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Who will tame Oakland Hills? Time will tell, but Mike McAllister knows. (Franklin/Getty Images)

Picking the PGA Champion: Process of elimination

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So you say you're having trouble picking a winner for this week's 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills? Don't sweat it. PGATOUR.COM's Mike McAllister has picking the winner down to a science. Let's just say everything's in "Cink."

By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Let everybody else predict the one winner of this week's PGA Championship. We'll predict the non-winners -- all 155 of them, in fact. That's how the Process of Elimination works. We sift through the field at Oakland Hills, using historical and statistical evidence as our guide to find the last man standing on Sunday.

Will it work? Well, if it doesn't, we categorically deny everything below ...


1. OK, it's great that club pros are able tee it up alongside the touring pros at a major championship. Hats off to the 20 club pros at Oakland Hills this week, representing the thousands of club professionals in the U.S. But in this arena, the teachers don't beat the students. Since 1982, the low finisher for a PGA professional is Lonnie Nielsen's T11 in 1986. So we'll eliminate:

Sam Arnold, Ryan Benzel, Bradley Dean, Eric Dugas, Frank Esposito Jr., James Estes, Kyle Flinton, Scott Hebert, Vince Jewell, Rick Leibovich, David Long, Eric Manning, Brad Martin, Jeffrey Martin, Alan Morin, Curt Sanders, Sonny Skinner, Tim Thelen, Tim Weinhart, Don Yrene. Players eliminated: 20. Remaining field: 136

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2. If you're the U.S. Ryder Cup captain and you're focused less on your own game and more on how you'll fill out your team, then you're probably not going to win. Sorry, 'Zinger.

Paul Azinger. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 135

3. One of these days, K.J. Choi or Ryuji Imada will win a major and the no-Asian-player-has-ever-won-a-major curse will be over. But until then, we'll eliminate ...

K.J. Choi (Korea), Hiroyuki Fujita, Ryuji Imada,Toru Taniguchi (Japan), Prayad Marksaeng (Thailand), Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh (India). Players eliminated: 7. Remaining field: 128

4. As you likely have heard, no European player has won the PGA Championship since the Silver Scot, Tommy Armour, won in 1930. Now, given how well the Europeans played at Oakland Hills in the 2004 Ryder Cup when they trounced the Americans (you listening, 'Zinger?), it seems that if the Euros are ever going to break that drought, this would be the week. And maybe Padraig Harrington makes it two straight majors, which would set him up nicely as a Player of the Year candidate. But 76 years of history can't be ignored. So let's eliminate all the Europeans.

Paul Casey, Nick Dougherty, Simon Dyson, Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Steve Webster, Lee Westwood, Oliver Wilson (England), Alex Cejka, Martin Kaymer (Germany), Daniel Chopra, Niclas Fasth, Peter Hanson, Peter Hedblom, Frederik Jacobson, Richard S. Johnson, Robert Karlsson, Carl Pettersson, Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland), Alastair Forsyth, Colin Montgomerie (Scotland), Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Pablo Larrazabal (Spain), Anders Hansen, Soren Hansen, Soren Kjeldsen (Denmark), Padraig Harrington (Ireland). Players eliminated: 31. Remaining field: 97


5. So no European has ever won the PGA since it became a stroke-play event 50 years ago. The South Africans can at least claim a couple of stroke-play wins. Of course, the last one was Gary Player's second PGA Championship victory in 1972. And while it's never good to count out a South African player in any major -- Trevor Immelman showed us that at Augusta National in April -- the season's last major simply hasn't been fruitful for that country in the past 25 years. So let's eliminate:

Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, James Kingston, Louis Oosthuizen, Hennie Otto, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel. Players eliminated: 9. Remaining field: 88.


6. In fact, let's face it -- other than Vijay Singh's wins in 1998 and 2004, the PGA Championship has been an American showcase the last 12 years. In fact, besides Singh, the only other former PGA Championship winner in the field this week who isn't an American is Steve Elkington, the Australian who won at Riviera in 1995. Now consider one other thing -- since 1994, U.S. players have won at least two of the four majors in a given year. Since Tiger Woods' U.S. Open win is the only major won by an American this year, history overwhelmingly favors the red, white and blue this week. We're not going to eliminate Singh just yet, especially coming off his win Sunday at Firestone. But as difficult as it may be, we're going to eliminate every other international player.

Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Steve Elkington, Matthew Goggin, Richard Green, Brendan Jones, Peter Lonard, Geoff Ogilvy, Nick O'Hern, Rod Pampling, Adam Scott, John Senden, Scott Strange (Australia), Stephen Ames, Mike Weir (Canada), Mark Brown, Michael Campbell (New Zealand), Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero (Argentina), Camilo Villegas (Colombia). Players eliminated: 21. Remaining field: 67.


