Commentary

Stick with Stenson at Hazeltine

Originally Published: August 10, 2009
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com

The PGA Championship is called Glory's Last Shot. But that's not just for the golfers involved, it's also for we prognosticators who're tying to pick a winner.

Best Ball Challenge

Three major championships thus far this year, three surprising winners all ranked 33rd or lower in the Official World Golf Rankings at the time of their victories. On the other hand, over the last five years, the PGA Championship winner has come from the top four in the OWGR.

Really presents quite a quandary, doesn't it? Enough of one to make you use two words starting with Q in the same sentence.

This is where I come into play. One hundred fifty six golfers will tee it up at the PGA Championship, and obviously only one will take home the big trophy and even bigger paycheck on Sunday afternoon.

Many will pick winners this week. Some will use some sort of evidence; others just pick based on a hunch or a whim. Most end up picking Tiger Woods.

I, on the other hand, will not just pick a winner, I'll pick 155 losers, based on statistics and trends. In the end, there'll be just one golfer left standing, and by process of elimination, he will be the 2009 PGA Championship winner. Feel free to play along at home.

First of all, this is the big time, and we need to pick a proven winner. After John Daly won the 1991 PGA Championship for his first career PGA Tour win, 16 of the last 17 winners in the event had already won at least once on the PGA Tour, the only exception being Shaun Micheel in 2003. The 72 golfers in this week's field who have never tasted victory on tour are eliminated, leaving us with 84.

I know we were all psyched to see Tom Watson's remarkable run in the British Open, but don't count on anything like that happening this time around, now that we're not on a links course. Twenty three of the last 24 PGA Championship winners have been under age 40, the only exception was Vijay Singh in 2004, who was a mere 41. So we take out the 26 graybeards in the field, and the list is down to 58.

Let's keep playing the age game, since we're having such a good time. I'm not just picking on the over-40 crowd. With the exception of Tiger Woods, every PGA Championship winner since 1992 has been over 30. Since I don't see any other Tiger Woods in the field, let's take out the 15 remaining who have yet to see their 30th birthday.

Going back to step No. 1, we don't just need somebody who's tasted victory on tour before, we need someone who's done it recently. Nine of the last 10 PGA Championship winners had won on tour earlier that season. Of the remaining 43 golfers, 27 have failed to win this year, and we're down to a sweet 16.

This is the last shot for golfers to win a 2009 major, but it's not like they haven't had shots before. And PGA Championship winners have tended to play well at the year's previous major, the British Open. Four of the last five winners finished in the top 20 at the British Open, and there was also a seven-year streak of doing so from 1994 to 2000. Fourteen of those who are still around failed to finish in the top 20 at the Open Championship at Turnberry, including a No. 1-ranked player in the world who shall remain nameless. We're down to a final two.

We need to flash back to the Masters. Since 1994, if a future PGA Championship winner played in that year's Masters, he made the cut. Both of the two left played in the Masters, but Stewart Cink didn't make the cut. Cink won't get his back-to-back majors, clearing the way for the one golfer left.

I'll look for Henrik Stenson to get his first career major win this week in the PGA Championship. Come along for the ride, because the numbers don't lie.

The Eliminator: Step-by-Step

1. Sixteen of the last 17 PGA Championship winners had a previous PGA Tour win. (72 eliminated, 84 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Michael Allen, Sam Arnold, Briny Baird, Ryan Benzel, Greg Bisconti, Tim Clark, Brian Davis, Keith Dicciani, Nick Dougherty, Jason Dufner, Ken Duke, Johan Edfors, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ross Fisher, Alastair Forsyth, Hiroyuki Fujita, Brian Gaffney, Robert Gaus, Mathew Goggin, Richard Green, Anders Hansen, Soren Hansen, Peter Hanson, Scott Hebert, Ryo Ishikawa, Thongchai Jaidee, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Brendan Jones, Shingo Katayama, Martin Kaymer, Soren Kjeldsen, Todd Lancaster, Thomas Levet, Eric Lippert, Mitch Lowe, John Mallinger, Steve Marino, Prayad Marksaeng, Graeme McDowell, John Merrick, Rory McIlroy, Mike Miles, Francesco Molinari, Colin Montgomerie, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Jeff Overton, Ian Poulter, Brett Quigley, Alvaro Quiros, Lee Rinker, Kevin Roman, Justin Rose, Steve Schneiter, Charl Schwartzel, Mark Sheftic, Michael Sim, Jeev Milkha Singh, David Smail, Mike Small, Chris Starkjohann, Kevin Streelman, Richard Sterne, Grant Sturgeon, Craig Thomas, Anthony Wall, Bubba Watson, Steve Webster, Tim Weinhart, Charlie Wi, Oliver Wilson, Chris Wood.

2. One of the last 24 PGA Championship winners have been over the age of 40. (27 eliminated, 57 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Stephen Ames, Woody Austin, Paul Azinger, Michael Bradley, Mark Brooks, Michael Campbell, Darren Clarke, Fred Couples, John Daly, Steve Elkington, Bob Estes, Steve Flesch, Retief Goosen, Paul Goydos, Jerry Kelly, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Scott McCarron, Shaun Micheel, Corey Pavin, Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Kevin Sutherland, David Toms, Bob Tway, Scott Verplank.

3. Other than Tiger Woods, each of the past 17 winners has been over 30. (14 eliminated, 43 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Aaron Baddeley, Sergio Garcia, Lucas Glover, J.B. Holmes, Trevor Immelman, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair, Andres Romero, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, D.J. Trahan, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney.

4. Nine of the last 10 winners won earlier that season on the PGA Tour. (27 eliminated, 16 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Cameron Beckman, Rich Beem, Chad Campbell, K.J. Choi, Ben Crane, Ben Curtis, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, J.J. Henry, Charley Hoffman, Charles Howell III, Ryuji Imada, Matt Kuchar, Justin Leonard, Will MacKenzie, Ryan Palmer, Rod Pampling, Carl Pettersson, John Senden, Marc Turnesa, Boo Weekley, Mike Weir, Lee Westwood.

5. Four of the last 5 winners were in the top 20 at that year's British Open. (14 eliminated, 2 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Angel Cabrera, Paul Casey, Brian Gay, Nathan Green, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Pat Perez, John Rollins, Rory Sabbatini, Bo Van Pelt, Mark Wilson, Tiger Woods, Y.E. Yang.

6. Since 1994, if a PGA Championship winner played in the Masters, he made the cut. (1 eliminated, 1 remaining)

Golfers eliminated: Stewart Cink

Your winner: Henrik Stenson

Matt Willis has been a production researcher with the ESPN Stats & Information group since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. You can reach Matt at ESPNMattWillis@yahoo.com.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.