Phil Mickelson, Tuesday at Whistling Straits
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rick Lipsey and Farrell Evans, writer-reporters for Sports Illustrated, pick a winner and make their predictions for the world's top 10 players, wild-card contenders and the top club pro at Whistling Straits.

THE TOP 10
1. Tiger Woods
RL: Woods hasn't had a winless season since he turned pro in 1996. But everything about him on and off the course is a shambles, so this year could be Woods's first bagel in the victory column.
FE: Last time Tiger was at Whistling Straits he almost shot himself out of the tournament with a first round 75 and never really was in contention, finishing T-24.
Best PGA Finish: 1st, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007
Prognosis: Making the cut is no guarantee. 100-1

2. Phil Mickelson
RL: Firestone was no more than a tune-up for this week, so his blow-up last Sunday isn't worrisome. Phil lives for majors, and the monster-long Whistling Straits is perfect for Phil.
FE: You're right. Phil had stunk it up coming into the Masters, but he played there like he was coming off a hot streak.
Best PGA Finish: 1st, 2005
Prognosis: At the very least, he'll surpass Woods and become No. 1 in the World Ranking. Taking another PGA is a good possibility. 6-1

3. Lee Westwood
Westwood withdrew because of an injury in his right calf.

4. Steve Stricker
RL: He's accrued loads of money and victories, but he's never won a major. Playing in his home state gives him the perfect setting to finally win a big one.
FE: Stricker is an average-length driver on tour (282.6) but one of the top putters (6th ranked). So he makes a ton of birdies (about four per round). So it's hard to discount his odds, especially playing on his home turf.
Best PGA Finish: 2nd, 1998
Prognosis: How he handles the nerves of playing in his native and beloved Wisconsin will determine his fate. We hope he wins it for the cheesheads. 12-1

5. Jim Furyk
RL: He's been missing (for him) lots of greens this year (ranked 79th), and the Straits punish even the slightest miss. Furyk's relative shortness will also hurt him at the monster-long layout.
FE: This one is easy. He's played pretty sloppy in the majors this year: missed cut at the Masters and British and a very middling U.S. Open for him (16th place). I don't think so.
Best PGA Finish: T-6, 1997
Prognosis: Mr. Consistency is always a threat, especially in nerve-wracking majors. 20-1

\n6. Ernie Els
RL: Despite having two wins this year, I don't see the fire in Els's eyes or body language. A disappointing U.S. Open finish and MC at the British Open leave me wondering about the Big Easy.
FE: Ernie is playing well but his putting has let him down. Every time I look he's missed a 7 to 10 footer. He's only ranked 84th in putting. That's amazing for a guy who tops the tour money list and scoring average (69.63).
Best PGA Finish: 3rd, 1995 and 2007
Prognosis: With four top fives in his last six PGAs, he's got to be a favorite. But he's not on our list of top contenders. 40-1

7. Luke Donald
RL: I love his game — laser-accurate irons, bullseye putter — but wonder if his short-poking driver (172nd, 276.9 yards) will keep him out of contention.
FE: Donald used to be the best young English player in the world. Now he's a distant fourth to Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Justin Rose.
Best PGA Finish: T-3, 2006
Prognosis: Mr. Nice Guy could well become the second European to bag a major this year. 23-1

8. Rory McIlroy
RL: I love how he bounced back from a second-round 80 at St. Andrews to tie for third at the British Open. Clearly, McIlroy's mind is as strong as his game.
FE: Rory's got the swing and the self-regard to be great, but Whistling Straits has too many little quirks for his air assault to hold up four days.
Best PGA Finish: T-3, 2009
Prognosis: Putting is his bugaboo (he's ranked 171st), so unless he has a career week on the greens, we don't see him hoisting the Wanamaker trophy.

\n9. Paul Casey
RL: My pick to win the British almost took the jug and tied for third. I'm taking this long-hitting Peter Kostis disciple again this week.
FE: He's hit or miss.
Best PGA Finish: T-15, 2008
Prognosis: Except for his British Open run last month, he usually seems to flail in majors. 40-1

10. Ian Poulter
RL: He has been largely AWOL since winning the Match Play in February. But this Ryder Cup die-hard will have his game on form with the matches just two months away.
FE: He's got that Payne Stewart swagger with some of Payne's great tempo. But he's been in a ball-striking funk for most of the year with very mediocre results.
Best PGA Finish: T-9, 2006
Prognosis: He might be ready for his big breakthrough. 18-1

\nWILDCARDS
Louis Oosthuizen
RL: Great game, sweet smile, smooth putting stroke. But I don't see lightning striking twice, at least not in this decade for the young South African.
FE: I love everything about this South African, who's kept up his great play since the British with two top 10s in his last two events. But two majors in one year? Never.
Best PGA Finish: 73rd, 2008
Prognosis: We'll bet all of our Time Warner stock options (OK, so we're not going out on a limb) that he won't win a second major. 175-1

Graeme McDowell
RL: Great game, sweet smile, smooth putting stroke. But I don't see lightning striking twice, at least not in this decade for the young Irishman.
FE:Graeme hung on at Pebble Beach but he didn't absolutely run away with it. The folks at the PGA like birdies too much to let another survivor slip through the cracks.
Best PGA Finish: T-10, 2009
Prognosis: We'll bet all of our Time Warner stock options (OK, so we're not going out on a limb) that he won't win a second major. 175-1

Hunter Mahan
RL: The envy of the locker room after getting engaged to a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Mahan also commands respect for his elite-level game. The only void on his resume is a major, but his Firestone high might lead to a letdown this week.
FE: His coach, Sean Foley, has called him the best driver of the golf ball in the world. I'll believe it when I see him do it in the majors.
Prognosis: He'll win multiple majors, but the first won't come this week. 75-1

CLUB PRO MOST LIKELY TO MAKE THE CUT
Sonny Skinner
RL: Yes, Skinner used to play on Tour, but every club pro in the PGA either played on Tour or tried to make it, so none of these give lessons because they want to. Skinner turns 50 next week, so his game will be peaking because the Champions Tour beckons.
FE: Sonny is a legend in my home state of Georgia. I would love to see him make the cut.

AND THE WINNER IS...
Bo Van Pelt
RL: After getting his first victory last season, this father of three adorable kids is having a career year with five top-five finishes in top-shelf events (Heritage, Quail Hollow, Players, Memorial, WGC-Bridgestone). His mojo is peaking.
FE: Ten-footers seem like 100-footers to him, but no one hits it closer to the hole than he does. He'll convert enough of those short ones to win this thing.
Best PGA Finish: T-17, 2005
Prognosis: Bo might be a darkhorse to casual fans, but on Tour his air-tight game, as well as his cheerful smile, are well known to everybody. This will be a hugely popular victory in the locker room.

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