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Phil Mickelson could capture major No. 4 this week. (Franklin/Getty Images)

What to look for on Thursday? A lot!

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As the 90th PGA Championship tees off, there are storylines a-plenty to follow. How about the youth movement? Rocco? What will Phil do? Can Kenny Perry break through? And that's just for starters!

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - They're getting a bit used to it now.

You know, the whole major-without-Tiger thing. In fact, if we're talking asterisks, maybe it's Mr. Woods who should have one. After all, he's still leading the FedExCup and Ryder Cup points lists, but he won't be available for the Playoffs or the showdown against Europe.

So the players have moved on. To the 90th PGA Championship here at the Monster, better known as Oakland Hills. To the par 3s where players will hit woods instead of irons. To the last chance to grab a major this season.

And finally to the idea that it's time to stop talking about who's going to step up and fill the void, who's going to be the next you-know-who, who's going to challenge him when he gets back.

Why don't we simply let this major unfold, just like last month at the Open Championship?

How cool was it to watch a 53-year-old Greg Norman stalking the wind-whipped fairways at Royal Birkdale for four days before being run down by one of the nicest and always most underrated players winning his second Open in a row? And Padraig Harrington wasn't even sure he could play until he teed it up Thursday morning and survived that first twinge of his wrist from the rough.

Same goes for watching Rocco Mediate work up a facial scruff worthy of the nasty weather and win over a few more thousand fans. Or knowing Kenny Perry knew what was right for him when he decided to skip the Open Championship and came close to his third win this year.

Which brings us to this week's event. And a laundry list of possibilities - from first to fourth majors, surprise winners to Ryder Cup makers and Playoffs positioning.

So, for those of you still needing something that might grab your attention in this Tiger lull, we'll lay out - in no certain order - our favorite potential story lines heading into Thursday's first round:

--Youth movement. Anthony Kim's maturity level is rising exponentially and so are his win totals. Two this year. He's got it all, he can nail it off the tee and everything about him has a major look. Birkdale taught him to stop forcing things and let it come to him.

--Kenny Perry. No, he doesn't like Rees Jones' super-sizing. But what an incredible season he's had. So good he'll be playing in front of the home crowd in the Ryder Cup and he's in the mix now as one of the best players yet to win a major. Only way this year gets better right now? He's holding the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday night. More than enough to make up for that playoff loss at Valhalla.

--Phil Mickelson. What will Phil do next? Definitely not leave his driver in the locker. Not here. The man who makes almost every swing an adventure needs to tidy up the short game that cost him last week at Bridgestone. If he does -- and if he stops overthinking -- it could be major No. 4.

More PGA Championship:
Pairings, tee times
The Wanamaker Trophy
Oakland Hills changes
Maginnes: Which one?

--Rocco. Wouldn't you love it? He would. In a year of great stories, how good would this one be? He's played just nine holes because he's tired, but he knows the course from the British Open qualifier. "I know where the fairways are,'' he said. "Put the ball in the fairway and go from there. It's not rocket science. It's just you've got to be under these holes. You cannot play from over these greens." We like the way he thinks.

--Harrington, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter. No European has won this championship since 1930, but one of these guys just might snap that streak. All of them have great memories here from the 2004 Ryder Cup and ... well, Harrington just won his second straight Open, Poulter stuck a shot in there to finish second, Westwood was one shot away from making Torrey a three-player playoff and finished second to Vijay Singh last week and, well, hopefully, someone learned from another Sergi-uh-oh at Birkdale.

--Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk. Cink wants to join the club with his first major and he's been close a number of times. Furyk wants to set himself apart with his second major. Cink leads the Ryder Cup points list, won at Travelers and tied for third
at Augusta; Furyk gutted out a tie for fifth at Birkdale.

--Singh. Long time, no see. But he came back last week with a win at the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. Looking to jump back in the game and pick up his fourth major.

--Ernie Els. The Big Easy -- we've missed that sweet swing -- was anything but at Birkdale. He ran out of patience and still finished tied for seventh. Hasn't had the year he'd like, but he's working his way back. He's had four top fives at PGA Championships and a win here would be the third leg of a career Slam. Enough said.

--Adam Scott. Injuries are major players in '08. Tiger's knee. Padraig's wrist. Trevor Immelman's pick-one. Scott had a broken hand at Torrey and now he's got a fever. The Aussie's had trouble closing and we keep waiting for that major game he had in his first Masters to reappear. It fits the trend.

--Davis Love III. Oakland Hills owes him one. Majors in general owe him another one or two. He's got the length, his game's back on track and aren't we due for another rainbow? If that happens, will Justin Leonard be far behind?

--Boo Weekley and Chad Campbell. Two long hitters who fit the surprising things can happen here storyline -- Andy North (1985 U.S. Open), Steve Jones (1996 U.S. Open). It took a one-in-a-million shot to beat Campbell at the 2003 PGA and Boo? Well, isn't he a perfect fit for blue-collar Detroit?

--Sean O'Hair, Zach Johnson, Jeff Quinney, Nick Dougherty, Paul Casey ... everyone's looking for that last shot. Yes, the Europeans have a couple of more weeks to make their Ryder Cup team on points, but a win here would nail it.

--And, finally ... The Monster. Ben Hogan gave it the nickname when he brought Donald Ross' course to its knees in 1951. Now, it's an uber-Monster with driver or 3-wood par 3s and greens filled with top-10 crazy putts. If that's not bad enough, rain is expected -- and much less than 1996's flood. Just be glad it's not Birkdale winds. They'd never finish.

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