Expert picks: McIlroy, Kuchar among PGA faves
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar are among the favorites for the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, with plenty more recognizable names also earning mention among our experts' picks.
Here are more of our staff's favorites, along with a player to watch from outside the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings:
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Favorite: Adam Scott. His last five major championships: T-3, T-5, T-14, T-9, T-5. When deciphered, it means he’s consistently there.
Player to watch: Brandt Snedeker. There’ll be a ton of birdie chances at Valhalla, and putting remains this man’s strength.
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Winner: Sergio Garcia. Second at Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone, both to Rory McIlroy. Garcia is in high form, never more equipped to win a major. It's his time – unless McIlroy again says it isn't.
PHOTOS: Valhalla hole-by-hole, 2014 PGA Championship
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club, par 71 and 7,458 yards, earns a whopping 77.6 rating and a slope of 152 from the club's back tees -- and if this week's PGA Championship tees were measured, both the rating and slope would be higher. See all 18 holes here!
Player to watch: Robert Karlsson. In terrific form. Fourth, T-8 and T-12 in his last three starts, the latter at the Open Championship, where he fell back on the last few holes. On top of that, Karlsson played one of the best rounds in Ryder Cup history in the 2008 matches at Valhalla.
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Winner: Matt Kuchar. There has yet to be a first-time major winner in 2014. Kuchar had chances at the Masters (T-5) and U.S. Open (T-9), then was a non-factor at Hoylake. Valhalla should fit his game. No one will have a bigger grin if he gets the Wannamaker Trophy in his hands than Kuch.
Player to watch: Patrick Reed. At No. 86, Reed is too good to pass up. After all, he's top 5. I happen to like his moxie and his game. He's starting to play well again as he adjusts to becoming a new papa. He faded Sunday at Congressional but has a solid track record converting when he gets the lead. He's also trying to lock up a berth on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad so this is a big week for him.
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Winner: Rory McIlroy. Usually, I stay away from a guy who won the previous week, but in this kid's case, he is too hot to lay off. There's definitely a spring to young Master Rory's step these days, and his driving prowess will keep him in the mix at Valhalla.
Player to watch: Lee Westwood. His form hasn't been good since spring, but he's a proud veteran, knows Valhalla, and needs a good showing to seal his spot on the European Ryder Cup team. Needs to get the putter working.
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Favorite: Lee Westwood. The English can't play soccer, but they can play golf. Westwood wins. It's justice. It's providence. It's meant to be. All the 2014 major champions will be from foreign countries – Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer from Germany, Bubba Watson from Florida.
PHOTOS: Tuesday at Valhalla, 2014 PGA Championship
See golf's top players interact with the gallery during practice, take part in a long-driving competition and get a little work in while officials prepare for the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
Player to watch: Angel Cabrera. Cabrera outside the top 50? Outrageous. He hits the ball long and high, two qualities that will help him greatly at this course. He's a legitimate contender.
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Bradley S. Klein
Winner: Matt Kuchar. I'd be tempted to go with Sergio Garcia, except for the emotional baggage he still carries into majors. So my pick is Kuchar, long overdue for a major, and having another amazing year, what with half of his 20 starts in the top-10, a win (at RBS Heritage), 4th in FedEx Cup points and 5th in U.S. Ryder Cup points.
Player to watch: Rickie Fowler. No. 51 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, Fowler's recently revamped, more free-flowing swing has yielded top-eight finishes in his last three starts: U.S. Open (T-2), Open Championship (T-2) and WGC-Bridgestone (T-8).
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Winner: Rickie Fowler. The guy has been cumulatively the best player in the year's first three majors. And it just feels like Fowler is ready to break out. I'd love to see a replay of Rickie and Rory on Sunday, with a different outcome.
Player to watch: Patrick Reed. He's getting hot again and he has his eyes on the Ryder Cup, which seems to be a motivator for anyone. He's fallen off his "I'm top-5" play, but is still capable of winning a major championship.
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Winner: Rickie Fowler. It’s easy to understand the reasoning behind all those people climbing on the McIlroy or Garcia bandwagons. But I can get 20- or 22-to-1 on the player with the best record in the first three majors of the year? Sign me up.
Player to watch: Lee Westwood. No. 70 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, Westwood has multiple top-10 finishes in the majors every year since 2009, and Valhalla gives him a chance to extend this run to six years in a row (he was seventh at the Masters).