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Who's The Favorite For The PGA Championship?

August 4, 2015

This year's last major, the PGA Championship, will take place Aug. 13-16. 

Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., is hosting the event for the second time in six years. Fans might recall this was the site of Dustin Johnson's first letdown during a major in 2010, when he unknowingly grounded his club in a bunker on the 18th hole and lost to Martin Kaymer by a penalty stroke. 

The winner of this year's event will likely come from a short list of golfers who have a combination of length, great distance control with approach shots and putting skill. 

Johnson is on that list and may be comfortable with the course, but his performance during the last two majors leaves doubt about his ability to complete a four-round event. His play during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bays June 18-21 (three-putting from 12 feet to miss a playoff with Jordan Spieth) and the Open Championship at St. Andrews July 16-20 (leading after 36 holes but fading from the leaders in the final two rounds) are evidence that the best predictor of the future is the past. 

So who can win? Spieth might be the most obvious pick. His game has been razor sharp in majors this year. He won both the Masters and U.S. Open and finished second during the Open Championship on the way to becoming a superstar on the PGA Tour. If Spieth plays his game to score with his putting, it could be a runaway event for him. 

I also like Matt Kuchar. His game is well suited for Whistling Straits, and his putting can hold up during four rounds. Rickie Fowler is a favorite, too. He has been solid in majors, and it may be his turn to break through. 

The top 70 players in the world will be invited to the PGA Championship, and any player with length can tame the course. If you are nostalgic, you may like Jim Furyk to win. His game is timeless, and Whistling Straits fits his high-ball flight. What about Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els or another classic tour pro? It would be great to see one of them win, but it's not likely. 

The world's best are the young guns, and their time is now. Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore are two more players to watch. 

Want to know more players to watch? How about the 262nd-ranked player in the world? Tiger Woods brings more to talk about during the final major of the year because of his game and state of mind. Fans want to know if this is the end of his ability to win majors, or does he have more left in the tank? 

Missing the cut during the Open Championship left many speculating how damaged Woods' game really might be. But he showed signs of brilliance when he had a top-20 finish at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club during the Quicken Loans National July 30-Aug. 2. Look for Woods to make the cut at the PGA Championship and keep the pundits and fans alike buzzing about what's next. 

I just like to watch Woods compete when he is playing his best, so here's to seeing what happens in Kohler. No matter what, we will always discuss Woods' relevance before, during and after majors in which he is entered.

Meanwhile, many others in the field have little chance of winning and would be happy just to make the cut, yet they are worth watching. They are the PGA professionals who have qualified to play in their own championship through a long road of solid play. 

Local PGA professionals begin the journey by competing in their PGA Section Championship. The PGA of America has more than 27,000 men and women members who work in 41 sections across America. Depending on the size of the section, a select few PGA pros qualify to compete in the PGA National Club Professional Championship. 

The winner and a number of top finishers get to play in the PGA Championship with top PGA Tour players. For many, it is the thrill of their playing lives. Sometimes, a pro makes the cut for the weekend. 

Maryland native Fred Funk went through local qualifying for the PGA Championship many years ago, made the cut, went on to compete on the PGA Tour and later win the PGA Players Championship. This is a rare story. Most club pros get the chance to play in the PGA Championship and come home to share stories of playing alongside Tour pros to their clients. It is still a great part of the event, so watch for the local pros before the weekend cut. 

Joe Plecker is the director of golf instruction at the Elkridge Club in Baltimore. For more of Joe's golf advice, check out joeplecker.com.