Experts' picks: PGA Championship

August, 6, 2014
08/06/14
10:28
AM ET

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the best in the world head to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 96th PGA Championship.

Horse for the Course

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Ian Poulter. The 37-year-old Englishman has missed two of his past three cuts and needs a good week to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup team for Europe. Fortunately he has fond memories of Valhalla, where in the 2008 Ryder Cup, he went 4-1-0, including a 3-and-2 win over Steve Stricker in singles.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: J.B. Holmes. The Kentucky native has as much experience at Valhalla as anyone and was a solid performer in the U.S. Ryder Cup victory at the course in 2008. His length won't hurt him, either.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Justin Rose. Rose was second only to Poulter in points won for Team Europe at the 2008 Ryder Cup, long before he became a major champion.

Ian O'Connor, ESPNNewYork.com senior writer: J.B. Holmes. A Kentucky native who went 2-0-1, including a victory in singles, in his three matches in the 2008 Ryder Cup, the previous big event played at Valhalla. Holmes would be a great story; he underwent brain surgery in 2011.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Adam Scott. Have a feeling the Valhalla layout will fit his game. Finished fifth in last year's PGA, 11th in 2012 and seventh in 2011. He stumbled a bit at the Bridgestone last week, but that wasn't a major. Scott will be ready for the last major of the season.


Birdie Buster

Evans: Sergio Garcia. If the Spaniard had beaten Tiger Woods in his first appearance in the 1999 PGA at Medinah, this, his 16th PGA, wouldn't seem so important to his career. Still, without a major championship after 46 starts, the 34-year-old has had three second-place finishes in his past four tournaments, including at the Open Championship. It's just a matter of time before he finally has that breakout win in a major to fulfill the promise he first showed 16 years ago in Chicago.

Harig: Rory McIlroy. He moved to No. 1 in the world Sunday and is playing better than anyone, with impressive victories at the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. And Valhalla appears perfectly suited for him.

Maguire: Rickie Fowler. Clearly, the man of orange has the majors figured out this year. A win might not happen this week, but it's likely not far off. Just being in the final group at the U.S. Open and Open Championship will yield dividends -- if not at Valhalla, then in years to come.

O'Connor: Rory McIlroy. The guy is a machine when he's on, and man, has he been on. If everyone in the field played at the very top of their games this week, McIlroy would finish as the one with the most birdies for two simple reasons: (1) He's fearless; and (2) he has the most talent.

Wojciechowski: Rory McIlroy. He wants to take the PGA Championship to prom. He has four top-eight finishes in the past five years, including the win in 2012. There isn't a hotter player on the planet right now. Momentum is a fickle thing, especially in golf, but if anyone can keep it going, McIlroy seems to be the guy.


Super Sleeper

Evans: Robert Karlsson. The 44-year-old Swede is ranked 112th in the world, but in recent months he has regained some of the form that led him to 11 European Tour wins. Karlsson has four top-15s in his past six starts, including a T-6, T-4 and T-8, along with a T-12 in the Open Championship. He wasn't in the field at the 2000 PGA at Valhalla, and his lone career top-10 in 10 starts in the event came in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Harig: Ryan Moore. He has been hovering inside the top 10 of leaderboards for most of the summer, and the PGA is typically the major where first-timers break through.

Maguire: Angel Cabrera. Valhalla is a big ballpark (par-71, 7,458 yards) and the Argentinean knows how to win the big ones, with Masters and U.S. Open victories. With all of the talk about career Grand Slams (see: Mickelson, Phil and McIlroy, Rory) wouldn't it be amazing if El Pato got his name into that conversation?

O'Connor: Ian Poulter. The Ryder Cup is around the bend, and what better way to start traumatizing the Americans than to get an early jump on them at the PGA Championship? You have to figure Poulter has one major in him. Why not now?

Wojciechowski: Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard and the PGA Championship haven't gotten along in recent years. His previous five finishes: 61st, MC, 12th, MC, MC. Hard to say he's a long shot, given the way he's played this season. But he's never won a major, and you wonder whether the streak will continue this week


Winner

Evans: Rory McIlroy. It's crazy not to pick the hottest player in the world to win his third consecutive tournament and second straight major. Only the pressure and magnitude of his astounding success can keep the 25-year-old Northern Irishman from winning his second Wanamaker Trophy.

Harig: Adam Scott. Deposed as the No. 1 player in the world, he nonetheless has had a strong summer, if not the victories to show for it. Scott's game is right there, and if he can get a few putts to drop, he very well might be moving past McIlroy into that No. 1 spot again.

Maguire: Jim Furyk. One of Furyk's lowest moments was the crucial Sunday loss at the 2012 Ryder Cup. He has been playing well lately, even if he hasn't gotten over that I-haven't-won-since-2010 hump. It's not the same as Medinah, but a second major victory would make him a surefire Hall of Famer.

O'Connor: Rickie Fowler. The easy pick is McIlroy, but golf is just too damn difficult to allow him yet another trip to the winner's circle. Fowler has been terrific in this year's majors, and he'll finally get rewarded at Valhalla for his moving tribute to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst.

Wojciechowski: Henrik Stenson. I'm going with a guy from Northern Ireland, or a guy who has never won a major -- and no, the Ulsterman is not Rory McIlroy (he can't win two majors and three tournaments in a row, can he?) but Graeme McDowell, who has top-10 finishes in the PGA three of the last five years. Stenson has three top-6 finishes in the past five years, and he has to win a major one of these days, right? Flip a coin ... Stenson.

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