PGA Championship tier rankings: Will it take a miracle for Tiger to win?

PGA Championship tier rankings: Will it take a miracle for Tiger to win?

TULSA, Okla. — The PGA Championship returns to Southern Hills Country Club for the first time since 2007, when Tiger Woods won his 13th major championship and fourth Wanamaker Trophy.

Woods will be back here this week trying to win his 16th major championship and 83rd PGA Tour victory, which would be the most in history.


Defending champion Phil Mickelson isn’t here, as his exile from professional golf continues after his controversial comments about the PGA Tour and financiers of a Saudi Arabian-backed breakaway circuit became public. It will be just the fourth PGA Championship without the defending champion in the field. Woods was the last one; he didn’t defend his title in 2008 while recovering from knee surgery.

While Woods isn’t expected to be much of a contender in just his second start after a serious car accident in February 2021, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, who will be trying to complete the career grand slam, are among the favorites.

Who can win in the hot and blustery conditions at Southern Hills? Here’s a look at each of the players in the field, divided into groups from the legitimate contenders to the PGA club professionals:

Jump to a section:
Guys who can win | If everything goes right | Miracles happen
| Happy to make the cut Amateurs

Tier I: The guys who can win

They’re many of golf’s biggest young stars, who have the game, guts and nerves to handle four pressure-packed rounds at a major championship.

Scottie Scheffler
Scheffler would reach rare air with his fifth PGA Tour victory. In the past 30 years, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information, only three players have won five tour events in a stretch of 10 starts or fewer: Woods (several times), Vijay Singh (2004) and Nick Price (1994). Scheffler would also become the first player to win five times in a season before the end of May since Tom Watson in 1980.

Jon Rahm
The Spaniard picked up his first victory in nearly a year, since the 2001 U.S. Open, at the Mexico Open earlier this month. He owns a career scoring average in majors of 70.90, which is not only better than Woods (70.98), but is fifth-best all-time among players with 50 major rounds played. Rahm has finished in the top 10 in 41% of his major championship starts.

Justin Thomas
Thomas just turned 29 and has only one major championship victory, the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. He admitted at the Masters that he hasn’t performed well enough in majors. A magician with a wedge in his hands, JT might be poised to end the drought this week. He would become only the fifth player to win multiple PGA Championships before the age of 30.

Patrick Cantlay
Cantlay might be the best player in the world who hasn’t won a major championship. His five tour victories since October 2020 are the most by any player on tour. In his last two starts, he lost to Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the RBC Heritage and paired with Xander Schauffele to win the Zurich Classic.

Cameron Smith
The Australian’s track record in the PGA Championship hasn’t been great. His best finish was in his first one, a tie for 25th at Whistling Straits in 2015. But his putter has been red-hot; he ranks fourth in one-putt percentage (44.97) and shots gained putting (.922).

Rory McIlroy
The two-time PGA Championship winner is coming off consecutive top-5 finishes for the first time since March 2020, with a runner-up at the Masters and solo fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship. He seems to be in great form to end a nearly eight-year drought without a major title. He has 14 Top-10 finishes since his last major win, tied for second most of any player since the start of 2015.

Jordan Spieth
Spieth won again at the RBC Heritage last month and finished second at the AT&T Byron Nelson this past weekend. He only needs a victory in the PGA Championship to become the sixth man to complete the career grand slam in the Masters era. Given his recent form, his sixth attempt might be his best chance. At 28 years old, he’d be the third-youngest to accomplish the feat, behind only Woods (24) and Jack Nicklaus (26).

Collin Morikawa
Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park, in his first start at the event. The previous three players to win the event at age 23 were Nicklaus, Woods and McIlroy. Morikawa’s ballstriking skills will be at a premium at Southern Hills.

Viktor Hovland
Hovland played at Oklahoma State and still lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, so the swirling winds of Southern Hills probably won’t be a problem for him. He made the cut in eight of his nine career major starts, but has yet to record a Top-10 finish.

Hideki Matsuyama
The 2021 Masters champion has been bothered by neck and back injuries this season, but he’s been very good when healthy. He tied for third at the Byron Nelson and is one of just three players to make the cut in each PGA Championship since his debut at the event in 2013.

Xander Schauffele
Schauffele has nine top-10 finishes in 19 starts in majors, but just one in the PGA Championship: a tie for 10th at Harding Park two years ago. He has played Southern Hill just once, an amateur event eight years ago.

