at the Open Championship, which was his second MC in a row. So, why in the world would I even put him on this list, especially this high? Two reasons: First ... karma. On my flight to Louisville on Sunday evening, there was one caddie -- Boo's. Second: rodeo. Last time we were at this course, Weekley rode his driver off the first tee in the Ryder Cup. You think those great feelings are forgotten so soon? Me neither.
| || Marc Leishman |
This is the guy who should be scaring people this week. In three of his past four starts, he has finished inside the top eight. Then look at his PGA record: 48th, 27th, 12th. See a trend? So even though I have him finishing 15th this week, I'd be more surprised if he finished outside this spot than if he finished inside the top five.
| || Jimmy Walker |
You can rest when you're dead. He has three wins so far this year, along with two top-10s in three majors. Walker comes into the week leading the FedEx Cup standings and is a lock for the Ryder Cup team. I worry about how much he has left in the tank at the end of a long season, but he continues to show just how deep his reserves run.
| || Brendon Todd |
Speaking of impressing Ryder Cup captains ... this will be his first start in the PGA Championship and only his third major start of his career, all coming this year. Now squarely on the cusp of making the Ryder Cup on his own, even if this finish doesn't get him there, it would make him a smart pick of U.S. captain Tom Watson.
| || Lee Westwood |
Did you know since 1997 he has missed only one PGA Championship (2010)? Pressure is on for Westwood to get the game in shape so he can be a captain's pick for the European Ryder Cup team. He has missed the past two major cuts, so finishing inside the top 20 would be a nice bookend to the seventh-place finish he started with at the Masters.
| || Nick Watney |
Where ya been, Nick? Last week, his first top-10 of the year came not at the WGC event but in Reno at the Barracuda Championship. With a Sunday scoring average that ranks 112th (71.27) and a record at the PGA Championship that is abysmal at best (four MCs in six starts), why should he get a top-20 this week? Because momentum is everything in golf and Watney has finally got some momentum.
| || Jordan Spieth |
For a guy who won rookie of the year last year, he sure hasn't had a sophomore slump. Sometimes we have to step back to remind ourselves that he just turned 21 a few weeks ago and this will be only his second PGA Championship. While the runner-up finish at the Masters set the bar impossibly high, we should be just as impressed with this top-20 finish.
| || Patrick Reed |
After winning in Doral and declaring himself a top five player in the world, he missed six cuts in 11 starts, finishing better than 26th only once ... until last week. With three rounds in the 60s, including a closing-round 65, Reed looks as if he has found his form again. This being his first PGA, I'd call a 21st-place finish a success.
| || Branden Grace |
One of the things the pressure of the Ryder Cup does is free up the guys who aren't concerned about making the team. The South African, ranked 102nd in the Official World Golf Rankings, hasn't played particularly well on either tour this year and hasn't made the cut in his previous two PGAs. But no pressure plus a solid game gets him a top-25 finish.
|MC, 2012 & 2013|
| || Brandt Snedeker |
He has too much work to do to make the Ryder Cup this year, and his putter can be blamed for keeping him off the team. It's not as if he's been playing poorly after missing only three cuts in 21 starts. He just hasn't been playing as well as we've seen before, having only two top-10s so far this year. So a top-25 finish is good, just not good enough.
| || Harris English |
He's trending in the right direction and coming off a solid week at the Bridgestone. English is long enough off the tee that the 7,400-plus yards won't intimidate him. His laid-back demeanor will help even more in only his second PGA Championship.
| || Phil Mickelson |
One solid round does not a top-20 make. A top-25, however... The final-round 62 was a definite sign of improvement. In a major, though, two bad rounds and you don't get to play the weekend. A part of me hopes he stays a little sick because I think it might help.