Tomorrow is the last Major of 2014. I have predicted Rory McIlroy to win this event several times and I wrote more about it at Pundit Arena just yesterday. The PGA Championship, played at the Valhalla Golf Club, will test the mental and physical stamina of all the players. At this time, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson are the leading candidates to win the Wanamaker Trophy. However, it is important not to discount Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott or Sergio Garcia. Tomorrow’s start will decide who will be set up to play in the last group on Sunday.
From the names above, there is one name missing; you guessed it, Tiger Woods. After leaving the WGC – Bridgestone in the last round via golf cart, barely getting into his SUV and having difficulty walking up the stairs of his private jet, it is highly unlikely that Tiger Woods will be a player in this weekend’s Major. There is no question he is mentally willing to play, however it is unclear if he will be able to.
Tiger Woods requested a registration exemption earlier in the week and was granted this request. Arriving at Valhalla Golf Club today, Woods stated he was ready to play and plans to win! In typical Tiger Woods fashion, he put all other players on notice:
“That’s the only thing I can control,” Woods said. “Try to go out there and win this event. That’s all I’m focused on. … I played all right. Nothing great. It’s only Wednesday – I want my good stuff to start tomorrow. I felt pretty good about how I played and the shots I hit.” (USA Today)
It is impossible to begrudge Woods the opportunity to play and everyone wishes him well. Unfortunately, the way the rest of the field is playing it is unlikely he will be a factor on Sunday. For any player to win a Major, they would have to be at their best and Tiger Woods is far from being at his best. As the players hit the links at 7:30 am tomorrow morning, all the questions will be answered and Woods will put on his game face preparing to do battle with the rest of the field. No matter what happens, I do wish him luck!
Another player to watch tomorrow is Rickie Fowler. Fowler has finished in the top 5 in the previous Majors of 2014. His game is strong, honed, and ready to make a run at winning his first Major. To his chagrin, he will face Rory McIlroy (who is also playing his best golf in years). Paired with Victor Dubuisson and Ernie Els, Fowler will be able to feed off the excitement of Dubuisson’s play, yet watch “The Big Easy” calmly navigate his way around Valhalla. Rickie Fowler is quickly maturing into a weekly contender and this weekend should be no different.
My dark-horse for the PGA Championship is Sergio Garcia! Ranked third in the world, Garcia is still considered my dark-horse pick for several reasons. First, he experienced a difficult loss to McIlroy last weekend in the WGC – Bridgestone (shooting 1 over on the last day). His mental toughness in the Majors is suspect and the expectation to win his first Major is growing. However, being paired with Steve Stricker and Tom Watson is a blessing. Both of these players are calm, mature, and complete gentlemen. Garcia could not ask for a better group to start the first two days of the PGA Championship. If Garcia starts strong, he just might be able to repay Rory McIlroy for last weekend.
The PGA Championship will be very exciting! As with every Major, the first two days will set the scene for the weekend. However, moving day (Saturday) will determine who has the mental toughness to raise the Wanamaker Trophy above their heads on Sunday!
Who is your favourite? Dark-horse?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!