Sleeper Picks: PGA Championship
Ian Poulter ... This 41-year-old presents similarly to how fellow 41-year-old Zach Johnson profiled for last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Both are proven, world-class talents outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking as they populate this page, which is one of my criteria to appear. At 63rd, Poulter has earned the most points in 2017 of all golfers outside the top 50 without the benefit of a victory. His co-runner-up at THE PLAYERS highlights three top 10s among six top 15s worldwide. That set includes each of his last three starts from Scotland to England to Canada. In a nod to his heyday, he's currently atop the PGA TOUR in both scrambling and strokes gained: around-the-green. He's also fourth in bogey avoidance. And despite ranking outside the top 100 in distance of all drives, greens in regulation and strokes gained: putting, he's 17th in adjusted scoring. For a pro's pro who loves the pressure, he's thriving on it. (Incidentally, ZJ placed second at Firestone to climb to 40th in the OWGR.) Brendan Steele … A popular endorsement in my preview material all year, he will surprise no one if he contends this week. The winner of the season-opening Safeway Open has four top 10s among 10 top 25s and ranks 15th in the FedExCup standings. He arrives fresh off a T24 at Firestone, his career-best finish in any World Golf Championship. Already has four top 20s in 12 starts in majors, including a pair in the PGA Championship and a T13 at Erin Hills in June. Overall at Quail Hollow, he's 5-for-6 with a T9 in 2015 and T14 in 2016. Sits 16th on TOUR in strokes gained: tee-to-green, second in GIR when going for the green and 35th in adjusted scoring. Hao Tong Li … In just his second career start in a major, he made history at The Open Championship with a third-place finish, best ever for a golfer from China. Yet, he turned 22 years of age just last Thursday, Aug. 3. The podium finish at Royal Birkdale was his fourth top five in official competition in eight-and-a-half-months. Plenty long off the tee, the rangy right-hander also cleans up nicely, evidenced by sitting 16th on the European Tour in putts per GIR and 15th in three-putt avoidance. Currently 12th in the Race to Dubai standings. Luke List … This opportunity if beyond overdue for the 32-year-old. It's been 10 years since he last qualified for a major (he missed the cut at the 2007 U.S. Open), but he reenters the action as a legitimate threat at Quail Hollow. Known best as one of the longest hitters on the PGA TOUR, he pays off the muscle with precision on approach at 18th in greens in regulation and second in GIR from off the fairway. He leads the circuit in GIR when going for the green and slots 15th in strokes gained: tee-to-green, third in par-5 scoring and first in eagles. Tied for 16th in his Wells Fargo Championship debut in 2013. Bud Cauley … It's hard enough for an established touring professional to sit out for an extended time with a serious injury, but when you're just settling in on what promises to be a long career and major surgery is required, it has to feel like a restart. This was his reality just three years ago when recovery and rehabilitation from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder sidelined him for nine months, but dedication to his physical fitness and long-term planning has paid off handsomely. After securing his card as one of the last in history via earnings for 2016-17, the now-27-year-old is 62nd in the FedExCup standings with five top 10s. He placed T12 in his last start at the John Deere Classic. Currently 30th on TOUR in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 45th in adjusted scoring. Also not a stranger to Quail Hollow where he's logged 10 competitive rounds.
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