PGA Championship: 5 Spy Picks to Surprise

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Golf may lack a dominant player at the moment, but the favorites for this week’s PGA Championship are pretty obvious. Take the world top 10, add sexy picks like Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, toss in Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and voila – a solid batch of down-the-middle selections.2011 PGA Championship

We’ll go the less traveled route, veering off the beaten path to find a handful of darkhorses to win the season’s final major. Here are five guys who might surprise at Atlanta Athletic Club starting Thursday:

  • Zach Johnson: Not the darkest of horses, mind you. But the diminutive Iowan flies only one way – below the radar – making him a perennial darkhorse in our eyes. Why this week? For starters, Johnson enters on good form (T16 or better in his last three events) and claimed top-10 finishes in the last two PGA’s. Plus, three of his seven career wins have come in the state of Georgia, including two in Hot-lanta itself.
  • Ricky Barnes: All he does is play well in majors (and other tournaments on tough courses). His recent performances offer little promise, and his swing hasn’t held up so great under the gun. Still, we like him to sneak into the top 10 by week’s end.
  • Stewart Cink: Let’s see, Cink has no momentum to speak of, missed the cut at this year’s Masters and U.S. Open, and placed a distant T59 when the PGA was held at the AAC in 2001. Nope, we’re banking on the hometown vibe and Cink’s history of solid play in the majors to carry him into contention.
  • Y.E. Yang: The 2009 PGA champion is a bulldog, the kind of grinder who can survive the AAC’s length (7,467 yards at par 70) and sweltering ATL heat. He’s had a solid if hardly spectacular year, highlighted by a T3 at the U.S. Open and four top-10’s in 13 events.
  • Steve Williams: Easily the most accomplished player in the field with 145 career wins, Williams is coming off a week he called the best of his life – a resounding four-shot victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Despite all that – and his four career PGA titles – no one is picking Williams. Sounds like a classic darkhorse to us.

What’s that? Williams is just a caddie? But he said... Oh, nevermind. Guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for our final pick. How about:

  • Davis Love III: Another former PGA winner, DLIII has enjoyed a resurgence in 2011. His T11 at the U.S. Open and T9 at the British bode well for his chances in Atlanta, where he contended in 2001 before fading with a final-round 77.


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