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PGA Championship picks

Is this Jason Dufner’s time to break through?

Is Jason Dufner ready to break through as a major champion?

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Is Jason Dufner ready to break through as a major champion?

Who will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy after this week’s PGA Championship? Boston Globe golf writer Michael Whitmer makes his pick:

Contenders:

Sergio Garcia

Age: 32. World ranking: 26

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PGA starts/cuts made: 13/7

Best finish: Second (1999, 2008)

Might win because: Garcia has been progressively worse in the majors this year: T12 at the Masters, T38 at the US Open, missed cut at the British. So why will he play well this week? Just a hunch. He only has one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, and three on the European Tour. Maybe playing at Kiawah Island will motivate him; the Spanish duo of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal won three of their four partners matches at the 1991 Ryder Cup played here, and halved the other.

Steve Stricker

Age: 45. World ranking: 11

PGA starts/cuts made: 14/9

Best finish: Second (1998)

Might win because: Comes in off a second-place tie last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, his sixth top-10 finish on tour this year. Stricker has been a hard one to figure: Nine of his 12 PGA Tour victories have come since he turned 40, and he’s made the cut in 11 consecutive majors. But in those last 11 majors, Stricker has never contended, with a tie for 11th at the 2011 Masters his best finish in that span. Short game will be key at the Ocean Course, and Stricker’s is very good.

Adam Scott

Age: 32. World ranking: 7

PGA starts/cuts made: 11/8

Best finish: T3 (2006)

Might win because: He’s convinced he’ll overcome any residual fallout from his British Open meltdown, doesn’t mind the heat, likes the Ocean Course, and thinks his game is suited for it. Scott is also becoming a consistent factor in majors. His last four major finishes, starting with last month’s British and working back: second, T15, T8, seventh. That doesn’t even count his T2 at the 2011 Masters. Rory McIlroy bounced back from his major collapse with a win the next time out; can Scott do the same?

Dustin Johnson

Age: 28. World ranking: 18

PGA starts/cuts made: 3/2

Best finish: T5 (2010)

Might win because: As a South Carolinian – born in Columbia, schooled at Coastal Carolina, resident of Myrtle Beach – he’ll have the crowd in his corner, trying to push him across the line for his first major. Johnson missed nearly three months (including the Masters) with a back injury, but he already has a win and four other top-10 finishes this year. The Ocean Course looks a little like Whistling Straits, where Johnson led the 2010 PGA until assessed a two-stroke penalty on the final hole. Watch out.

Winner:

Jason Dufner

Age: 35. World ranking: 8

PGA starts/cuts made: 3/2

Best finish: Second (2011)

Will win because: He’s one of the favorites now, and not the relative unknown he was a year ago, when he took a late four-shot lead at the PGA before losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. He had yet to win on tour then and maybe wilted a little under the pressure; now, he’s a two-time winner who also tied for fourth at the US Open, so he’s been in contention repeatedly and knows he can respond with solid play. Doesn’t show much emotion, but would make for a nice scene after his collapse last year.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.
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