Share this article:
Unpredictability has been the predominant theme going into all the majors in recent years and this week's PGA Championship on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is no exception.
Sixteen different players have claimed the last 16 major titles and that trend could continue as players such as British world number one Luke Donald and fourth-ranked Lee Westwood aim for their first grand slam crowns.
The dominant era of 14-times major winner Tiger Woods ended four years ago, his aura of invincibility swiftly disappearing as he battled injuries and tried to rebuild his golf swing and private life following the breakup of his marriage.
Though Woods has produced good form in fits and starts this year, winning a season-high three times on the PGA Tour, he has always judged the true success of his golfing campaigns by the number of majors won.
"Winning golf tournaments makes it successful, but winning a major makes it a great year," four-times PGA champion Woods said while preparing for the final major of 2012.
"You can go from having a 'so-so' year to all of a sudden winning one major and ... it's a great year because you're part of history when you do something like that.
"Ernie has been consistent this year ... but then all of a sudden it just jumps you into a different category," he said of South African Ernie Els who ended a 10-year victory drought at the majors by winning last month's British Open at Royal Lytham.
Woods was in contention going into the weekend at the last two majors before fading, finishing joint 21st at the U.S. Open and tying for third at the British Open.
However, he gave himself a timely confidence boost for Kiawah Island by firing a four-under-par 66 in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday to climb into a tie for eighth place.
"I feel very good about where I'm at. I'm excited about it," Woods said. "I putted well the last two days, which was good. My tee-to-green game was, I thought, pretty dialed in."
While Woods seeks a 15th major crown on the wind-swept Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Englishman Donald will be hunting his first, the single glaring hole in an otherwise glittering career resume.
"Since I first turned pro, the goal was always to win majors and that hasn't changed," said Donald, who has been world number one for a total of 56 weeks.
"I've been able to win tournaments without playing my best golf, and I think majors can be a similar deal. No matter what kind of game I come with to any of the tournaments, including the majors, I'm going to have a chance to win."
Donald and company face a brutal test this week on the par-72 7,676-yard Ocean Course, the longest layout ever to stage a major championship.
"The front nine is a really nice, playable golf course, and then the back nine is not," smiled Australian Adam Scott, who finished second to Els in last month's British Open after squandering a four-shot lead with four holes to play.
"If the wind blows, it's just going to be very difficult, even if they move tees forward and stuff like that. The green complexes are very severe on some holes, and there is extreme penalty for a miss."
Of all the majors in recent times, the PGA attracts the strongest field - this week the world's top 108 players are all scheduled to compete - and yet it has often been the most likely to throw up a surprise winner.
The championship was won in consecutive years from 2002 by unheralded Americans Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel, underlining that any player is capable of victory.
Keegan Bradley, in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, clinched last year's title in a playoff with fellow American Jason Dufner after starting the week ranked 108th in the world.
Other likely contenders this week are Masters champion Bubba Watson, 2011 U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, British duo Westwood and Justin Rose, Americans Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Dufner, and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Whoever ends up lifting the prized Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday will have coped best with one of golf's toughest challenges.