Will Zalatoris
The ballstriking machine grew up in Texas, so he’ll be used to the unpredictable gusts at Southern Hills. He won the rain-shortened Trans-Mississippi Championship here as an amateur, at 17 years old in 2014.

Shane Lowry
Lowry was rounding into form heading into the PGA Championship, with a tie for third at both the Masters and the RBC Heritage. The Irishman loves blustery conditions, as evidenced by his victory in The Open at Royal Portrush in 2019.

Dustin Johnson
The two-time PGA Championship runner-up hasn’t been in contention much this season, but he hasn’t exactly played bad golf, either. He had two top-10s at The Players and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and tied for 12th at the Masters.

Sam Burns
The 25-year-old has already won three times on tour, but hasn’t fared very well in majors. That switch will flip sometime soon. His best finish in a major was a tie for 29th in the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

Max Homa
In the 2016-17 season, Homa had 17 tour starts and missed 15 cuts. Since May 2019, he has won four times on the PGA Tour. Only Cantlay, McIlroy, Morikawa and Thomas have won more often.

Daniel Berger
A back injury has limited Berger to just eight starts on tour this season. But he’s one of the best players in the world with a wedge in his hands, so he might be a factor at Southern Hills.

Brooks Koepka
The two-time PGA champion hasn’t played since missing the cut at the Masters. He withdrew from last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson for undisclosed reasons. He tied for second at Kiawah Island last year, 2 strokes behind Mickelson.

Tier II: If everything goes right

Here are the dark horse candidates to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. The list includes former major champions who have battled injuries and inconsistency this season. Will it all come together this week at Southern Hills?

Tyrrell Hatton
The Englishman isn’t a fan of Augusta National, but he has two top-10s at the PGA Championship. He’s one of the best putters on tour.

Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen hasn’t had great form this season. But he finished tied for third or better in three of four majors in 2021.

Billy Horschel
Horschel has been one of the more consistent players on tour, but not so much in the majors. He has one top-10 in 32 career starts in majors. He has been good lately, with five finishes of 16th or better in his last eight starts.

Joaquin Niemann
The wire-to-wire winner at The Genesis earlier this season, Niemann has yet to finish better than a tie for 23rd at a major.

Adam Scott
The Australian has six career top-10s at the PGA Championship, including a tie for third at Medinah in 2006 and solo third at Bellerive in 2018.

Matt Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick, a 27-year-old Englishman, leads the tour in shots gained total and is fourth in scoring average. That has to translate into his first tour victory at some point.

Corey Conners
Conners, 30, has produced three straight top-10s at the Masters. His best finish at the PGA Championship was a tie for 17th last year.

Seamus Power
Power had a sizzling start after the new year, but cooled off considerably by missing the cut in five of eight events.

Russell Henley
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Henley is still searching for his first top-10 at a major.

Justin Rose
The former world No. 1 had top 10s in each of the last two PGA Championships: ninth at Harding Park in 2021 and a tie for eighth at Kiawah Island last year.

Sebastian Munoz
No player had shot 60 in the same season until Munoz did it in the first round of last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. His 60 on Thursday included a one-shot penalty for an unplayable lie. He also shot 60 at the RSM Classic.

Tony Finau
After a not-so-great start to the season, there were signs of life with a tie for second at the Mexico Open. He had back-to-back top-10s in the last two PGA Championships: a tie for fourth at Harding Park and a tie for eighth at Kiawah Island.

Abraham Ancer
Ancer had his best finish at a major in last year’s PGA Championship with a tie for eighth. He shot 7-under 65 in the final round at Kiawah Island.

Kevin Kisner
Kisner is putting very well again, and he’s pretty creative around the green. He’s going to be at a disadvantage off the tee because of the length of Southern Hills, so there’s little margin for error.

Gary Woodland
Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open winner, has two top-10s in 10 starts at the PGA Championship.

Webb Simpson
Simpson, the 2021 U.S. Open winner, has never had a top-10 finish in 11 PGA Championship starts.

Patrick Reed
Reed’s game has been out of sorts for much of this season with just one top-10 in 16 tour starts.

Cameron Champ
Champ hits the ball very, very far — he leads the tour in driving distance (323.8 yards) — but the rest of his game hasn’t been great this season. He tied for sixth at the Mexico Open.

