Elite field to lock horns at PGA Championship

Greg Heakes
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"Golf is getting deep," said Tiger Woods

iger Woods of the United States hits a shot during a practice round of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on August 8 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The strongest field ever put together for a tournament will tackle one of the most challenging golf courses in the United States when the championship begins this week

The strongest field ever put together for a tournament will tackle one of the most challenging golf courses in the United States when the 94th PGA Championship begins this week.

All 100 of the top ranked players in the world will tee it up at Kiawah Island Golf Resort for the final major championship of the season.

It is the first time that the top 100 have played in the same event since the world ranking system came into effect in 1986.

With the last 16 majors having been won by 16 different players and this field being what it is, Tiger Woods warned Tuesday not to be surprised if another first-time major winner emerges from the pack.

"Golf is getting deep," said Woods, who is chasing his 15th major title.

"There are so many guys with a chance to win. That is how the sport is. The margins are getting smaller.

"There may be 16 different winners but you look at the cuts. The cuts are getting lower. The scores between the leader and the guy who is 70th, sometimes it is 10 shots or less which is amazing.

"If you have got margins that are that small, you're going to get guys who win once here and there."

The tournament begins Thursday and a lot is going to depend on the weather at Kiawah Island's The Ocean Course, which at 7,900 yards was recently rated by Golf Digest to be the most difficult course in America.

The wind usually blows in off the Atlantic Ocean but thunderstorms and heat might play an ever big role this week in how low scores go.

"It doesn't look like we are going to get dry weather this week," Woods said during Tuesday's practice day.

"The fairways are perfect. The greens are perfect. It is going to be a touch on the long side because it is just not rolling out.

"If the PGA decides to play it all the way back it is just going to be a big ballpark."

Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, and 2012 major winners Webb Simpson (US Open), Bubba Watson (Masters), Ernie Els (British Open) are other players to watch out for this week.

World number one Donald of England said there is so much more parity on the PGA Tour now. "There isn't one guy that is really distancing himself from the rest," Donald said.

"The longer the streak goes, the more encouragement it gives to those guys who haven't won a major, like myself."

Aussie Adam Scott will be looking to rebound from his Open disaster two weeks ago where he closed with four consecutive birdies to lose a four-shot lead to South Africa's Els.

Jim Furyk is also hoping for a quick turnaround from the anguish of blowing a late lead. Furyk led Sunday's final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for 71 holes before suffering a meltdown on the par-four No. 18.

Furyk's double bogey on the last hole, combined with a 15-foot putt to save par by Bradley, allowed Bradley to claim the final tune-up tournament heading into the PGA Championship.

It meant that Bradley heads into his defence of his PGA Championship title this week with a lot more confidence than he had two weeks ago.

"Anytime you win it is a great feeling," Bradley said. "A little less pressure than you normally have. I have got a great course here and I feel like it suits me well and I want to defend my title as best I can."

Donald thinks the weather is going to play a huge factor this week.

"The conditions are changing from hour to hour," Donald said. "This is a very tough test."