PGA Championship experts' picks

August, 6, 2013

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's tournament: The PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club's East Course in Rochester, N.Y.

Horse for the Course

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
At the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, where Europe beat the U.S. 14.5-13.5, Mickelson went 3-0 in his first appearance in the biennial matches. Eight years later in the PGA, he had a tie for 23rd that included bookend 66s.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Tim Clark
It's been 10 years, but Clark navigated Oak Hill quite well the last time the PGA was in Rochester; he was one of just three players under par.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Ernie Els
The Big Easy also teed it up at the 2003 PGA Championship held at this week's venue, Oak Hill, and finished T-5. Although his form hasn't been great lately (no top-20s in his past three PGA Tour starts), he's surely capable of contending at the year's final major.

Ian O'Connor, columnist: Zach Johnson
Lee Trevino, who won a U.S. Open at Oak Hill in a different life, picked Johnson to win the PGA. The former Masters winner doesn't beat himself, knows how to hit fairways (a must at Oak Hill), and has finished in the top six in his last three events.

Birdie Buster

Evans: Henrik Stenson
The 37-year-old Swede notched his fifth top-10 of the year with a tie for second at Firestone. His nerves are primed after a runner-up finish in July at the Open Championship, his best career finish in a major.

Harig: Tiger Woods
He comes into the PGA after an impressive performance at the Bridgestone, where he shot a second-round 61 and cruised to a 7-shot victory. After a tie for sixth at the Open Championship, it is hard to argue with how he is playing.

Maguire: Keegan Bradley
The 2011 PGA Championship winner has been on a tear this season, earning more than $3 million so far in 2013. That total was greatly helped by his T-2 finish last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Ian O'Connor: Phil Mickelson
His non-contention at Firestone is a nonfactor, as Mickelson was still walking on air after his Muirfield miracle. It looked like he treated the WGC as a bunch of practice rounds for the PGA, and as he proved at the Open Championship, no treacherous golf course -- not even Muirfield or Oak Hill -- is safe when Phil gets hot.

Super Sleeper

Evans: Miguel Angel Jimenez
At 49, Jimenez is supposed to be headed toward a gracious exit from the world golf stage to less stressful environs on the Champions Tour, where he can take an extra day to enjoy his fine wines and cigars. But the Spaniard is insistent on staying around with the kids for as long as he can. At Firestone, he finished in a tie for fourth. At the Open Championship, he owned the lead after the second round and held on for a tie for 13th. His best finish at the PGA came in 1999 at Medinah, where he tied for 10th.

Harig: Henrik Stenson
The Swede has quietly moved up the world rankings after a number of high finishes, including second at both the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone.

Maguire: Hideki Matsuyama
He's all of 21 years old, but the two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (which got him into the Masters in 2011 and 2012) has played in four career majors and made the cut every time. Not a bad percentage for the newly minted pro who finished T-10 at the U.S. Open and T-6 at the Open Championship this year.

Ian O'Connor: Lee Westwood
Written off after his Sunday collapse at Muirfield, a loss that made him 0-for-62 in the majors, Westwood is nobody's smart-money pick to win the PGA. But Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson won majors this year after recent heartbreaking losses, so why can't Westy do the same?


Evans: Tiger Woods
In his lone appearance at Oak Hill in 2003, Tiger finished in a tie for 39th, 16 shots back of the winner, Shaun Micheel. When you're perhaps the greatest player of all time, there is always an urgency for you to win, especially when you're chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. Someone may beat him this week, but they are going to have to play their best golf to do it.

Harig: Zach Johnson
The 2007 Masters champ has played nicely of late, losing in a playoff at the John Deere Classic, tying for sixth at the Open Championship and posting another top-10 at Firestone. His game is in good shape, and if he can keep it in play at Oak Hill, why not?

Maguire: Brandt Snedeker
He's turned the corner since returning from an injury earlier in the season (see his RBC Canadian Open win last month as Exhibit A.) And if the short-hitting Fred Funk could finish T-7 at the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill, then length clearly isn't required to score well, which plays right into Snedeker's hands.

Ian O'Connor: Tiger Woods
My doomed pick at Merion and Muirfield, but I'm going to keep sticking with him until he finally comes through. Tiger has the momentum after Firestone, and he needs to grab the early lead and play the (much) preferred role of front-runner. It's high time he ends the drought.





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