Who can and who cannot win the PGA Championship

Finally, after waiting more than a year, we will get to see the first golf major of 2020.

And if watching PGA Tour players try their luck at a city-owned municipal course wasn’t enough, we’ll get a rare glimpse of Tiger Woods, who has played only four competitive rounds since February.

Woods, 44, will be back in action at the 102nd PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, where he will try to win for the 83rd time in his storied career, which would break his tie with Sam Snead for most in tour history. Woods will also try for the fourth time to win his 16th major championship, which would only trail Jack Nicklaus’ 18.

Woods hasn’t claimed a PGA Championship since winning at Southern Hills in 2007, and the 4,746 days between victories would be the most in PGA Championship history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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Of course, Brooks Koepka is the two-time defending champion, and he’ll try to become the first player to three-peat at the PGA Championship in the stroke-play era (since 1958).

Who will be Koepka’s biggest challengers? Here’s a look at each of the players in the field, divided into groups from the legitimate contenders to dreamers to the PGA club pros:

Tier I: The guys who can win

Here are the legitimate contenders to win the PGA Championship. They have the games, guts and nerves to handle four pressure-packed rounds filled with Pacific winds and juicy, thick rough.

Patrick Cantlay
The 28-year-old tied for third at last year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, 6 shots behind Koepka, after finishing tied for ninth at the Masters. The California native, regarded as one of the game’s best ball strikers, is more than ready to break through at a major.

Jason Day
The 2015 PGA Championship winner broke up with his longtime swing coach and has looked good in three straight tournaments. His chronic back woes are always a concern.

Bryson DeChambeau
Lions, tigers and ants, oh my! It would be almost criminal if the PGA doesn’t pair DeChambeau with Koepka — they have traded barbs the past few months — in the first two rounds. Talk about must-see TV.

Tony Finau
Clearly, Finau is no Mariano Rivera. He has 30 top 10s since his lone tour victory at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, tied for the fourth-highest total on tour since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Tommy Fleetwood
After a three-month layoff and mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arriving in the U.S. from England, Fleetwood has looked a bit rusty in two starts. He is the highest-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings (No. 13) to have not won a tournament on U.S. soil.

Rickie Fowler
After hiring John Tillery as his new swing coach, there have been encouraging signs in Fowler’s game. If you hadn’t heard, he’s trying to end a 0-for-39 drought in majors. He has made the cut in 14 straight majors, second to only Koepka’s 22 among active players.

Tyrrell Hatton
The Englishman is controlling his temper and has complete control of his game. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and had two top 5s after the restart. He has finished in the top 10 in five majors in the previous four years.

Dustin Johnson
After winning the Travelers Championship in June, DJ was a mess before a respectable showing in WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational this past week. He nearly chased down Koepka in the final round at Bethpage Black last year before losing by 2.

Brooks Koepka
Just when we thought Koepka was in trouble, he returned to form at TPC Southwind. Nobody plays better in majors — just ask him. Koepka is 70-under in 12 majors since the start of 2017, 36 strokes better than everyone else.

Rory McIlroy
The former world No. 1 doesn’t have a top 10 in five starts after the long layoff and has looked out of sorts. He won the last tour event at TPC Harding Park — the 2015 WGC-Match Play. If McIlroy gets his short game in order, he’ll be a threat to win a third PGA Championship.

Collin Morikawa
Winning a major in his first 14 months as a pro might be asking a little too much from Morikawa, but everything has come fast for the 23-year-old. He already has two wins and is ranked No. 12 in the world.

Jon Rahm
With his dominant victory at the Memorial, Rahm joined Seve Ballesteros as the only Spaniards to hold the No. 1 ranking in the world. He’s also only the third golfer to reach No. 1 without a major championship; Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were the others. Rahm finished tied for 11th or better in five of the previous eight majors.

Xander Schauffele
Schauffele is still searching for his first major title and hasn’t won in 19 months, but he’s typically in the mix on golf’s biggest stages. He tied for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and tied for runner-up at the 2019 Masters and 2018 Open Championship. It’s only a matter of time until he finally closes one out.

Adam Scott
The 40-year-old Australian hasn’t played on American soil since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the tour in March. He spent the past two weeks working with his team in North Carolina. Scott finished in the top 10 at the past two PGA Championships, including a tie for eighth at Bethpage Black.

