The path is obvious, but it isn’t exactly clear. Phil Mickelson has the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship, but there are some barriers in front of him.
In order for the 50-year-old to set all kinds of records and win his sixth-career major championship, he’ll need to fend off a handful of legit challengers Sunday afternoon. Some you’ll recognize. Others you may have never heard of before. So it goes in golf.
In order of their likeliness to take down Mickelson Sunday, those challengers are ranked below.
1. Brooks Koepka (one shot back)
If you ask Vegas, it’s actually more likely that Koepka beats Mickelson Sunday and hoists the Wanamaker Trophy for the third time in his career. Koepka is the favorite according to sports books around the world, even if he is a full shot back of Mickelson. The truth is, Mickelson is on a heater right now. Can he sustain it? The first person to pounce if he doesn’t will be Koepka.
2. Louis Oosthuizen (two shots back)
This might feel obvious, just moving down the leaderboard, but Oosthuizen has arguably played better than Koepka. He’s been so steady and really not getting into any trouble until the back nine today. Unfortunately for him, his blocky miss with the driver cost him a shot Saturday afternoon in the same way it cost him dearly at the Zurich Classic weeks ago. Can he somehow avoid any misses Sunday? He’s capable of doing it.
3. Bryson DeChambeau (five shots back)
Just like he did at Harding Park, and just like he did successfully at Winged Foot, Bryson DeChambeau is lurking again. While he didn’t play great on Saturday, he turned in yet another under-par round and will play from a couple groups ahead of Mickelson and Koepka Sunday. If a DeChambeau eagle roar trickles back through the breeze, you never know what that’ll do for the tournament.
4. Gary Woodland (five shots back)
He’s the only other major champion in the top 10, and Woodland has been trending well lately after an early-season slump. He definitely has the firepower to make Kiawah look easy post a perfect 66 on Sunday. But he hasn’t been able to avoid ne or two bad swings during each round this week. It’s very unlikely, but you could see him hit plenty of shots Sunday afternoon.
5. Kevin Streelman (three shots back)
Call me crazy, but Streelman has come from behind to win before. He’s just never done it at a major. Is the setting above him? You tell me. But three shots could easily be two shots after an early birdie on 2. He’s the opposite of Woodland, DeChambeau and Koepka, but maybe that’s the point?
6. Branden Grace (four shots back)
About three times this week, it’s looked like Branden Grace was the man to beat. It even looked good for him when he made the turn Saturday at five under. But he stumbled early on the back nine with a water ball. He can’t seem to avoid bad swings when he needs good swings the most. It’s definitely not likely he’ll win.
7. Jordan Spieth (seven shots back)
The Golden Child once looked like he’d never make the cut, and here he is back at level par. Perhaps the only thing that could usurp a Mickelson victory would be a Spieth win to accomplish the career grand slam. His putter heated up a bit more Saturday, even though Ice Cold was the standard for him through 36 holes. If it turns en fuego again Sunday — we’re talking multiple eagles — then look out.
8. Sungjae Im (six shots back)
Naivety could be king for Sungjae, who contended for a second in the November Masters, but really was never going to hang with DJ. Can he hang with the group ahead of him? Does he need to? How about he just shoots 67 and lets the wind do damage the rest of the day.