Midwest stalwart Steve Stricker has won twice this year already. (Cohen/Getty Images)
Will familiar name prevail this week, or will someone break through?
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington have hogged the major hardware in recent years, but they haven't won them all. Stan Awtrey identifies five prime candidates to capture their first major title.
By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Many comparisons have already been made to 2003, when four unexpected faces emerged with major championships. Mike Weir won the Masters while Jim Furyk captured the U.S. Open, Ben Curtis the Open Championship and Shaun Micheel the PGA Championship.
The ensuing years have had fewer surprises, because Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington have been rather stingy when it comes to winning or holding on to championship hardware.
This year has been very similar to 2003, though. Angel Cabrera won the Masters in a playoff, Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open in a waterlogged Monday finish and Stewart Cink won the Open Championship in a playoff against Old Tom (Watson, not Morris).
Now the PGA Championship gets its spot in the rotation. Will the Wanamaker Cup be taken away by Woods (0-for-3 in majors this year on his new knee) or Phil Mickelson (who has ridden an emotional roller-coaster over the last three months)? Or will some other champion-in-waiting step forth to grab what has become known as Glory's Last Shot?
The PGA Championship has produced its share of "huh?" moments over the years. Wayne Grady won at Shoal Creek in 1990 and John Daly burst on the scene win a win in 1991 at Crooked Stick. Mark Brooks won it in a playoff over Kenny Perry at Valhalla in 1996 and Micheel stuck a 7-iron within inches of the 72nd hole to win at Oak Hill in 2003. For Daly and Micheel, the PGA Championship was their first victory.
Hazeltine National could provide another unlikely winner, just as it did in 2002 when Rich Beem won a game of chicken with Tiger Woods. The Beemer continues to entertain us, but he hasn't won since that week. Perhaps someone will catch fire this week and join the unlikely champions in this year's winner's circle.
Here are five top players who could pick up their first major championship at Hazeltine. A victory by any would not be considered a surprise.
Steve Stricker: He's already won twice this year, has seven top-10 finishes, and is No. 2 in FedExCup points. He tied for sixth at the Masters, 23rd at the U.S. Open and was a distant T52 at the Open Championship. His best PGA Championship finish was second in 1998 at Sahalee.
Sergio Garcia: Too talented to discount, even though he's had a poor year. He tied for 10th at the U.S. Open and tied for 38th at the Masters and Open Championship. Twice he's finished second at the PGA Championship, though, including in 2008 to Harrington.
Sean O'Hair: His recent results haven't been as good as those from earlier this season, but he's made the cut in each major. He tied for 10th at Augusta, 23rd at Bethpage and 65th at Turnberry. His best showing at the PGA is a tie for 12th in 2006 at Medinah.
Paul Casey: His season turned south once the calendar turned to June. Casey, who has won three times on both sides of the Atlantic this year, hasn't finished better than 47th (at the Open Championship) in his last four events, but observers know that Casey is always capable of throwing a 64 on the board. He tied for 20th at the Masters but missed the cut at the U.S. Open. His best showing at the PGA came last year with a tie for 15th at Oakland Hills. A pulled muscle in his ribcage, though, makes the No. 3 player in the world something of a question mark.
Hunter Mahan: Is there a better streak putter (not named Woods) than Mahan? Other than missing the cut at the Open Championship, Mahan has played as well as anyone since June 1. During a stretch of four weeks his worst finish was a tie for 14th at Memorial and he was second at the AT&T National. Can he play under pressure? Just look at the tapes from the 2008 Ryder Cup. In this year's other majors he tied for 10th at the Masters and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open. His best finish at the PGA Championship was a tie for 18th at Southern Hills in 2007.
Of course, if the real Tiger Woods shows up, everyone else may be playing for second. Right now, though, these other guys will be glad to fill the void.