PGA Championship capsules

A capsule look at 20 top players for the 94th PGA Championship, to be played Aug. 9-12 on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. (listed in predicted order of finish):

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 16.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won St. Jude Classic.

2012 majors: Masters-DNP, US Open-Cut, British Open-T9.

Backspin: He’s still the most talented young American, even if it feels as though he has disappeared this season. Missed two months with a back injury, and then won in his second week back. A South Carolina native who grew up on this style of golf, and he has the power to handle the longest course in major championship history if it stays soft from rain. Best of all? The sandy areas (lots of them) have been declared waste areas. He can ground his club without a two-shot penalty.

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TIGER WOODS

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide wins: 86.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best 2012 performances: Wins at Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial, AT&T National.

2012 majors: Masters-T40, US Open-T21, British Open-T3.

Backspin: There should be no more questions about whether Woods is “back” based on his swing. He has won three times this year, and no one has won more in one season on the PGA Tour since … Woods in 2009. But no one will think of him as being “back” until he wins another major. The game is fine. He doesn’t hole as many putts as he once did, but that was bound to happen. No one said this about Woods before, but what he needs to win a major is a few good breaks.

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PADRAIG HARRINGTON

Age: 40.

Country: Ireland.

World ranking: 62.

Worldwide wins: 19.

Majors: British Open (2007, 2008), PGA Championship (2008).

Best 2012 performances: Tie for 4th in the U.S. Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T8, US Open-T4, British Open-T39.

Backspin: There is a feeling Harrington is getting closer to form, as he showed at the U.S. Open and Irish Open. Throw in a little experience on Kiawah Island from the World Cup in 1997 _ OK, he was only 26 _ and he could surprise a few people. The key will be to narrow his misses and to stay in the game for the first three days, and then have his eyes get wide and his tongue hang out of the side of his mouth on the back nine Sunday.

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BUBBA WATSON

Age: 33.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: Masters (2012).

Best 2012 performances: Won the Masters.

2012 majors: Masters-1, US Open-Cut, British Open-T23.

Backspin: Players who win majors early tend to fare well the rest of the year, so maybe Bubba is due. It won’t be from burnout, as he will have played only six times since the Masters when he arrives at Kiawah Island. Watson’s length should help him, and he can move the ball wherever he wants. He is familiar with this kind of Southern coastal golf, though the wind might not be ideal if it kicks up. The last player to win the Masters and PGA Championship in the same year? Jack Nicklaus in 1975.

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JONATHAN BYRD

Age: 34.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 49.

Worldwide wins: 5.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Tie for 3rd at the Tournament of Champions.

2012 majors: Masters-T27, US Open-T56, British Open-Cut.

Backspin: Sticking with the South Carolina theme (see Dustin Johnson) and the notion that in the last five years, the majors have delivered winners that not many saw coming (show of hands for Keegan Bradley? Lucas Glover? Zach Johnson?). He grew up in the Palmetto State and went to Clemson, and plays out of Sea Island about two hours down the coast. He’s a long hitter and a very good iron player. Plus, he has made two cuts in the majors this year. His last cut in a major was in 2007 at Carnoustie.

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RICKIE FOWLER

Age: 23.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 20.

Worldwide wins: 2.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Wells Fargo Championship.

2012 majors: Masters-T27, US Open-T41, British Open-T31.

Backspin: His breakthrough, with due respect to the Korea Open, came in May at Quail Hollow when he beat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff for his first PGA Tour win. He was a runner-up the next week at The Players Championship, finished a distant fifth at Colonial … and then went quiet. He will have played only four times in 10 weeks when he gets to the final major of the year. He’s either in a lull or bracing for a big finish. The hunch here is the latter.

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ADAM SCOTT

Age: 32.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide wins: 18.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Runner-up at the British Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T8, US Open-T15, British Open-2.

