It's called glory's last shot. One last chance for every golfer to win a major tournament in 2009. So who am I picking this time? You may be surprised.
The PGA Championship is my least favorite major. Not because it is bad but because the other three just stand out so much in different ways. But I have a feeling this year's PGA Championship is going to be good. After 3 rather surprising winners in majors this year, I just have a feeling we will have yet another surprise winner.
As you may know, this year's tournament is being held at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, MN, site of the 2002 PGA Championship. The winner that year was Rich Beem, a relative unknown to even the biggest golf enthusiast. So even though Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson have won the past 4 PGA Championships, don't be surprised if another Beem rises to the occasion and steals the thunder.
As far as my predictions go, I said in the British Open predictions that if Tiger didn't win, I wouldn't pick him to win the PGA Championship. I am a man of my word so while Tiger is in my top 10, he's not my predicted winner. But you know what this means. He'll probably win this time. Oh well. Here we go, for the final time in 2009.
10. Retief Goosen - He's always a threat to win a major, no matter the venue. He's been playing fairly consistent golf in the second half of the season as well. He's made 14 of 15 cuts and has a win. I don't know if any of that means he'll do well this weekend but hey, it sounds good.
9. Hunter Mahan - Just like I thought about Stewart Cink, I am convinced he is going to win a major before his career is over. He's a birdie machine on the golf course and has been really good in the majors this year as well. He's played in enough of these big tournaments to not get too nervous come crunch time also. If he's not in the top 10, I'll be shocked.
8. Lee Westwood - I originally wasn't going to put him here because I don't really like him playing in the states but something about his play as of late encourages me. A good British Open and then a final round 65 at Firestone to bring some much-needed momentum into this week. He has the game but is running out of time.
7. Jerry Kelly - I wanted to pick someone outside of the Top 50 who I think can compete and Kelly fits the bill. With 5 top-10s this year and a victory, he's really playing with confidence. He's always a fan favorite and with him being from Wisconsin, he'll have his fair share of fans in Minnesota. If he wins, it won't be as surprising as Beem but you can bet, it will be just as fun.
6. Stewart Cink - Now that the major monkey is off his back, Cink can breathe a little easier. Remember, last year, Padraig Harrington pulled off the British-PGA double. Don't be surprised if Cink does. With just 3 weeks separating the two tourneys, the momentum from a British win is still there. Plus, a top-6 finish last week shows his game didn't rust after 2 weeks off.
5. Jim Furyk - It's not a top-10 list without Furyk. He simply is always in the hunt. He's played solid in all 3 majors and as a former major champion, knows what it takes to win one. Thing is, he hasn't won any tournament in over 50 starts so he is way overdue. He finished tied for 9th in 2002, which would be a good sign, except for the fact that he finished 10 shots back of Beem.
4. Camilo Villegas - This is a pure "gut" pick. He's not having that great of a season, with just 3 top-10s in 17 events. His major tournament career numbers aren't great either. But this guy is too talented to not compete for the Wannamaker trophy. He is one of the best shot-makers on tour, which is key at Hazeltine. If his putting shows up, he'll be near the top.
3. Sergio Garcia - Like Villegas, this is somewhat of a "gut" pick. It hasn't been the best year for Sergio, but he is starting to show signs that his game is turning around. The main reason I am putting him here is because of a statement I said many years before. That statement was that Sergio would win a major before he turned 30 years old. He turns the big 3-0 in January so this his last shot to make me right. He's been in the hunt in majors before. But in the hunt and winning are two different things.
2. Tiger Woods - Yes, I know he is the #1 player in the world. Yes, I know he has won the last two tournaments on tour. And yes, I know he has 14 major championships. But none of that matters. While I do think Tiger will compete, I see him having the same fate he had in 2002, losing by one stroke to a first-time major champion. So yes, that means Tiger Woods will not win a major tournament in a calendar year for the first time since 2004. Don't worry, he'll win one (or four) in 2010.
1. Steve Stricker - I thought about this pick for no more than 10 seconds. Honestly, it just seems right. When I knew I wasn't going to pick Tiger, Stricker immediately came to mind. He's won twice this year and has 8 top-10's. He has played well in all 3 majors. He is coming off a good tournament last week. He is from Wisconsin, so he should also have some fans in Minnesota. He is one of the best shot-makers on Tour and also, one of the best putters. He has all the tools to win and this time, I think he will.
So that's it. No Ian Poulter, Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh and yes, no Phil Mickelson. The liten ten players are the top ten contenders in my mind, with Stricker being my predicted champion of the 2009 PGA Championship.
What do you think? Let me know. Leave it in the comments section. And don't forget, you can catch all the third and fourth round action right here on News 12, starting at 2 p.m.