If Mark O'Meara hadn't won the Masters and British Open already this year, he might have been a good pick to win his first major beneath the towering firs and cedars of Sahalee Country Club.

The PGA Championship has served as a breeding ground of sorts for new major champions in the last decade, and O'Meara was a good candidate to carry on a tradition of unlikely winners after going winless in his first 56 major championships.Then a 20-foot putt on the 18th green at Augusta lifted the burden of being one of the best players to have never won a major. Almost as quickly, a playoff win at Royal Birkdale put a burden of a historical nature back on.

O'Meara teed off in the 80th PGA Championship Thursday with a chance of becoming the first man since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three major titles in one year.

"Anything's possible," O'Meara said. "But if you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would have the opportunity to win two of them I would have jumped and prayed for the chance to have that happen."

If recent history is any guide, O'Meara might have to be content with a green jacket in his closet and a British Open trophy on the mantle for this year.

Since Hogan won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in 1953 - the only majors he played in that year - six players have come to the PGA Championship with a chance to equal him.

Tom Watson came the closest, finishing four shots off the pace after winning the Masters and British Open in 1977.

If the odds don't favor O'Meara, they do favor the likes of Jim Furyk, Colin Montgomerie, Lee West-wood and David Duval.

All are chasing their first major wins and all are at the PGA, where first-time major winners have been the norm since Jeff Sluman came out of nowhere to win at Oak Tree in 1988.

Nine of the last 10 PGA champions have been first-time major championship winners. Nick Price was one of them in 1992 and he was the only exception when he won it again in 1994.

"There's not really a good explanation for it," said defending champion Davis Love III, who achieved his breakthrough at Winged Foot a year ago.

Love's win last year was only the latest in a series of first time majors winners that includes names such as John Daly, Payne Stewart and Paul Azinger. It also includes the likes of 1990 winner Wayne Grady, who has never won on the PGA Tour since, and Mark Brooks, who has finished in the top 10 only once since winning two years ago.

If recent history is any indication, Sunday's winner could come almost anywhere from the 150-player field except, possibly, for the 25 club pros who qualified for the event.