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Golf Barometer: This Marathon Requires Foot Joys

David Ferris

David Ferris

Ferris covers the PGA Tour for RotoWire. He is an award-winning sports writer and a veteran fantasy columnist. He also is a scratch golfer.

Get out the yardage books and invest in some quality footwear: you'll need it this week. The PGA Championship will be a marathon this year, held over a 7,676-yard behemoth known as The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Big hitters obviously get a big advantage here, and mediocre putters aren't penalized as much - the paspalum greens aren't expected to run very quickly.

Here's a look at what I expect from some of the big names:

Tiger Woods:
He's still the smartest thinker in the game today, though he doesn't have the power of Young Tiger (that ship sailed a while back). Woods has been up and down on the greens this year, though he normally gains more advantage when the pace is quick. The timing is right for him to make a deep run, but I have him falling just short. Finish: T2

Dustin Johnson:
He has to be jumping up and down in his Foot Joys all week - it's a bomber's paradise and the putting assignment isn't particularly tricky. He also had a decent amount of experience playing oceanside courses. Finish: Win

Jason Dufner:
The ball-striking is subbing, the temperament couldn't be better and the putting should be helped by this week's setup. He's getting awfully close to that big breakthrough, but it will have to wait until 2013. Finish: Top 10

Matt Kuchar:
The consistency is there, the ball-striking, the make-up. A shame his putter won't be as critical on this track. Did Kuchar's TPC win (the fifth major) take him out of the consideration here? I don't think so, but it's hard to bag two in a season. Finish: T22

Graeme McDowell:
He's a regular in the late going at most majors these days, and you know he'll hit the driver straight and align his irons properly. How quickly will he figure out the grainless greens? Finish: T12

Bubba Watson:
He should love the track this week, but predicting Watson since the Masters breakthrough has turned into a fool's errand. A weekend charge wouldn't surprise me, nor would a Friday trunk slam. Finish: Outside Top 30

Webb Simpson:
He's already won the U.S. Open this year and delivered his wife's second child, so what's left for an encore? To be fair, how prepared can he be? It's a track that should fit Simpson's eye, but it's too soon to come back to him as a selection. Finish: MC.

Luke Donald:
I still like him winning a major at some point but not here - he's a shorter hitter, for one thing, and he's been a non-factor in the majors this year. A good start is critical; that took him out of the run almost immediately in San Francisco. And his angelic putting won't be a big help on a slow, grainless track. Finish: T27.

Rory McIlroy:
The sharpness isn't bad yet, the confidence, the creativity. He felt good about his wedge game at Firestone, but he'll have to make peace with his longer clubs to win this weekend. It's still a work in progress. Finish: Outside Top 30.

Robert Garrigus:
He's a bomber who absolutely loves this track - he was talking about it just after his near miss at the Canadian Open. If his putter was clicking, he takes the RBC by six shots. If he can even putt adequately this week, watch out, we've got a story. Finish: 23th.

Phil Mickelson:
He can wind it up and play aggressively here, which he loves, but are the recovery shots still in the bag? Is the patience going to kick in when it needs to? Is Lefty trustable on those critical 5-8 footers? I'll be very surprised if he makes a deep challenge. Finish: T40

Keegan Bradley:
The repeating jinx works against him, as he won Firestone last week and the PGA last year. But why hold those things against him? Bradley blasts the ball to the moon, he plays with a positive energy and confidence, and he's a steely-putter when he needs to be. Sometimes I think he's Justin Leonard 2.0, if you gave Leonard a driver designed by NASA. Bradley should contend this week because he can't imagine any reason he can't contend. Finish: Top 20.

Steve Stricker:
His irons and putter were superb at the end of Firestone, but Stricker's medium game off the tee isn't going to help him this week. Can the hit near-perfect irons for four days? Can he putt better than everyone in the field? Can he get over the hump of never winning one of these? It seems like too much to overcome. Finish: Outside Top 30

Ernie Els:
The skills that earned him the win last month could come into play again - power, creative thinking, gutty putting on specific holes. And we know Els won't stray from the moment or try to make four birdies on one shot - his inner perspective might be the best in the game. He'll be heard from. Finish: Top 30