Backspin: He has reason to believe he has never been more equipped to win a major. But it’s a quick turnaround from the anguish of closing with four straight bogeys to lose a four-shot lead at the British Open. Rory McIlroy lost a four-shot lead at the Masters and won the next major with a record score. But he had two months to get over that. Scott has just over two weeks. The key will be patience until he gets to Sunday, and then see what he learned from Lytham.

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LUKE DONALD

Age: 34.

Country: England.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide wins: 11.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the BMW PGA Championship and the Transitions Championship.

2012 majors: Masters-T32, US Open-Cut, British Open-T5.

Backspin: The good news is that he has been No. 1 at the last six majors. All that does is bring more attention to the fact that he has not won a major yet. Only Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros have been No. 1 longer than Donald, and all of them had won a major before reaching the top of the ranking. His tie for fifth at the British Open was back door material, but it showed a resilient side to Donald. He needs to be straight off the tee, especially if Kiawah is playing long.

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GRAEME MCDOWELL

Age: 33.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 11.

Worldwide wins: 8.

Majors: U.S. Open (2010).

Best 2012 performances: Tie for 2nd at the U.S. Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T12, US Open-T2, British Open-T5.

Backspin: No one has a better record in the majors this year without winning one, and that includes serious Sunday contention in the last two majors. But he still hasn’t won since beating Tiger Woods in a playoff at Sherwood to close out his dream season in 2010. Then again, there wasn’t a big premium on hitting driver off the tee at the last two majors, and that’s an area he’ll need to tighten up for Kiawah.

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BILL HAAS

Age: 30.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 27.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Northern Trust Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T37, US Open-Cut, British Open-T19.

Backspin: Haas lived up to his potential when he won at Riviera in a playoff over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, but more has been expected of him. He has finished inside the top 20 only once since then, and that was at the British Open when he was eight shots behind. One trend from the final major? It has been nine years since the PGA champion had not won earlier in the year. Haas is good enough that he can reappear at the right time. And this would be a good time.

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LEE WESTWOOD

Age: 38.

Country: England.

World ranking: 4.

Worldwide wins: 38.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Scandinavian Masters and the Indonesian Masters.

2012 majors: Masters-T3, US Open-T10, British Open-T45.

Backspin: Westwood appeared a bit edgy about getting closer to 40, and the limited number of players in their 40s to win majors for the first time. He has won twice this year, and he has shored up his chipping. It’s not his strength, but that doesn’t make it a weakness. The PGA Championship is the one major he has not given himself a serious chance of winning. When he tied for third in 2009, he was five shots behind.

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STEVE STRICKER

Age: 45.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 14.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Tournament of Champions.

2012 majors: Masters-T47, US Open-T15, British Open-T23.

Backspin: Stricker is running out of a time to win a major, although he’s comfortable with what he’s achieved, so that’s not the kind of pressure that will bog him down. Since starting the year with a win at Kapalua, his only good chance at winning was at the John Deere Classic. The surprise is that his putter has let him down. But keep this in mind. In the “Year of the Comeback,” Stricker nearly lost a five-shot lead after just six holes, then steadied himself to win.

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RORY MCILROY

Age: 23.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: U.S. Open (2011).

Best 2012 performances: Won the Honda Classic.

2012 majors: Masters-T40, US Open-Cut, British Open-T60.

Backspin: It’s hard to believe that McIlroy was on the verge of establishing himself at No. 1 when he stood over a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole at Quail Hollow for the win. He lost in a playoff, and soon had a hard time making cuts as questions swirled about whether his romance with Caroline Wozniacki was holding him back. Welcome to the spotlight, kid. Equally hard to believe is that tie for 40th in the Masters would be his best performance in the majors to date. The talent hasn’t left him.

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ERNIE ELS

Age: 42.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 15.

Worldwide wins: 63.

Majors: U.S. Open (1994, 1997), British Open (2002, 2012).

Best 2012 performances: Won the British Open.

2012 majors: Masters-DNP, US Open-9, British Open-1.

