Although Bradley, who won last year's PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club in his first major championship start, is the hottest player, he'd become a trendy pick to win at Kiawah even before capturing his third Tour win last weekend.
"He's a volcano waiting to erupt," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said early last week. "He leads the PGA Tour in the all-around statistic. I mean, nobody through the bag is better than this guy. I really think this guy has the makings of going on and being a multiple major championship winner."
McDowell finished T12 at the Masters, T2 at the U.S. Open and T5 at the British. He's as much a volcano as anyone. And his countryman and Ryder Cup partner, McIlroy, may be on the verge of something big as well. McIlroy's moment at Congressional last summer came on a wet course where he could deploy his American-style target-golf to greatest effect. Kiawah is expected to be hit with heavy rain Thursday and Friday, and may reward exactly that type of golf.
Oosthuizen and Watson (and for that matter Simpson) are the wildcards. At least one of them will almost certainly be in the mix Sunday, the most likely candidate being Watson, who came so close to winning at Whistling, and who admitted earlier this week that it's probably time to move on from his Masters victory.
"Being a major champion, it's great," Watson said. "But I don't know, it was like four or five months ago, so we've got to try to do something else now."
Top-ranked Luke Donald, Scott, Steve Stricker and Lee Westwood lead the pack of players who would be elated with just one major championship win. And then there's Furyk, for whom a win would ease the sting of Olympic and Firestone.
Unlike Whistling in 2010, there will be no bunkers on the course; all sand will play as a waste area, so players will be allowed to ground their clubs and pick up loose impediments. Alas, there's a caveat. Said Kerry Haigh, managing director of championships for the PGA of America: "We are going to put rakes in and around many of those sandy areas inside the ropes, and we have posted a notice to the players, mainly to ask them as a courtesy to other players, to kind of rake those areas after they're finished if they cause severe damage; but as there is so much sandy area, there is still likely to be footprints, tire tracks, etcetera, both inside the ropes and outside the ropes." In other words, even with everyone reading from the same rules sheet, a ball that finds a footprint could decide this PGA.
That'll only add to the fun at an already wild-looking tournament. South Carolina's first major will be played on a course with more seaside holes (10) than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere. The last time the world's best golfers tackled Kiawah, at the '91 Ryder Cup, the course won, the U.S. finished second and Europe got the bronze. Three par-4s are at least 494 yards. The par-3 17th hole, which is 223 yards over water, may cause feelings of nausea and blurred vision. Johnny Miller has called Kiawah possibly the hardest course in the world when the wind is up.
Let the free-for-all begin.