Last Chance for First Major


Davis Love III did it. So did Payne Stewart and John Daly and Nick Price and Vijay Singh. The same can be said for Wayne Grady and Mark Brooks and Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel. Thirteen of the last 16 PGA Championship winners have been maiden major champions. As the field of 156 prepare to compete in the 86th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, several in attendance hope to add their name to this list. Here's a look at the top-ranked contenders without a major victory, with some analysis from PGA Tour winner and Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo.
Padraig Harrington Name: Padraig Harrington
World Ranking: 8th
Appearances: 5
Best Finish: T17 (2002, Hazeltine)

The Facts: The PGA Championship is the only major in which Harrington has failed to record a top-5 finish ' or top-10, for that matter. A sore neck ' which flared up at the British Open and resulted in a missed cut ' has kept him out of competition for the last two weeks. However, in his most recent start, the Nissan Irish Open, he notched his 24th career runner-up finish; two of those have come on the PGA Tour this season (Players Championship, Buick Classic).
Nobilo's Analysis: Currently the highest-ranked European. He possesses a wonderful touch around the greens and does not give up on a shot. But to be considered to have a realistic chance, he will have to bring a better iron game to the PGA. At nearly 7,500 yards, good iron play will be essential, as there will not be the gimmie birdies seen on some shorter venues.
Sergio Garcia Name: Sergio Garcia
World Ranking: 10th
Appearances: 5
Best Finish: 2nd (1999, Medinah)

The Facts: Where does the time go? This is Garcias 25th major played. Its been five years since a 19-year-old Garcia sprinted and scissor-kicked his way to a runner-up finish at Medinah. Hes since been a consistent major performer, with seven top-10s in 19 starts. His Sunday 66 at Augusta National earned him a backdoor tie for fourth at the Masters, but his final-round 80 at Shinnecock dropped him to a tie for 20th at the U.S. Open. He then missed the cut at Royal Troon.
Nobilo's Analysis: Arguably the best iron player in the world, Garcia will give himself plenty of opportunities to warrant a chance to raise the Wanamaker Trophy. But he really needs to rediscover his swashbuckling attitude ' and make a few putts ' to send shivers through the field.
Perry, Kenny Name: Kenny Perry
World Ranking: 11th
Appearances: 13
Best Finish: 2nd (1996, Valhalla)

The Facts: Perry has never missed the cut in 13 PGA Championship appearances. He was the runner-up in 1996, when he bogeyed the 72nd hole and then lost in a playoff to Mark Brooks. Coming off his best season on tour, when he won three times in four starts, Perry has yet to win in 2004. He missed the cut in both the Masters and U.S. Open, but tied for 16th at the British Open, where he finally felt comfortable off the tee. Perry broke his old driver ' the one I made all of my money with ' at the Buick Classic.
Nobilo's Analysis: Shinnecock and Troon will help Kenny adjust to the links look of Whistling Straits. Strangely enough, he will still need softer conditions for it to play into his hands. Length and attitude are never in question for the big man from Kentucky, but he will be hoping it plays really long for him to get a little closer than he did eight years ago.
Adam Scott Name: Adam Scott
World Ranking: 12th
Appearances: 3
Best Finish: T23 (2002, Hazeltine; 2003, Oak Hill)

The Facts: Like Garcia, Scott has a pair of PGA Tour victories to his credit this season. But unlike Garcia, he doesnt have a notable record in major championships. Scott has only one career top-10 (2002 Masters) in 14 majors played. This year, he missed the cut at the Masters, missed the cut at the U.S. Open, and tied for 42nd at the British Open. In three career PGA Championship starts, he has a pair of T23s and a missed cut.
Nobilo's Analysis: Like Garcia, one of the few players younger than Tiger with a game to contend. Elegant power and technique throughout his repertoire of shots, backed up with solid putting. While he lacks the consistency week-to-week, and his major record leaves a lot to be desired, given a hot week, he has the nerve to go all the way and become one of the few to win the PGA and the Players Championship in the same year.
Name: Chad Campbell
World Ranking: 13th
Appearances: 2
Best Finish: 2nd (2003, Oak Hill)