Backspin: Is the Big Easy more like Padraig Harrington or Darren Clarke? Harrington in 2008 was the last player to follow a British Open title with the PGA Championship. On other side is Clarke, who finally captured a major at age 42 and spent the next year celebrating. Els could be somewhere in between. He won his fourth major and has long felt he belonged in the Seve Ballesteros (5 majors) or Nick Faldo (6 majors) territory. He says he quit thinking about the career Grand Slam. Expect an easy approach to Kiawah, for it’s the Masters next April that really gets his attention.

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HUNTER MAHAN

Age: 30.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 13.

Worldwide wins: 5.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the WGC-Match Play Championship and Houston Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T12, US Open-T38, British Open-T19.

Backspin: Mahan is perplexed why he is only No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings with two wins this year, including a World Golf Championship. Part of that is his moderate performances in the majors. As well as he hits the ball, that remains the one thing holding him back from being mentioned with the elite. His lone chance was the U.S. Open at Bethpage, when his shot to the 16th hit the pin and caromed away. He no longer surprises anyone, but he could sneak up on this one.

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KYLE STANLEY

Age: 24.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 56.

Worldwide wins: 1.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Phoenix Open.

2012 majors: Masters-Cut, US Open-Cut, British Open-T39.

Backspin: The optimist would suggest he has momentum coming off his first weekend at a major this year. The realist would say he has practically vanished since blowing a three-shot lead at Torrey Pines, only to rally from a seven-shot deficit to win the Phoenix Open the next week. He falls under the “long shot” category, with a slight edge having gone to Clemson and looking at South Carolina as a second home. His swing is scary good, and his length is more than ample. Still a long shot.

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KEEGAN BRADLEY

Age: 26.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 28.

Worldwide wins: 2.

Majors: PGA Championship (2011).

Best 2012 performances: Tie for 2nd at Northern Trust Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T27, US Open-T68, British Open-T34.

Backspin: The good news for Bradley is that he has never missed a cut in a major. The flip side is that his winning percentage has dropped from 100 percent after winning the PGA last year to 25 percent. The trick will be not paying attention to the Ryder Cup. He’s ninth in the standings, after getting bypassed last year for the Presidents Cup. He was clutch at Riviera to get into a playoff, and he never looks like he’s too far off. Only one player _ Tiger Woods _ has won back-to-back at the PGA since it went to stroke play.

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WEBB SIMPSON

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide wins: 3.

Majors: U.S. Open (2012).

Best 2012 performances: Won the U.S. Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T44, US Open-1, British Open-DNP.

Backspin: Introductions might be in order. Simpson has not played since the Travelers Championship, one week after he won the U.S. Open. He went home to North Carolina to be with his pregnant wife, skipping the British Open. She gave birth to a daughter. Simpson returns at the PGA Championship, which will be his first competition in six weeks. But we’re dealing with a guy who gets everything out of his game, and is very much at peace with himself.

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BRANDT SNEDEKER

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 24.

Worldwide wins: 3.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Won the Farmers Insurance Open.

2012 majors: Masters-T19, US Open-DNP, British Open-T3.

Backspin: He missed five tournaments because of a rib injury, which might have hurt his standing for the Ryder Cup team. All three of his wins have been from behind, which means he’s a guy who can go low on the last day. What was impressive about the British Open was his putting. Not so impressive was some wildness off the tee. He’s not terribly long (most guys are long enough, though), and he came away from Lytham needing to find a go-to shot under pressure. Also has been trying to find the right driver since his regular one broke earlier this year.

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BO VAN PELT

Age: 37.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 26.

Worldwide wins: 2.

Majors: None.

Best 2012 performances: Runner-up at the AT&T National.

2012 majors: Masters-T17, US Open-T59, British Open-Cut.

Backspin: He’s a very underrated talent, but not so much as a player. He can’t be rated too highly with only one win on the PGA Tour and the other against a limited field in Malaysia. But he looked so capable at the AT&T National, where he had Tiger Woods on the ropes and let him off with a few blunders on the closing holes. He is 14th in the Ryder Cup standings, so he has done something right this year. Even so, PGA champions usually have shown a lot more than he has earlier in the season.

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