The best golfers in the world have descended upon Rochester, New York and Oak Hill Country Club for the 95th edition of the PGA Championship. The final major of 2013 is stacked with storylines, the biggest being Tiger Woods and his hunt for that elusive 15th major championship. Will he get it, or will someone in the rest of the field take home the Wanamaker Trophy? Let’s break it down!
- Tiger Woods Tiger is obviously the favorite to win this weekend, with the Vegas line at 2-1 odds. History is also on Woods’s side going into this tournament. His finish at the PGA can usually be predicted by his finish in three other tournaments: the Farmer’s Insurance Open, the Cadillac Championship, and the Bridgestone Invitational. When Tiger won those three tournaments in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007, he went on to win the PGA Championship. This year, Tiger won all three tournaments, so he can go into Oak Hill pretty confident after a trifecta he hasn’t won in years. However, there is one exception to this pattern: in 2005, Tiger won the three tournaments but failed to win the PGA. Far from a lock, but no other golfer is riding that wave of success.
- Phil Mickelson Will the Tiger-Phil rivalry renew itself on Sunday? The two have been major competitors on the course over the years, and after Phil’s win at the Open Championship across the pond, it looks like he and Tiger are the ones to beat going in. However, Lefty has only won once in 20 tries at the PGA, and he was 23rd in 2003 at Oak Hill at eight-over for the tournament, so he has a little something to prove on this course.
- Adam Scott The Masters Champion was tied for 23rd with Mickelson in 2003 at Oak Hill, but like Phil, he’s matured a lot as a golfer since then. He tied for third at the Open and has three finishes in the Top 10 at the PGA in his career. Scott is a fantastic putter and is 24th in greens and regulation on tour. There’s a chance we could see Scott hoist the Wanamaker, but he’s had some consistency issues which could also lead to him being out of contention come Saturday and Sunday. Which Adam Scott will we see?
- Rory McIlroy Even more of a question mark than Scott is young phenom Rory McIlroy. Last year, McIlroy won the PGA and was named PGA Player of the Year, and everyone was heralding him as golf’s next star. This year, it’s been one disappointment after another for the Irishman, who finished 25th at the Masters, 41st at the U.S. Open, and missed the cut at the British. Can Rory get his mind right, take advantage of his last shot of 2013 and surprise everyone? He’ll need to have a better driving accuracy. Out of 546 possible fairways this year, he has hit just 315, putting him at 58% at ranking him 143rd on the Tour.
- Matt Kuchar The likable American has won two tournaments in 2013, the big one being the Memorial. He’s still looking for his first major, and he could get it because of his great putting and intelligent approach to the game. You won’t see three-putt disasters out of Kuchar at Oak Hill.
- Brandt Snedeker Snedeker has been one of the strongest golfers on Tour this year, with two wins and eight Top 10 finishes in 17 events. The stat that could give him an edge in the PGA? Snedeker has the best average score in Round 3 out of any golfer on Tour. On Saturday, when the contenders are weeded out from the pretenders at Oak Hill, Snedeker will put himself in contention to win going into Sunday’s final round.
- Justin Rose Rose has been in the Top 10 in half of his events this year, winning the U.S. Open. Having a major championship win this year is a big advantage mentally, and the success he’s had gives him pretty good odds of being near the top of that leader board on Sunday. Rose missed the cut at Oak Hill in 2003, but he was only 23 at the time. With one of the best greens in regulation percentages and the second best scoring average, Rose is a legitimate contender this weekend.
- Henrik Stenson Stenson is a darkhorse in Rochester this weekend. He hasn’t won a tournament this year, but he has the second-best greens in regulation percentage on Tour, along with the sixth-best driving accuracy. Will he win the whole thing? Probably not, but as long as he’s hitting those greens, he has a shot.
And the winner will be…. Justin Rose. Tiger and Phil are the favorites, and they’ll have strong showings, but Justin Rose will win his second major of the year at Oak Hill. Look for him to be in the top 5 heading into Sunday and charge to the top with a great final round while the others have sub-par days. Come Monday morning, we’ll be talking about Justin Rose as golf’s new superstar. There’s my bold prediction, who do you have taking home the Wanamaker?