The Facts: Campbell was voted by his peers in a 2003 Sports Illustrated article as the player most likely to win a major. Hes won the Tour Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational, and finished runner-up to Shaun Micheel in last years PGA Championship at Oak Hill. But Campbell is the first to admit he needs more major experience. This is only his 12th major start. And this year hes been dreadful in said events. Campbell has missed the cut in all three majors this season ' and has yet to post a round under par.
Nobilo's Analysis: Chad has to come to grips that major championships have the same players that he beats up on a couple of times a year. The fact that the courses are set up tougher than a regular PGA Tour event should play even more to his strengths, as no player gets to the green more economically day-to-day than Campbell. He just has to figure it out.
Darren Clarke Name: Darren Clarke
World Ranking: 14th
Appearances: 6
Best Finish: T9 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Its been feast or famine this year as Clarke is still trying to find some consistency with his new, slimmed-down physique. In 12 PGA Tour starts this year, he has six missed cuts and five finishes at T11 or better. He missed the cut in the seasons first two majors, before tying for 11th at Troon. But Clarke hasnt been a major factor in quite some time. His last top-10 in a major championship was a tie for third in the 2001 British Open. He has missed the cut five times in six career PGA Championship appearances.
Nobilo's Analysis: With two World Golf Championships victories under his belt, Darren is a little bit of an enigma in the majors. He has to forget that Europeans have had a terrible run in the PGA and remember that all streaks come to an end. So all that is required is a little luck of the Irish, quickly put all that weight back on he lost, and play like he did at Firestone last year.
Stuart Appleby Name: Stuart Appleby
World Ranking: 15th
Appearances: 7
Best Finish: T4 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Appleby says his best chance to win a major is at the British Open. But Whistling Straits, where hell have to shape his shots in the wind, may play into the Australians hands. Hell hope that the links-style course plays more like a British Open, where he has made the cut five consecutive years, than like a U.S. Open, where he has missed the cut five of the last six years.
Nobilo's Analysis: Appleby has a tendency to try and overplay the golf course and play shots that are not always the best choice, or natural for that matter. Stuart is a natural right-to-left player and when he plays this way it becomes almost machine-like. He could take a page out of the great Bobby Lockes book and play right-to-left all day and do the damage with the putter. If he does he just might add another piece of silver to the collection.
Scott Verplank Name: Scott Verplank
World Ranking: 17th
Appearances: 10
Best Finish: T7 (2001, Atlanta Athletic Club)

The Facts: Once again, Verplank needs a strong performance at the PGA to try and make the Ryder Cup team. He tied for seventh in the 1999 PGA ' his best-ever major finish (he has only three top-10s in 40 major starts). It wasnt enough to qualify for the U.S. team, but it was enough to impress Curtis Strange, who made him the first rookie to be a Captains Selection. Verplank, who is 12th in the Ryder Cup standings, has made 17 of 17 cuts this season.
Nobilo's Analysis: Straight driver and solid as a rock with the putter, but power is a question. It is one thing to finish in the top 10, which I believe he will do, but to win over a field littered with bombers and over a course some 7,500 yards will take a Larry Mize Masters performance. Scott will need a dream week.
Stephen Ames Name: Stephen Ames
World Ranking: 18th
Appearances: 3
Best Finish: T30 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Ames finally got his maiden PGA Tour victory in his 166th start, at the Cialis Western Open. That was part of a brilliant stretch, where he had eight top-10s in 10 events, including a tie for ninth in the U.S. Open. This will be just his 13th major appearance, and only his third in the PGA, where he has a tie for 30th, a missed cut and a withdrawal.
Nobilo's Analysis: No man from Trinidad & Tobago had ever won a tour event ' he changed that. A PGA Championship to go with it? Technically, he has a very good golf swing that will fit in nicely on the Wisconsin beast. Hes long enough, but streaky with the flat-stick. Some say he is good enough, but the big question is whether or not he realizes that he is.
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits