We’ve said all year the prediction business is difficult. And that’s even more true as we try to forecast this week’s PGA Championship, what with its quick turnaround from the festivites at the Open Championship. Once again, however, we’ve compiled a ranking of the golfers we think have the best chance of walking away from Baltusrol holding the Wanamaker Trophy. Here’s the final edition of our list to help you prepare for the year’s fourth men’s Major.
1. Jason Day
PGA Championship History: Defending champ; top 15 in four of six appearances
Reason To Pick: Day has been the best golfer on the planet in 2016. After winning seven times in 17 starts, he comes to Baltusrol on a five-tournament winless streak, but that includes a near-miss at Firestone and being on the bad end of the draw at Royal Troon.
Cause For Concern: As much as any other player in the field, Day is feeling pressure to win a Major this year to validate his title as the world’s best golfer.
2. Rory McIlroy
PGA Championship History: Winner in 2012 and 2014
Reason To Pick: Other than a missed cut at the US Open, McIlroy has played brilliant golf since March, including a T-5 at the Open Championship despite being on the wrong end of the draw.
Cause For Concern: Given all the high finishes, McIlroy still hasn’t won a US PGA Tour event in more than 14 months.
3. Phil Mickelson
PGA Championship History: 2005 champ (at Baltusrol); runner-up in 2014
Reason To Pick: Mickelson is coming off one of the great performances in major championship history. He’s also returning to the site of his lone PGA Championship victory.
Cause For Concern: Moving on from a close call like the one he had at the Troon is a tall order. It becomes even tougher when you only have a week off to get ready for the next Major.
4. Patrick Reed
PGA Championship History: T-30 in 2015; T-58 in 2014
Reason To Pick: Reed’s nine top-10s on the US PGA Tour this season trails only Dustin Johnson. He’s also coming off a career-best Major finish with a T-12 at the Open Championship, despite…wait for it…being on the wrong side of the draw.
Cause For Concern: Reed hasn’t won in 18 months and has never seriously contended at a Major championship. However, a win would complete a sweep of first-time Major winners in 2016.
5. J.B. Holmes
PGA Championship History: Two top-25s in six starts
Reason To Pick: Let’s make this clear. We don’t believe Holmes’ has the fifth-best chance of winning at Baltusrol, but at 80/1, we think he’s the fifth-best bet. Why? Two players have finished in the top four at two Majors this year: Dustin Johnson and Holmes.
Cause For Concern: Finishing in the top four, especially when you’re 14 strokes behind the winner, is a lot different than actually being in the hunt at a major on Sunday.
6. Dustin Johnson
PGA Championship History: Four top-10s in six starts
Reason To Pick: The new World No.2 shook up the “Big 3” landscape by winning the US Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in back-to-back starts.
Cause For Concern: If we’re betting anyone with odds this low, we’re leaning toward Day and McIlroy on a track where scrambling should be a big factor.
7. Henrik Stenson
PGA Championship History: Four top-six finishes in his past six starts
Reason To Pick: No one will arrive at Baltusrol more loose and confident following his historic performance at the Open Championship. At 40, Stenson believes “the floodgates” may finally be opening for him at golf’s biggest events.
Cause For Concern: That kind of showing had to take something out of him – no matter how physically fit the Swede is.
8. Jordan Spieth
PGA Championship History: Runner-up in 2015
Reason To Pick: After a year in which he nearly won all four majors, he can’t possibly get shut out … right?
Cause For Concern: The Olympics decision. The “negative questions.” Spieth doesn’t seem to be in the best state of mind at the moment.
9. Sergio Garcia
PGA Championship History: Two runner-ups and a T-3 in 17 tries
Reason To Pick: Garcia is the only player to post top-fives finishes at both the US and British Opens. With that type of play, plus a recent win at the Byron Nelson, 30/1 seems a bit high.
Cause For Concern: There’s that whole never-won-a-Major thing. And we’re not sure if Sergio is encouraged or deflated by the fact Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have now removed their names from that conversation.
10. Adam Scott
PGA Championship History: Four top-10s in 15 starts
Reason To Pick: Those back-to-back wins earlier in the season at PGA National and Doral. Plus, he’s one of the few players in the field who made the cut at the 2005 PGA (T-40).
Cause For Concern: A T-10 in a limited-field event is his best finish since those two wins all the way back now in March.
11. Justin Rose
PGA Championship History: Fourth last year, T-3 in 2012
Reason To Pick: Rose looks to be rounding back into form from a back injury with a T-22 at the Open Championship. His lack of play/success since a solo third at the Wells Fargo is the only reason a player of this caliber has odds this high.
Cause For Concern: A back issue is one of the biggest causes for concern any golfer can have.
12. Jason Dufner
PGA Championship History: 2013 champ, 2011 runner-up
Reason To Pick:These odds seem high for a former champ coming off a T-22 at Royal Troon and a T-8 at Oakmont. Also, Dufner’s lone Major title came at Oak Hill, a classic Northeast track in the same mold as Baltusrol.
Cause For Concern: Putting. Always the putting. Dufner arrives at Baltusrol ranked 169th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on the green.
13. Bill Haas
PGA Championship History: Five straight made cuts, including a T-12 in 2011
Reason To Pick:It might not seem like much, but Haas, a six-time US PGA Tour winner and the 2011 FedEx Cup champ, finally notched his first top-10 at a Major in 28 tries at the Open Championship.
Cause For Concern: That T-9 at Royal Troon came despite shooting a final-round 75 and beginning the day alone in third place.