PGA Championship 2016: You should be rooting for these nine golfers at Baltusrol
Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson will all be fan favorites at the last major of 2016
When I wrote this for The Open Championship (just two weeks ago!) I had the eventual winner on my list. Same for the U.S. Open back in June. Maybe it's just a year for golfers to shed their demons. Who knows?
What I do know is that this week's PGA Championship offers a litany of great golfers you can get behind even if you know nothing about the sport. These are guys who would make terrific stories as major championship winners. There is some heartbreak needs reversing.
Let's look at nine players (with reasonable expectations for winning) to root for at Baltusrol this week.
1. Sergio Garcia: The last four major winners are all first-time winners from different countries. Garcia would make it five for five. He also now has 22 (!) top 10s at major championships over the course of his career, which according to my unofficial count is the most ever without a win.
2. Rickie Fowler: Again, this checks the "never won a major" box and would be redemption for his near-miss at Valhalla two years ago. Plus, the U.S. Ryder Cup team sort of needs a little momentum going into Hazeltine.
3. Phil Mickelson: If there's such a thing as having empathy for someone who gets paid $50 million a year to play golf, Mickelson has garnered it. Lefty lost to one of the greatest major performances in history at The Open and has been on the losing end of four of these over the last 30 years.
4. Jordan Spieth: Spieth has been a bit of a tortured soul of late. If you love American golf and want to see him stay on the same Tiger Woods-ian track he's been on for the last few years, he's easy to get behind.
5. Lee Westwood: We're getting down to crunch time for Westwood, who is 43. Another missed opportunity means nearly another nine months until he gets another crack at his first. They aren't getting any easier, either.
6. Matt Kuchar: Would be another first-time guy. Kuchar is generally easy to root for with his genial personality and affable demeanor. If he's in the mix on Sunday, you can bet the golf world will rally around him.
7. Rory McIlroy: McIlroy has become somewhat polarizing, but if you like history, you'll root for him. McIlroy can join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones as the only golfers to win five majors before turning 30. That is quite the list. He also has a history here. Oh, and he's going for three PGAs in the last five years, too.
8. Dustin Johnson: We're still on the verge of a historic year from DJ. He has six straight top 10s including two wins and is riding the greatest heater of his career. Baltustrol would be the topper for easily his best season.
9. Justin Thomas: Wait, Justin Thomas? Again, the U.S. team desperately needs some momentum going to Hazeltine. And Thomas once told me that the PGA Championship would be his pick for which major he would most want to win outside the Masters. Why? His father used to be on the PGA of America national board.
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