In his last two starts, Stewart Cink won the Claret Jug and tied for sixth at Firestone. (Franklin/Getty Images)
Five big-time players who are peaking at just the right time
A lot of players have the talent to win majors, but only some of them come into a major week on the kind of roll that makes you feel good about their chances. T.J. Auclair identifies five guys on a major roll.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
Here’s a look at five players who enter this week’s 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., riding high on momentum:
1. Tiger Woods. The world’s No. 1 player made it quite clear after a missed cut at the Open Championship – his first on Tour since the 2006 U.S. Open and just his second in a major as a pro – that it was a total fluke. He responded by returning to the Buick Open to win convincingly by three shots over Roland Thatcher, John Senden and Greg Chalmers. As if that wasn’t enough, Tiger overcame a three-shot, final-round deficit to Padraig Harrington in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, to win for the fifth time this season, the seventh time in his career at Firestone and the 70th time overall on the PGA Tour. So much for the injury hangover, right?
Even still, in terms of Tiger Woods, a season isn’t a true success unless it includes a major victory. That’s the one thing he doesn’t have yet in 2009. Plus, after a second-place finish at Hazeltine in 2002, you’ve got to think he feels like he has some unfinished business to tend to.
2. Stewart Cink. He’s the latest major champion and you can be sure that he heads to Hazeltine still on Cloud Nine after that dominating playoff-win over a 59-year-old Tom Watson at Turnberry. While many are convinced that Cink ruined potentially the best story in the history of sports, let us not forget that he’s also the same guy who holed a lengthy birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Turnberry to even have a shot at the unlikely playoff. Let’s give Cink his due. Don’t expect him to feel sorry for defeating Watson. As Cink pointed out in Scotland, it’s hard to feel bad for a guy whose name is etched on the Claret Jug five times.
All of that said, Cink’s major victory – even if it’s forever remembered as Watson’s major hiccup – was a long time coming. Cink had eight top-10 finishes in majors prior to his win. He’ll be a contender for a long time to come in the big ones and he’s riding high into Hazeltine after a tie for sixth at Firestone in his first start since the win at Turnberry.
3. Henrik Stenson. Unfortunately for Stenson, he will likely most be remembered in 2009 for stripping down to his boxer-briefs to play a shot from the water’s edge at Doral during the World Golf Championships-CA Championship in March. However, he should be more known for his stellar golf. After a win at the Players Championship, Stenson followed up with a ninth-place finish at the U.S. Open and a tie for 13th at the Open Championship. He’s contended in just about every big-time event on the schedule this year and is certainly primed to win his first major championship.
4. Retief Goosen. Talk about a career resurgence. After struggling mightily in 2007 and 2008, the South African has stormed out of obscurity in 2009 to reestablish himself as the major contender he always was following his 2001 U.S. Open win at Southern Hills. In 14 starts on the PGA Tour this season, he’s missed the cut just once. He’s finished in the top 5 on four occasions, highlighted by a win in March at the Transitions Championship. Goosen also lost in a playoff at the RBC Canadian Open just one week after a tie for fifth at the Open Championship. He’s always quietly in the hunt at major championships and with the way Goosen has played in 2009, the PGA Championship at Hazeltine should be no different.
5. Lucas Glover. It has been an outstanding season for the surprise winner of the U.S. Open. Aside from his career week at Bethpage Black, Glover also tied for second at the Quail Hollow Championship and tied for third at the Buick Invitational. Immediately after his win at Bethpage, Glover rattled off a tie for 11th at the Travelers Championship and a tie for fifth at Congressional in the AT&T National. His confidence has never been higher and it’s certainly showing on the course. All that momentum could very well carry over into Hazeltine.