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Preview: 97th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits

PGA97thPreview – PGA of America – 97th PGA Championship – Whistling Straits – Kohler, Wisconsin –

The final major championship of the men’s golf season – the 97th PGA Championship – returns to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin this week.

Whistling Straits served up a dramatic finish in 2010 when Dustin Johnson was slapped with a penalty on the 72nd hole costing him a shot at the title. Martin Kaymer was the eventual playoff champion edging Bubba Watson.

The layout features a links-style and look but requires players to hit high shots into greens surrounded by bunkers and adjust to a water-side breeze. The Pete Dye-designed course won’t favor any particular style, but it will reward those that find fairways instead of the 1,000-plus bunkers across the 18 holes.

The game’s best players are here including defending champion and World No. 1 RoryOfficial PGA TOUR Headshots McIlroy, who is making his first start in several weeks following an ankle injury.

The field also features Jordan Spieth – winner of the Masters and U.S. Open – and the Champion Golfer of the Year Zach Johnson, a winner at the Open Championship. Look for each of the grinders to hand around into the weekend with a shot to win come Sunday.

2014 Recap:

  • McIlroy (16-under) edged Phil Mickelson by a shot at Valhalla. Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson logged T-3 finishes two back — each coming up short of their major title. Jim Furyk, Ryan Palmer and Victor Dubuisson all ended up T-5, while Jimmy Walker and Ernie Els shot 65 in the final round to earn Top 10s.

This championship has produced international players as champion five of the last seven years including McIlroy (2012 and 2014), Martin Kaymer (2010), Y.E. Yang (2009) and Padraig Harrington (2008). The two Americans winning at the PGA were Jason Dufner (2013) and Keegan Bradley (2011).

TNT has exclusive television coverage Thursday and Friday for the opening rounds of play, while TNT handles early coverage on the weekend with CBS Sports bringing home the leaders.

One of the marquee groups features Fowler, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. The trio tees off the 10th hole at Whistling Straits at 9:05 a.m. eastern time Thursday. All three have been close during the last few years at capturing their elusive first major championship.

FANTASY: McIlroy, a PGA champion in 2012 and 2014, is a risky pick coming off injury. Spieth is a must-pick under his form along with Bubba Watson. But, consider a player like Fowler, who has more major championship rounds in the 60s during the last two years than anyone. He is 7th in the world rankings, but still has the major-less chip on his shoulder while Rory and Spieth grab headlines. Furyk, the 36-hole leader last week at the WGC-Bridgestone, is a grinder and accurate off the tee leading to a T-5 at the PGA last year. He could contend here. Grab Justin Rose, who has three straight Top 6 finishes heading into the PGA.

BETTORS: Spieth(6-to-1) and Rory (8-1) are the betting favorites at www.ladbrokes.com. But for better value, take Watson (16-1) who is in great form and has a score to settle with Whistling Straits – losing in a playoff in 2010. Bubba has back-to-back runner-up finishes heading into the PGA and he won the Travelers in late June. On the International front, take Stenson at 25-1. He was in the mix last year finished two off the lead and tends to heat up this time of year. He also challenged into Sunday last week in Akron logging a T-6 effort. He is due and ranks first in Total Driving and Greens In Regulation on the PGA Tour. For a long shot, Robert Streb is worth a pick at 80-1 odds. Streb, who has 8 Top 10s this season and a victory, is on the first page in the FedEx Cup standings.

Other PGA News:

  • Spieth has several ways to overtake Rory at the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. The best way – win the title outright. But, he can also become No. 1 with a solo third-place finish and Rory missed cut.
  • Tiger Woods has four PGA Championship victories on his resume. He is one behind the all-time leaders: Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus. Woods also have seven Top5s in PGA Championship history – second best to Nicklaus’ 14. He plays alongside Kaymer and Bradley at Whistling Straits teeing off No. 10 Thursday in round one at 9:15 a.m. eastern time.
  • Fowler boasts the best third- and fourth-round scoring average at all major championships during the last two years. We won the PLAYERS earlier this season and was runner-up two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.
  • Day enters the PGA Championship second in the All-Around category on the PGA Tour. He is also 5th in Scrambling.