Webb Simpson
Simpson added a suddenly reliable putter to his world-class irons and has two Tour victories to show for it this season. He isn’t very long off the tee, but it doesn’t matter much when the rest of his game is so good.

Justin Thomas
He is coming off a win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, his 13th victory. All of those have come in the past five seasons. Nobody on Tour has more wins than he does over that stretch.

Brendon Todd
A year ago, Todd was ranked No. 797 in the world. He already has two tour wins, held the 54-hole lead in Memphis and is a legitimate contender for PGA Tour Player of the Year. It’s his first PGA Championship start since a missed cut in 2015.

Tier II: If everything goes right …

Here are the dark horse candidates to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. The list includes a four-time winner, rising stars and other players whose games have been works in progress so far this season. Will it all come together at TPC Harding Park?

Abraham Ancer
He already has two runner-ups this season and two other top-10s. He tied for 16th at Bethpage Black at 3-over par.

Daniel Berger
Berger was red-hot before the pandemic and then picked up where he left off, winning the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first event back after the shutdown, and tying for third at the RBC Heritage. He tied for 12th at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive.

Paul Casey
The Englishman hasn’t played well coming out of the break, missing cuts at the Memorial and 3M Open. He also played poorly in Memphis, where there wasn’t a cut. He has been dreadful on the greens lately.

Harris English
English has been as consistent as anyone on tour with 10 top 25s in 15 starts this season. He hasn’t done much in the majors, however, with a tie for 15th at the 2013 Open Championship being his lone top 25.

Matthew Fitzpatrick
The 25-year-old Englishman has putted extremely well, which is starting to show in his results. He finished solo third at the Memorial.

Max Homa
After three straight missed cuts, Homa gave up Twitter and tied for third at the 3M Open. For whatever reason, he’s back tweeting again.

Viktor Hovland
The rookie won the Puerto Rico Open in his 17th tour start — after he tied for 32nd at the Masters and tied for 12th at the U.S. Open as an amateur in 2019. The big stage doesn’t faze the ultra-talented Norwegian.

Sungjae Im
The South Korean had a sizzling Florida swing before play was halted, including a win at the Honda Classic and solo third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He struggled when play resumed before improving in Memphis.

Kevin Kisner
The 2019 WGC-Match Play champion, long regarded as one of the tour’s best putters, needs to get his “money maker” going to have a chance.

Matt Kuchar
Kuchar doesn’t hit it very far and his ball-striking hasn’t been great lately, but his short game can still keep him in the mix. He finished tied for eighth at Bethpage Black, which was equally as tough in terms of gnarly rough.

Marc Leishman
After winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January and finishing solo second at the API, the Australian hadn’t played well before a better showing at TPC Southwind. He’ll have to keep his ball in the fairway, which has been a challenge so far this season.

Shane Lowry
Given his slow start, it seemed that Lowry was still celebrating his Open Championship victory a year ago in Northern Ireland. He started to find his form this past week.

Kevin Na
At what point does Na starting sprinting to the hole before his putt goes in?

Louis Oosthuizen
All the South African does is quietly pile up top 25s at majors, which he has done 12 times in his past 19 such starts. He tied for second at the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

Ian Poulter
The 44-year-old still has something left in the tank, despite missing the cut in each of his past three starts in majors after tying for 12th at the Masters in 2019.

Chez Reavie
Reavie’s season has been relatively quiet, but he has shown an ability to rise to the occasion. Last season, he tied for third at the U.S. Open and tied for 14th at the PGA Championship.

Patrick Reed
Reed has the short game and attitude to be a contender at any major. He missed the cut in his past two PGA Championship starts after tying for second at Quail Hollow in 2017.

Justin Rose
The Englishman was ranked No. 1 in the world in early 2019, but he has struggled to find his form. He has three straight missed cuts (Memphis didn’t have a cut) and six in 10 tour events with cuts this season.

Cameron Smith
Talk about feast or famine. The 26-year-old Australian won the Sony Open in January and then missed five of eight cuts. He didn’t play much better in Memphis.

Brandt Snedeker
The 39-year-old hasn’t played well since the tour resumed, missing the cut in three of four starts before Memphis.