Talor Gooch
Another former Oklahoma State star, Gooch is a native of Midwest City, Oklahoma. He’ll be a fan favorite at Southern Hills.

Brian Harman
Harman was rounding into form with a couple of top-10s since late March. He withdrew from the AT&T Byron Nelson last week for undisclosed reasons.

Marc Leishman
A six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Leishman missed the cut in each of his past three starts at the PGA Championship.

Harold Varner III
HV3 made the cut in each of his last three PGA Championship starts, tying for 36th, 29th and 49th.

Luke List
List, who won for the first time on tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, was solo sixth at the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

Cameron Young
The PGA Tour rookie already has three runner-up finishes and averages more than 315 yards off the tee.

Davis Riley
The former Alabama star already has five top-10s as a PGA Tour rookie, including a tie for ninth at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Tier III: Hey, miracles happen

They are long shots — even if the list includes the biggest star in golf history. It will take a lot of breaks and good bounces for them to be in contention this weekend.

Tiger Woods
It’s remarkable that Woods, a four-time PGA Championship winner, is back playing golf after nearly losing his right leg in a car wreck in February 2021. As we saw at Augusta National in April, expecting Woods to compete for 72 holes is probably asking too much, too soon. But he’s had five additional weeks to get stronger, so it’s probably silly to rule him out completely.

Bubba Watson
The two-time Masters championship missed the cut in three of his last five PGA Championship starts.

Aaron Wise
Harry Higgs
Tommy Fleetwood
Sergio Garcia
Joel Dahmen

Kevin Na
Na’s track record at the PGA Championship hasn’t been great. He missed the cut in eight of 13 starts and has just one top-10 finish.

Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau had surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his left hand on April 14. His recovery was expected to take 6-8 weeks, but he was ripping drivers at his house this weekend and arrived at Tulsa on Monday. Barring a setback, he’ll try to compete this week.

Jason Kokrak
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Kokrak is still searching for his first top-10 at a major. He tied for 14th at the Masters in April.

Robert MacIntyre
Francesco Molinari
Jason Day
Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Sepp Straka
Straka won his first PGA Tour event at the Honda Classic in late February. He’ll be making just his second PGA Championship start; he tied for 66th in 2020.

Keegan Bradley
Lee Westwood

Tom Hoge
Hoge picked up his first PGA Tour victory at Pebble Beach in early February. He has just one top-15 finish since then.

K.H. Lee
Lee, back-to-back winner of the Byron Nelson, once joked that he wanted to be the “No. 1 sexiest golfer in the world.”

Matthew Wolff

Kevin Streelman
Streelman, who once put 200,000 miles on his mom’s Nissan while playing on the Dakotas Tour, finished a surprising eighth at Kiawah Island last year.

Mackenzie Hughes
Hudson Swafford
J.J. Spaun
Brendan Steele

Stewart Cink
Cink, 48, tied for fourth at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive.

Si Woo Kim
Alex Noren
Ryan Fox
Lanto Griffin

Ian Poulter
Might this be the last time we see Poulter before he jumps to the Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf Invitational Series? Along with Mickelson, Westwood and Garcia, Poulter has been closely connected to LIV Golf.

Lucas Herbert
Zach Johnson
Matt Jones
Chan Kim
Chris Kirk

Matt Kuchar
Kuchar has been consistently good in the PGA Championship with four top-10s and six top-25s in 13 starts.

Min Woo Lee
Keith Mitchell
Erik van Rooyen
Thomas Pieters

Tier IV: Happy to make the cut

They aren’t expected to be among the contenders unless something magical happens. There are former champions who are still playing because, well, they earned the chance to keep playing. No one gave Mickelson much of a chance of winning at Kiawah Island last year, either.

Lucas Glover
Mito Pereira
Chad Ramey

Maverick McNealy
The 26-year-old former Stanford star is dripping with talent, and it won’t be long before he wins on the PGA Tour. But he has yet to make a cut at a major.

Garrick Higgo
Carlos Ortiz
Daniel van Tonder
Bernd Wiesberger

Padraig Harrington
Mickelson wasn’t the only aging former champion who performed well at Kiawah Island last year. Harrington, the European Ryder Cup captain at Whistling Straits, tied for fourth at 2 under, 4 shots behind Mickelson.

