1 The favorite » Seventeen majors have passed since Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open. Not coincidentally, 16 different players have captured the last 16 majors. With three wins this year, Woods is approaching his previous form but remains stuck on 14 majors. Woods needs one to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. "He's back to being the best player in the world," Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel said. "But his margin over the next best player has shrunk considerably." Woods enters in solid form. He tied for eighth last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, hitting the ball well but putting poorly, a theme for him this year.
2 The course » Built on a barrier island in a gated community, Kiawah Island in South Carolina isn't a typical major championship venue because access is a challenge. Fans will shuttle in from Charleston, 45 minutes away. Pete Dye-designed Kiawah has more seaside holes (10) than any course in the northern hemisphere and will provide a provide a magnificent television signature. Some of Kiawah's legendary difficulty has been softened by tweaks from Dye. The course will play softer and longer this week because of recent rains. Wind is always a factor. During the 1991 Ryder Cup, players hit clubs ranging from 8-iron to 3-wood at the 223-yard 17th hole.
3 Club pros » You will hear a lot about club pros this week because their parent organization, the PGA of America, runs the event. Twenty are in the field this year. Rarely do they get into contention. Since 2000, Roanoke, Va., pro Chip Sullivan has the highest finish (31st in 2004). One club pro to watch, however, is University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small, a former PGA Tour player, who has won the PGA Professional National Championship three times in the last seven years and was the low club pro at the PGA last year. Another is Rockville-native Danny Balin, now a club pro in Connecticut.
4 Bunker mentality » Much of the pre-tournament talk has been about the decision to treat shots from the sand as not in a hazard. Players will be allowed to remove loose impediments, ground their club and take practice swings from the sand. The decision comes after the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits, where Dustin Johnson cost himself a spot in a playoff by grounding his club in a bunker that wasn't clearly defined. This decision removes the gray area -- is it or isn't it a bunker? But it also rankles purists. "This will be the PGA as run by Oprah," Ron Whitten of Golf Digest wrote.
Under the radar
Kiawah Island uses paspalum grass on its greens, leaving them "sticky" as described by Tiger Woods on Tuesday. The soft conditions and slower greens will suit players who hit the ball long but won't penalize those who have balky putting strokes. Take a flyer on players like Sergio Garcia, Robert Garrigus, Alvaro Quiros, Kyle Stanley, Vijay Singh, Gary Woodland, Charley Hoffman, Nick Watney and John Senden.
Fit for the trophy
The last 16 majors have been won by 16 different players. Which golfer, in the prime of his career, has the stuff to break through? This ball-striker's course should suit world No. 4 Lee Westwood, No. 7 Adam Scott, No. 8 Jason Dufner, No. 10 Justin Rose and No. 18 Dustin Johnson. Players who have won majors who also fit the description include No. 2 Woods, No. 3 Rory McIlroy, No. 6 Bubba Watson and No. 17 Ernie Els.
By the numbers
5 PGA victories by Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus, a record that can be matched this year by Tiger Woods, who won in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2007.
18 Strokes under par in the PGA -- the most ever -- by Tiger Woods (2000, 2006) and Bob May (2000), who lost in a playoff to Woods at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.
63 Is the lowest round at the PGA Championship, accomplished 10 times by 10 different players, most recently by Tiger Woods in the second round at Southern Hills in 2007.
7,676 Yards for the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, the longest track in major championship history.
When Keegan Bradley won the PGA last year at the Atlanta Athletic Club in a playoff over Jason Dufner, he became the first player to capture a major with a long putter. A year later, two more players (Webb Simpson, Ernie Els) have won majors with long putters, sparking controversy and claims of unfair advantage. Bradley, 26, enters in fine form after winning the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week. Kiawah suits his length and ball-striking prowess.