Jordan Spieth
Spieth’s last top 5 was a tie for third at Bethpage Black. There have been signs of hope, like a tie for 13th at the Memorial. He’s still missing too many fairways, which could spell doom at TPC Harding Park.

Michael Thompson
Thompson made the PGA field with a 2-shot victory over Adam Long at the 3M Open, which was his first victory in seven years, four months and 23 days since winning the Honda Classic in 2013.

Erik van Rooyen
The South African grinded out a tie for eighth at Bethpage Black, his best finish at a major. He has one top-10 in 10 Tour starts this season.

Matt Wallace
The Englishman plays well in tough conditions, as evidenced by a tie for third at Bethpage Black a year ago. If his ball-striking continues to improve, he’ll be more of a factor.

Bubba Watson
The two-time Masters winner hasn’t had much success in the PGA Championship lately, missing the cut in his past three starts.

Matthew Wolff
It will be the 21-year-old’s first start in a major. He was solo second at the Rocket Mortgage and then added a pair of top 25s, so his game seems to be trending in the right direction.

Gary Woodland
The reigning U.S. Open champion has been working with a new swing coach, Justin Parsons, and getting good results. He has consecutive top 10s at the PGA Championship, tying for eighth at Bethpage Black and tying for sixth at Bellerive in 2018.

Tiger Woods
Tiger has missed the cut in three of his past four PGA Championship starts going back to 2014, after missing only one in the previous 16. Will his back hold up?

Tier III: Hey, miracles happen

They are the long shots. This tier includes a handful of aging former champions and some first-timers.

Byeong-Hun An
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Keegan Bradley
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Cameron Champ
Corey Conners
Joel Dahmen
Jason Dufner
Dylan Frittelli
Jim Furyk
Sergio Garcia
Lucas Glover
Talor Gooch
Lanto Griffin
Adam Hadwin
Brian Harman
Russell Henley
Lucas Herbert
Billy Horschel
Charles Howell III
Mackenzie Hughes
Jazz Janewattananond
Zach Johnson
Matt Jones
Sung Kang
Si Woo Kim
Jason Kokrak
Andrew Landry
Danny Lee
Tom Lewis
Luke List
Adam Long
Mike Lorenzo-Vera
Robert MacIntyre
Hideki Matsuyama
Graeme McDowell
Troy Merritt
Phil Mickelson
Keith Mitchell
Sebastian Munoz
Joaquin Niemann
Shaun Norris
Ryan Palmer
Victor Perez
Scott Piercy
Thomas Pieters
Andrew Putnam
Doc Redman
Rory Sabbatini
Scottie Scheffler
Charl Schwartzel
Brendan Steele
Henrik Stenson
Sepp Straka
Kevin Streelman
Steve Stricker
Nick Taylor
Vaughn Taylor
Cameron Tringale
Jimmy Walker
Bernd Wiesberger
Danny Willett

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.

Rich Beem
Jorge Campillo
Bud Cauley
Wyndham Clark
Tyler Duncan
Emiliano Grillo
Benjamin Hebert
Jim Herman
Tom Hoge
Mark Hubbard
Ryo Ishikawa
Martin Kaymer
Chan Kim
Joohyung Kim
Marcus Kinhult
Kurt Kitayama
Nate Lashley
Haotong Li
Davis Love III
Joost Luiten
Shaun Micheel
Ryan Moore
Carlos Ortiz
C.T. Pan
J.T. Poston
Matthias Schwab
Ken Tanigawa
Richy Werenski

Tier V: PGA club professionals

They finished in the top 20 in points among PGA club pros in 2019 and were invited to TPC Harding Park because this year’s PGA Professional Championship was canceled because of the pandemic. Three of them — Rob Labritz, Ryan Vermeer and Marty Jertson – made the cut at Bethpage Black last year.

Michael Auterson

Danny Balin

Alex Beach

Rich Berberian Jr.
Justin Bertsch
Jason Caron
Ben Cook
Judd Gibb
Jeff Hart
Marty Jertson
Zach J. Johnson
Alex Knoll
Rob Labritz
David Muttitt
John O’Leary
Rod Perry
Jeff Roth
Bob Sowards
Ryan Vermeer
Shawn Warren

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