Jhonattan Vegas
Cameron Tringale
Henrik Stenson
Rikuya Hoshino

Rickie Fowler
Fowler had his best showing at a major in a while at last year’s PGA Championship. He tied for eighth at 1 under with three sub-par rounds.

Anirban Lahiri
Justin Harding
Cam Davis
Adam Hadwin
Sam Horsfield
Ryan Palmer

Nicolai Hojgaard
Hojgaard, from Denmark, is considered one of Europe’s up-and-coming stars for future Ryder Cups. Only 21, he has already won twice on the DP World Tour.

Branden Grace
Dean Burmester
Richard Bland

Ryan Brehm
Brehm, who won the Puerto Rico Open in March to retain his PGA Tour status, is playing in just his second major. He tied for 53rd at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Patton Kizzire
Laurie Canter
Beau Hossler
Adri Arnaus
Troy Merritt

Bio Kim
The name might sound familiar. Kim was suspended for one year from playing on the Korean Tour after flipping off a fan and slamming his club to the ground at a tournament on Sept. 29, 2019. He lost his temper after the fan’s cell-phone camera went off during his swing.

Scott Stallings
Shaun Norris
Oliver Bekker
Yuki Inamori
Russell Knox
Adam Schenk
Charl Scwhartzel

Alex Cejka
Cejka was disqualified from the Regions Tradition in Alabama, an event he won last year, after the third round on Saturday for using “a yardage book that had not been approved for the competition by the PGA Tour Champions Rules Committee.” He was disqualified from the 2019 Honda Classic for the same rules violation.

Kazuki Higa

Pablo Larrazabal
Larrazabal, from Spain, is probably the only player in the field who once jumped into a lake to evade stinging hornets. It happened at the 2014 Malaysian Open. He needed injections for multiple stings, but somehow still shot 68 in the round.

Kramer Hickok
Sadom Kaewkanjana
Takumi Kanaya

Joohyung Kim
The 19-year-old from South Korea is playing in his second major after missing the cut at Harding Park in 2020. Interestingly, he goes by the name Tom because of his love of the TV show “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends” as a kid.

Ryosuke Kinoshita
Jinichiro Kozuma
Rich Beem

John Daly
The most memorable moment of the 1991 PGA Championship winner’s performance last year was when his golf cart (the PGA allows him to use one because of osteoarthritis in his right knee) got stuck in the sand at Kiawah Island. He finished last after shooting 85-86. Daly also was disqualified from the Regions Tradition on Friday for failing to sign his scorecard.

Jason Dufner
Martin Kaymer
Shaun Micheel
Y.E. Yang

Tier V: PGA professionals

They finished in the top 20 in points at the PGA Professional Championship in April to earn a spot in the field. Only one PGA pro, Brad Marek, made the cut at Kiawah Island in 2021.

Alex Beach
Beach, from Rye, New York, is ambidextrous. Although he plays left-handed, he can swing a club right-handed better most days.

Brandon Bingaman

Michael Block
You have to love the Californian’s optimism. He has “Why Not?” imprinted on his golf balls.

Matthew Borchert

Tyler Collet
The club pro from Vero Beach, Florida, played just one year of golf in high school and didn’t play at Eastern Kentucky University.

Paul Dickinson

Tim Feenstra

Austin Hurt
Hurt, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, competed in the 2001 Little League World Series.

Colin Inglis
A pro from Junction City, Oregon, Inglis’ sister, Caroline, plays on the LPGA Tour.

Nic Ishee

Jared Jones
A former Ohio State letterman, Jones caddied for Nicklaus at the Scarlet Course in 2006 after the Golden Bear redesigned it for $1.

Sean McCarty
McCarty, a former star at Iowa, grew up playing on a nine-hole course that his parents bought when he was 3.

Kyle Mendoza

Jesse Mueller
Mueller is the general manager of the Grand Canyon University Golf Course and a volunteer assistant at the school. He won the PGA Professional Championship by 5 shots in April.

Dylan Newman
Zac OakleyCasey Pyne
Ryan Vermeer
Shawn Warren

Wyatt Worthington II
Worthington, from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, is making his second start in the PGA Championship. In 2016, he became just the second Black club pro to play in the PGA Championship; Tom Woodard was the first in 1991.

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