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Punch Shot: Who wins, who disappoints and what's the winning score at PGA Championship

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The 103rd PGA Championship begins Thursday on Kiawah Island. senior writers Rex Hoggard and Ryan Lavner weigh in with their predictions.

Pick to win this week:

Lavner: Viktor Hovland. Few of the top players enter the week in good form, save for Hovland, who has posted back-to-back top-3s. His improved short game will be put to the test, but he could put on a stripe show for 72 holes.

Hoggard: Justin Thomas. He broke free from a curious slump with his victory in March at The Players Championship and has all the tools to contend at Kiawah Island, including power and enough creativity around the greens to make up for the occasional wayward shot.

Lock to contend:

Lavner: Jon Rahm. He top-tenned at Augusta with hardly any practice. He’s consistently been in the major mix for the past three years, and the PGA will be no different.

Hoggard: Rory McIlroy. His status as the betting favorite is understandable considering his victory two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship and what he laid on the field the last time the PGA Championship was played on the Ocean Course, but he’ll also be the first to tell you he’s not all the way back just yet.

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Biggest surprise:

Lavner: Keegan Bradley. Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman are both sneaky picks here, but let’s go even deeper with Bradley. A decade removed from his PGA breakthrough, he enters the week with six straight top-30s and ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green.

Hoggard: Bryson DeChambeau. Although his extreme brand of power golf would seem to be a perfect fit for the outsized Ocean Course his accuracy issues will be magnified by the incessant winds and the reigning U.S. Open champion will never contend.


Lavner: Rory McIlroy. Even McIlroy seems to be surprised that he’s experienced so much success so quickly with new coach Pete Cowen. A steady breeze will expose any remaining weaknesses.   

Hoggard: Collin Morikawa. The defending champion has a good game plan for playing the longest course in major championship history, but the fact is the margin for error for a mid-length player is far too thin and his putting simply isn’t there at the moment.

Winning score:

Lavner: 11 under. It’s hard to imagine the PGA tipping out the tees and maximizing the difficulty over the first two rounds – it’s the more difficult wind direction and there are daylight concerns with 156 players in the field, including 20 club pros. It won’t get stupid hard ... or so we think.

Hoggard: 5 under. Forget McIlroy’s 13-under total the last time the PGA was played at Kiawah Island, that was otherworldly and simply not repeatable on a much more demanding version of the Ocean Course. David Lynn, who was runner-up in ’12, and his 5-under total is a more realistic target.