On The Mark by Mark Mayer | First, a history lesson before we explain why Phil Mickelsons chances of winning the PGA Championship have improved.
This is the 90th edition of golfs fourth major, which started back in 1916 in Bronxville, New York. Walter Hagen won five PGA titles in the 1920s and Tiger Woods became the first player to win back to back (1999-2000) in 63 years. The PGA used a match play format up until 1958 when it went to stroke competition.
The site is famed Oakland Hills outside of Detroit, which has hosted six U.S. Opens, two U.S. Seniors, a U.S. Amateur, the 2004 Ryder Cup and now three PGAs. With Woods on the mend from knee surgery the rest of this year, the favorite mantle has gone to Mickelson in both the British Open and now the PGA.
Mickelson was never a factor at the British, but his runner-up finish to Vijay Singh last week at the WGC makes his 8-1 odds at the Hilton (7-1 at Caesars Palace) much more plausible. Lefty is a threat. He has made 15 of 16 cuts this year, won twice, is a past PGA champ and owns 34 Tour victories including three majors.
The fashionable choice could be Lee Westwood, right there with Singh and Mickelson last week. Westwood was 11th at the Masters and the "forgotten man" at the U.S. Open, finishing one shot behind Woods and Rocco Mediate after 72 holes. Hes hit the weights and in the best shape of his career. But with just one PGA Tour win, we hesitate to pull the trigger this week.
Padraig Harrington (15-1 LVH, 12-1 CP) won the British and has now superseded Ernie Els and any other Euro as the top golfer across the pond. But winning the back to back majors has only been reserved for Tiger this decade.
Kenny Perry (25-1 LVH, 12-1 CP) is the everymans hope. Perry stuck to his commitments and avoided the British Open. By doing so he used his A-game to wipe out B fields in claiming three wins over a two-month period. Against golfs best this week sans Tiger, probably not.
The opportunity is there for Anthony Kim, heralded as a future challenger to Woods. Kim has won twice in his rookie season and was close in the British. With the Hiltons 25-1 odds (10-1 at Caesars), hes definitely a solid investment.
Theres always Singh, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and perhaps British Open runnerup Ian Poulter, who at 50-1 (Hilton) has that Rod Stewart look. It would have been nice to see Greg Norman again, but hes staying home. Theres always John Daly at 500-1 (Hilton), but hes more likely to down a case of suds at the 19th hole.
Its easier to pick majors when Tiger plays. Now its a spin on the roulette wheel. We do know Michelle Wie wont win. And, its highly unlikely Colin Montgomerie will pull the big upset, although he could run hot at the flash photographers.
Maybe there will be a Rocco sighting or perhaps "Pony Tail" (Miguel Angel Jimenez) could re-surface off a strong showing last week.
I do like Kims chances, but at the Hiltons odds.