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PGA Championship Preview: The Final Major

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Is this the end? It's a question you've heard the last few months, but I'm not speaking of Tiger Woods' game. I'm talking about the drama surrounding the man. Please, let this be the end. Do you realize that the biggest story last week was Steve Williams? What? How did we get here? A caddie is the biggest story? I get it - first week apart from Tiger, he's on a new bag, that player wins, great, but let's focus on the guy who's making the shots, please. That Scott won a big event with Williams on his bag speaks more to his own lack of confidence than anything else. You are one of the best players in the world and you need someone to push you to be your best? If anything, this situation shines more of a light on just how far advanced Tiger was mentally compared to his peers.

Here's the problem for Scott and McIlroy, and anyone else for that matter. They simply don't have the killer mindset that Tiger once had. Yes, he made mistakes off the course, but guess what? That comes with the territory when you think you are superior. You want an all-time great in this era? You need someone who thinks, who knows, he's better than the rest. Adam Scott has the talent to be that player, but he'll never have the personality to match it. Steve Williams likely knows this already, and though they are off to a great start, it will be nearly impossible to keep it up.

What the Bridgestone Classic means:

Adam Scott: Scott is back to where he was when he won The Players in 2004 - on the doorstep to greatness. Can he take the next step this time around or will he slip into obscurity again? Hopefully he learned something from his last go-round, but as for where his ceiling is, no one really knows.

Luke Donald: Donald continues to show his talent on weekly basis, but just like Scott, he still has plenty to prove, such as - can he win a major? The pressure is probably greater for Donald as he enters this week with the No. 1 World golf ranking.

Jason Day: If anyone is primed and ready for a major win, it's Day. Day, who came oh-so-close at the Masters and finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, has his game exactly where it needs to be entering the season's final major.

This week:
PGA Championship

Last Year:
Martin Kaymer shot a final-round 70 on his way to a playoff victory over Bubba Watson.

Players to Consider:

1. Jason Day

Unlike some other "young guns," Day has proven he can hang tough until the end of a major. He's yet to win a major, but he's come very close and his game appears in top form.

2. Rory McIlroy

This will be the true test of where McIlroy is at the moment. The Open Championship is so quirky that it's not really a good test, but there'll be no excuses after this week. McIlroy can take it to another level with a win this week.

3. David Toms

A year ago, I wouldn't have made this pick. Just for the record, the pick is not solely based on his win here in 2001. It's a combination of that win and the way he's played this season.

4. Dustin Johnson

I'm beginning to lose my patience with Johnson. Perhaps he set the bar too high early last season, but whatever the reason it feels like he's not living up to expectations. He has, however, played well at the last two PGA Championships, so hopefully he can turn it up a notch again this year.

5. Webb Simpson

Simpson isn't on many radars entering this week. After all, this is his first PGA Championship. No one, though, has played more consistently the last two months. Simpson enters this week on a streak of six consecutive top-20s.

Players to Avoid:

1. Camilo Villegas

With everything that's happened in the world of golf this year, it's easy to miss just how poorly Villegas has played this year. His record at the PGA Championship over the past few years is pretty solid, but his game is not, for the moment.

2. Tiger Woods

Last week was all I needed to see. I've come to the realization that Tiger is just not ready to win yet. It's going to take a while, maybe an entire offseason, but it's just not going to happen anytime soon. Tiger also struggled on this course in 2001, which certainly won't help matters this week.

3. Martin Kaymer

Kaymer hasn't exactly taken the next step since his win last year at the PGA Championship. This will be his first time defending a major title and as such, expect Kaymer to struggle this week.

4. Sean O'Hair

He got me again. Just when I thought I could trust him, he disappeared - again. I'm not falling for it again; O'Hair is simply not up to the task of beating the best players in the world.

5. Padraig Harrington

Harrington won the PGA Championship a few years ago, but his game hasn't been the same since. He's really struggled this season, and he's not going to turn that around this week.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
PGA Championship

Group A

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Phil Mickelson

Johnson let me down last week, but he has to show his top form at some point this year, right? Mickelson was runner-up to Toms in 2001 and is coming off a good showing at the Open Championship, so maybe he's ready for another major.

Group B

1. Hunter Mahan
2. Webb Simpson
3. Rickie Fowler
4. David Toms

Surprisingly, Group B is pretty light this week. Toms and Simpson were the first names that came to mind, but after that, it was a bit of struggle. Don't get me wrong, I like Fowler and Mahan, but there are usually more options during the majors, and I just didn't see any that I liked this week. Fowler could surprise this week. He seems to jump up when you least suspect it. And Mahan is overdue for a good performance at a major - he's missed the cut in the previous three this year.

Group C

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Jason Day

Let's give this duo one more try. It hasn't worked out for me personally because I didn't have this pair for either the Masters or the U.S. Open. Although I don't expect a one-two finish, I do expect one of these two to finish in the top-three this week.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. David Toms
3. Webb Simpson
4. Rory McIlroy

This is probably the week that Johnson starts on fire, but I'm at the point now where I have to see it first from him. Mickelson is coming off a good showing at his most recent major and played well on this track in 2001. Toms seems like an easy choice to start round one in Group B. He has the experience and has played pretty well this season. Simpson gets the other start, and while it's a bit of a risk being his first start here, he's simply on fire. New track or not, he's going to figure it out. McIlroy gets the nod in Group C, but you really can't go wrong with either player.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As I mentioned earlier, I'll need to see something from Johnson this week before he enters the starting line-up. I'm not talking about a decent round either, I want to see his name in the top-10. I want to see some resemblance to his performance from last year. Oddly enough, though Toms won here in 2001 and the other names are more accomplished than him, I feel most comfortable with Webb Simpson in Group B this week. Mahan has been the big underachiever of this group this year, but that can change with one good round this week. Fowler showed some grit earlier this year when he hung tough at the Open Championship, and if he shows that form early this week, he'll be the first one in off the bench. I'll likely start Jason Day on Friday this week to free up the weekend. It's probably too much to ask that both players in Group C play like they did at two of the three majors this year, but here's hoping.