Contenders, pretenders heading into PGA Championship weekend
Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The leaderboard's jammed heading into the weekend at TPC Harding Park. Twenty-nine players - many of them superstars - are within six shots of leader Haotong Li with 36 holes to play.

It's time to weed out the contenders and pretenders from those in the mix to win the PGA Championship and hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

Contenders

Brooks Koepka (2 back)

Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport / Getty

This is an obvious one. Koepka finds himself within striking distance at a major championship for the 10th time since 2017. He's hitting the ball beautifully, ranking sixth in strokes gained: tee to green after Day 2.

Koepka received medical attention for a tight hip a few times during his second round, but the two-time defending champion shrugged off the ailment, saying "it's fine." If he can stay healthy, Koepka has a good chance of completing the three-peat.

Jason Day (2 back)

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Coming off three straight top-10 results, Day continues to play well through two rounds. He sits second in strokes gained: tee to green, but is struggling with his short game and putting, which is surprising considering those areas are usually his strengths.

The risk that Day's troublesome back gives out still and always exists, but he appears healthy at the moment and is looking comfortable as he pursues his second PGA Championship title.

Daniel Berger (2 back)

Christian Petersen/PGA of America / PGA of America / Getty

If you thought a major championship test would slow Berger's resurgence, you were wrong. The 27-year-old's arguably been the best player on the PGA Tour over the past few months, and he's making his case for the title with two straight rounds of elite ball-striking. He's in Saturday's penultimate pairing alongside Day, and don't be surprised if he plays himself into Sunday's final tee time.

Tommy Fleetwood (2 back)

Darren Carroll/PGA of America / PGA of America / Getty

The Englishman put on a display Friday with a 6-under 64, soaring up the leaderboard and earning his spot in Saturday's final pairing. Backed by world-class iron play, Fleetwood's found himself in contention at majors before, placing second at the 2019 Open Championship and 2018 U.S. Open. Will this be the week he finally claims his first PGA Tour victory?

Pretenders

Justin Rose (2 back)

Christian Petersen/PGA of America / PGA of America / Getty

How the former world No. 1 is 6-under through two rounds is puzzling. He hit only four of 14 fairways Thursday but somehow managed to gain 3.3 strokes through approach shots. Chalk that up to getting some lucky breaks in the thick rough at TPC Harding Park.

Rose followed up with a 2-under second round that was backed by elite chipping and putting. His ball-striking numbers Friday didn't resemble the ones he posted in Round 1, which suggests his form is being pieced together and could crumble at any moment.

Haotong Li (Leader)

Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

It's tough to imagine the 36-hole leader sticking around through Sunday. Haotong Li's a very inconsistent player who can blow up at any moment - just ask his Presidents Cup teammate Adam Scott.

"He's got the arsenal to take it low and play, but we don't see that kind of consistency out of him, and that probably matches his personality a little bit," Scott said of the 25-year-old. "He plays pretty much all guns blazing, and when it comes off, it's really good."

Additionally, Li's gained over four strokes putting through two rounds and is on pace - by far - for his best career week on the greens. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem sustainable.

Mike Lorenzo-Vera (2 back)

Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Most golf fans seeing Lorenzo-Vera's name have one question: "Who?"

The Frenchman's ranked 82nd in the world and has had decent success on the European Tour, but his resume in North America is thin. He finished tied for 16th at last year's PGA Championship, and has only played in seven PGA Tour events.

Lorenzo-Vera ranks second in strokes gained: putting through 36 holes but outside the top 40 in both off the tee and approach. His stay near the top of the leaderboard is likely to be short-lived.

Brendon Todd (3 back)

Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

We've seen this act before. Todd's once again in the mix at a PGA Tour event and - once again - he's doing it thanks to two stellar days of putting.

Todd's held two 54-hole leads since the Tour's restart and faded Sunday both times. While he's not in that exact position, expecting him to maintain his scorching hot form on the greens has proven to be a fool's errand.

Comments
βœ•
Contenders, pretenders heading into PGA Championship weekend
Β Β Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
MORE STORIES
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox