One of the most wide-open major championship fields in recent memory will tee it up this week on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island for the 2021 PGA Championship. There is a favorite -- Rory McIlroy at 11-1 -- but rarely do majors begin with so little fanfare around the top 10 players in the world.
It has been an interesting lead-in to this PGA with some top players (Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka) hobbled and others (Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm) without the form they're used to displaying. As a result, one of the storylines this week is the lack of through lines of great play among the best players in the world into the second major of the year.
However, there is still plenty to root for this week when tee shots fly on Thursday morning. Just because the top players are maybe less likely to win than we thought they were does not mean there are fewer interesting storylines to cheer.
So, I've put together a list of the nine players you can root on -- and why to root for them -- going into the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island this week where we start with someone who could make some pretty amazing history.
Watch the 2021 PGA Championship beginning Thursday with Rounds 3-4 streaming live over the weekend on CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports App and Paramount+. Check out the updated PGA Championship schedule for how to watch the year's second major all week long.
|The only five golfers to win all four majors are Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nickalus, Tiger Woods and Gary Player. If Spieth takes the PGA this week, he becomes No. 6 on that list (and the only one to have exactly one of each major championship). Spieth can sometimes be difficult to root for as you watch his dramatic roller coaster rides unfurl on the golf course, but the jolt this narrative would give to the sport alone is worthy of pulling for this weekend. Odds: 16-1|
|The 2012 champion on this course is one of the few top players coming in with form. McIlroy won his last PGA Tour stop at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago, and a resurrection of his major championship record (he has not won a major in seven years) would be perfectly fitting at the course where he won his second major. That he's only won two since then is kind of remarkable. Here's what he said after rolling through Kiawah by eight strokes nine year ago with the whole golf world in front of him: "I just want to keep working hard, keep practicing, and hopefully there's a few more of these in my closet when my career finishes." Odds: 11-1|
|The Norwegian has been one of the best players on the PGA Tour this year, and he might be the only player who could match Collin Morikawa's "aw, shucks" bit from last year's PGA win. Those two are two of the easiest players in the world to cheer for, if only because they seem like they're just as in awe of their achievements as their fans. Odds: 25-1|
|Speaking of last year's winner. Morikawa is easy to back because, well, he's likable, but he's also worth rooting for because there could be a bit of trajectory change that would happen this week if he won. If Morikawa suddenly had five wins and two majors before turning 25, we might have to raise the ceiling for what he can accomplish over the course of his career, which feels a lot like what happened in 2012 when McIlroy won his second major. Odds: 30-1|
|D.J. has been a hard-luck loser at the PGA over the course of his career. He's lost to just two golfers (Brooks Koepka and Morikawa) over the last two years at the PGA Championship, and a win here would get him 75% of the way to the career grand slam. Throw in the heartbreak at Whistling Straits in 2010, and how cool it would be for him to win one in his home state while continuinng his growth into one of the more endearing golfers in the world? Odds: 18-1|
|The budding star captivated at Augusta National in April, and he would be a great personality to add to the growing list of 20-something stars in golf. His charm and disarming personality in the way he talks about himself and the sport -- at Augusta he said, "If I'm stupid enough to think I can play here, then I'm stupid enough to think I can win it" -- would play well this weekend. Odds: 50-1|
|His personality is not necessarily dynamic, but after heartbreak at Augusta National in April there would be more depth to his story than there maybe was before. A much (much much) lesser version of McIlroy in 2011 when he lost Augusta and went on to win the next major championship contended at the U.S. Open at Congressional. Odds: 22-1|
|This one is pretty self-explanatory. Homa has become both a top-50 golfer in the world and probably the easiest non-superstar to root for over the last few years. If he's in it to win an actual major, we would get some all-time moments and quotes from him. Odds: 80-1|
|He's always on this list, although confidence that he's actually going to win a big-time event (much less a major) is waning as time rolls on. It would be pretty sweet to see him shake that label at a course that has been deemed the most difficult in the United States in a tournament with arguably the best field in the world. Odds: 35-1|
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