Set up for Harrington
Padraig Harrington might be having the most consistent season of his career, with more top-10 finishes between the PGA Tour and European circuit than any other year. On the flip side, it has been two years since his last trophy at the 2008 PGA.
I like the indicators, though. Harrington tied for ninth at last week's Bridgestone Invitational and notched a runner-up finish at the Irish Open before that. Factor in that Whistling Straits reminds many of an Irish links course, and Harrington should be in his comfort zone.
As for Tiger Woods, it gets tougher each time out to suggest he can suddenly find the magic. Winning any stop suddenly appears a tall order, much less a major. If he drives the ball like he did at St. Andrews, Woods has a chance. If he sprays it around, Whistling Straits' rough, elevation changes and nearly 1,000 bunkers will chew him up.
I didn't major in history, but I'd like to think I'm a student of it. So my pick for the PGA Championship will reflect that.
Given Tiger Woods' recent history plus the odd sight of having caddie Steve Williams use a club to keep Woods' head from swaying during Tuesday's practice, I'll say he finishes outside the top 30.
Slightly less recent history, the U.S. and British Opens, indicates that the winner will be a semi-obscure non-American (see McDowell, Graeme and Oosthuizen, Louis). And after the rain that hammered Whistling Straits on Wednesday, the course will play extra long. So my pick is Spaniard Alvaro Quiros. He's the longest hitter on the European Tour and he flew the 16th green last week at Firestone in two shots — driver/5-wood. That hole measures a mere 667 yards.
It's McIlroy's time
The march of the non-Americans will continue.
Following Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) at the U.S. Open and Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) at the British Open, Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) will finish No. 1 at the PGA Championship.
Of course, McIlroy is only 21. But his youth belies an experienced, stellar game, marked by poise, determination, power and touch. Almost 1,000 bunkers and the winds off Lake Michigan won't bother McIlroy, who grew up on and mastered links courses back home.
His finishes in his last two marquee tournaments were a tie for third at the British Open and a tie for ninth at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Though Tiger Woods' performance has been shoddy of late, determination will fuel a sprint for a Ryder Cup berth, and he will be in the top 10 at the PGA.
Stricker right at home
Los Angeles Times
Five of the last seven major championships have been taken by players who had never won a major, and don't be surprised if that trend continues at Whistling Straits.
Tiger Woods may still be No. 1 in the world, but that, of course, is no reflection on how he's currently playing. Expect him to be right around the cut line Friday evening and not get much beyond that.
This week's pick: Wisconsin's Steve Stricker. He's coming off a top-10 finish at the Bridgestone Invitational with three rounds in the 60s, has won twice this year and will be playing before a home crowd. And your runner-up: Padraig Harrington, who hasn't won on tour since the 2008 PGA but has a ninth and second in his last two events and is right at home on links-style courses.