7. All right, we've eliminated 89 players in just six steps. Now it gets even tougher. Here at the PGA TOUR, though, we're a big believer in FedExCup points, especially as it relates to recent performances. So let's take the last eight weeks. If you haven't managed to cobble together at least 1,500 points during that time, then either a) your game is not in tip-top, primed-to-win-a-major shape or b) you've missed tournaments, which means you're either hurt or rusty. Either way, you're eliminated (FedExCup points in the last eight weeks in parentheses).

Michael Allen (1,069), Briny Baird (1,361), Rich Beem (252), Mark Brooks (51), Bart Bryant (317), Jonathan Byrd (340) Mark Calcavecchia (413), Fred Couples (476), Ben Crane (403), Ben Curtis (1,198), John Daly (0), Chris DiMarco (1,070), Steve Flesch (349), Brian Gay (1,281), Paul Goydos (174), Jay Haas (0), Todd Hamilton (789), J.J. Henry (162), J.B. Holmes (180), Charles Howell III (757), Zach Johnson (521), Jerry Kelly (423), Greg Kraft (163), Cliff Kresge (974), Tom Lehman (323), Justin Leonard (881), Davis Love III (485), Steve Lowery (390), John Mallinger (169), George McNeill (453), John Merrick (1,471), Ryan Moore (76), Corey Pavin (1,373), Pat Perez (637), Jeff Quinney (224), Brandt Snedeker (775), Steve Stricker (1,288), Kevin Sutherland (1,257), Vaughn Taylor (759), Nicholas Thompson (1,301), David Toms (297), Scott Verplank (821), Johnson Wagner (285), Boo Weekley (266). Players eliminated: 44. Remaining field: 23.

8. In the PGA Championship's stroke-play era, no winner has ever had less than four letters in his last name. We hate to break it to you, Mr. Kim and Mr. Wi, but your fate at this event was decided at birth.

Anthony Kim, Charlie Wi. Players eliminated: 2. Remaining field: 21.

9. In tournament history, just seven players have made the PGA Championship their first win on the PGA TOUR -- and it's been done just three times since 1957 (Jeff Sluman in 1988, John Daly in 1991 and Shaun Micheel in 2003). Obviously it can be done. But we suggest that it won't be done this week, thus eliminating:

Ken Duke, Steve Marino, Bubba Watson. Players eliminated: 3. Remaining field: 18.

10. Speaking of first-timers, how about the players involved in their first PGA Championship? While both these guys are young, aggressive and coming off recent TOUR wins, they may need a little more seasoning before winning a major. So let's eliminate:

Parker McLachlin, Chez Reavie. Players eliminated: 2. Remaining field: 16.

11. Who's outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings? Well, if you are, it's time to say goodbye.

Tommy Armour III, Chad Campbell, Billy Mayfair, Heath Slocum, D.J. Trahan, Bob Tway (who made it all the way to our Sweet 16 despite being ranked 322nd in the world), Dean Wilson. Players eliminated: 7. Remaining field: 9.

12. OK, we're feeling good about our final nine. Along with some big names, we have several dark-horse candidates -- and the PGA Championship is the major that seems to lend itself most to a surprise winner. In fact, of the 89 previous PGAs, nearly half (44) have been won by players who were winning their first major. That speaks volumes. As a result, it's time to jettison arguably the three biggest names left.

Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh. Players eliminated: 3. Remaining field: 6.

13. Time to look at ages. Of those previous 89 winners, 40 have come from the 30-34 age group. Whoops, none of the six left qualify there. But 19 have come from the 35-39 age group and 18 from the 25-29 age group, while just five champions have been 40 or older. So time to eliminate the, ahem, older guys.

Woody Austin (44 years old), Rocco Mediate (45), Kenny Perry (47). Players eliminated: 3. Remaining field: 3.

14. So that leaves us with the trio of Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair. Surprised? We are, although maybe it's not the shocker one might think. All three have won at least one TOUR event. All three are ranked in the top 30 of FedExCup points. All three have finished in the top 20 of at least one major this year. And when all three finish their careers, we can see at least one major win on each of their resumes.

But let's face it -- only one of those three is overdue to win a major. This year, Cink has tied for third at the Masters and 14th at the U.S. Open. He won for the fifth time on TOUR (Travelers Championship) and has six other top-10 finishes in '08.

So there's our winner: Stewart Cink. It's his time.


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