Jon: Never in my wildest dream did I, at the beginning of the season, think I would be picking Rory McIlroy as my safe bet. In fact, I was so down on Rory that I honestly don’t think I would have picked him in the first round of our fantasy draft. That all changed this season however with Rory notching his Open victory, and following it up with a come-from-behind win at the Bridgestone Invitational. He has taken over Adam Scott’s number one spot in the World Golf Rankings, and I don’t think anyone can argue that Rory is on fire right now. I don’t know whether it was Caroline Wozniacki weighing him down or some deep Irish curse, but whatever he did to fix his game, it is working.
Tom: The aforementioned man, and recently reclaimed world number one is probably going to make me pay for this, but I am sticking with my comments from last week and saying Jim Furyk is the safest bet to win the PGA Championship. Sure I have a lot going against me here. His record of losing majors when in contention or even the lead. His age. His lack of length on what will play as the longest par 71 in a major, ever. But I can’t help it. Furyk has barely lost a lot of majors, yes, but that means he puts himself in contention to win them. He’s not long off the tee, no, but he is one of the best at hitting fairways (6th in driving accuracy), and he handled the length just fine in 2008 when he made the winning putt in the Ryder Cup (Valhalla was actually playing longer that week). And his season speaks for itself. Sure, Rory is poised to do something only Tiger has been able to do this century – win 3 PGA events in a row. But Furyk has been knocking on the door for a win all season, and statistically speaking, finally breaking through for a win is a lot more likely than getting your third in a row, just saying.
Dave: Rickie Fowler has been a real boss this year in majors. Taking into account the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, he’s averaged 3rd place. That means he’s been showing up to play for majors. Why should that stop now? Butch Harmon has him playing like the player everyone always thought he’d fail to ever become, and you should look for Rickie to be there on Sunday.
Dark Horse for the Week?
Jon: I’m picking the guy who looks weirdly like the villain in Ghostbusters 2: Miguel Jimenez(picture). Jimenez knows this course, he’s played at Valhalla before in both the 2000 PGA tournament and the 2008 Ryder Cup. I don’t know if he makes a big splash, but I think he’s a guy to watch out for, especially after his performance at The Masters this year.
Tom: Here’s a name you completely forgot about this year: Billy Horschel. Why? Because he’s been playing crap golf, that’s why. And honestly, outside of his T4 finish at the U.S. Open last year, major performances have been the huge lapse in his otherwise short, but sweet career. That’s a perfect recipe for a player who can rip it into the fairway, get on the green, and waste no time with the flatstick to fly under the radar and contend at a course like Valhalla.
Dave: Charl Schwartzel. It’s sad that the 2011 Masters champion could be considered a dark horse to begin with, but let me ask you this, how many times have you thought about Schwartzel this year? Depending on how you answer that could say a lot about your creepery/interest in South Africans. But I digress… the answer is not very many. He has failed to really be in contention all year, and has only played in 14 PGA events. However, he has top 10s in both WGC events, as well as the Memorial Tournament and the British Open. So though you may have forgotten about Schwartzel, I have not forgotten about Schwartzel.
Unexpected Player to Miss the Cut?
Jon: This is probably going to be an unpopular pick, but after killing it at Firestone, only to have Rory put him in second place, I can’t help but feel some of that “I should just play for second, because I’m not good enough for first,” is going reemerge with Sergio Garcia. He played fantastic golf last week, and it still wasn’t good enough for a first place finish. I think we see some of Sergio’s mental issues emerge this week.
Tom: In keeping with the bold missed cut predictions, I am looking at a guy who has been called Mr. Consistency – who I have called Mr. Consistency – for much of the past two and a half seasons. The man with more top 10s (10 of them, in fact) than anyone this season, which he accomplished last season, I’m talking about Mr. Matt Kuchar, is going to do what nobody ever thought was possible, and play inconsistently. I don’t know if this will happen on Thursday or Friday, but he will be playing Friday afternoon, and that could be dicey if some weather rolls in that could throw him off his game. If Kooch goes out and wins, I will not be surprised, and I will be thrilled that one of my favorite guys on tour got his first major, but keep in mind, that’s why we call it “unexpected.”
Dave: Phil Mickelson shot a season low 62 in his final round in the WGC last week. Despite this, I see Lefty struggling at Valhalla. He hasn’t finished in the top-10 this season. Like…at all. This is troubling for the final major tournament of the season.
*We are exempting Jason Dufner and Jason Day from this list, because both have played through extremely painful and bothersome injuries, and at this point, a missed cut from either would not come as a shock.
Favorite to Win?
I’m picking Bubba Watson, and my argument for him is more based in “why not?” than anything else. Valahalla is a long course, so why not pick one of the longest hitters on the tour? Valhalla is a major, so why not pick the two time Masters winner? While he was cut at the Open, I think Valhalla will set up nice for the lefty, and I think he has a chance to get it done. I wrote that and then read that Bubba has not only never played Valhalla before, but he also threw a hissy fit during his practice round, because he didn’t want people to measure his drive. If there’s two things I hate in this world it’s bathroom doors that open in, and hissy fits, therefore I will be picking Rory McIlroy to win, as he didn’t throw a hissy fit and hit a 3 iron off the #10 par-5 during a practice round.
Tom: Now I know that Rory McIlroy is going to make me pay… because I like the former number one, Adam Scott, to take his spot back from Rory in just over a week when he wins his second career major. Scott dealt with the pressure of being number one, he’s been there and done that. He won his first event after earning the ranking (crazy), and since then he hasn’t finished worse than his T9 at the U.S. Open. In other words, he hasn’t gone anywhere – he just hasn’t been as lights out as Rory. That will change as McIlroy deals with the pressure of being world number one and going for his third straight win, while Scott coasts to the finish line.
Dave: Sergio Garcia is leading the tour in stroke average. Not only that, but he has been on a tear of late. Plus, you know how I feel about him, and how I inexplicably support him. Having been in contention in the last few tournaments, I believe he’s poised to make a big move and win his first major this week.
Jon: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley
See my above for both Bubba and Rory. Rickie is generally on fire right now, notching top 5 finishes at the three previous majors. I see him staying on track this week, as he apparently has ice in his veins. I was not a believer in Rickie Fowler before this season, but he has played incredibly well this year, and hopefully he uses this season as a platform for next year. As for the Twitch Doctor, Keegan Bradley, while I still disagree with his Parkinsons-like approach to his shot, he has proven time and time again, that he can typically get it done on the big stages. I think he carries his momentum from Firestone over to the Masters and has a chance to do what his buddy, Jason Dufner, did last season, and what he himself did in 2011.
Tom: Jim Furyk, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell
Yes, after lots of thought and probably too much excitement over his Sunday 62 at Firestone, I am slipping my first round pick, Phil Mickelson, back into my lineup. He’s a wild card this season who hasn’t been able to get anything going with the flatstick, but you just can’t help but get excited about seeing how aggressive Lefty will play this long Valhalla course that plays right to his strengths. As for Graeme McDowell, he is another wild card that I think a lot of people have missed. He’s been playing solid golf, and is poised to insert himself into the Ryder Cup mix with a strong finish this week.
Dave: Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia
Jim Furyk has broken the top-20 the last 5 tournaments. The James Fury will be in full force this week. Oh and Henrik Stenson? I just gotta have my Henrik Stenson! The Swede had an up and down time at Valhalla while playing in the 2008 Ryder Cup, and has had an up and down season to follow up his FedEx Cup, but he’s ready to prove to the world why… I spent a first round pick on him.