A New Look for Seasons Last Major

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipThe PGA Championship is known as Glorys Last Shot, but this major will be a first.
 
No one has ever played a competitive round at Whistling Straits, the course built along the shores of Lake Michigan. The links-styled course is the longest in major championship history at 7,514 yards, with three par 4s at least 500 yards and the shortest par 5 measuring 569 yards.
 
There are more than 1,000 bunkers, so much sand that its hard to tell when one bunker ends and the other starts.
 
By the sound of some early reviews of Whistling Straits, players might be whistling past the graveyard.
 
Defending champion Shaun Micheel shot 77 with no birdies the first time he played the Pete Dye design on a windy afternoon in June, then said the cut could be 10 to 12 over par. He later amended his prediction.
 
If the wind comes up at all, and they play the golf course the way it did when I played, it really felt like double digits over par could win the golf tournament, Micheel said.
 
Loren Roberts called it the hardest course he has ever played. Former PGA champion Rich Beem heard the fairways were long and tight, but didnt believe the scouting report.
 
I just figured theres just no way, he said. But when we played it, it was awful.
 
Indeed, curiosity is at an all-time high for the final major of the year'and so is the hysteria.
 
Ive heard so many different opinions, Tiger Woods said before going up to Wisconsin for his first look at Whistling Straits. Ive heard its too tight in the landing areas, and Ive heard other guys say its a fair test with plenty of room. Some guys say you can roll the ball up to the greens, others say you have to carry it to get to the right spot.
 
Thats the thing, he said. We dont know.
 
About the only thing anyone expects is another strong performance by Phil Mickelson, who transformed himself from the guy who couldnt win a major into the lefty who does everything right.
 
If not for missing a couple of short par putts at Shinnecock and Troon, Mickelson could be going for the Grand Slam. Instead, he has gone 1-2-3 in the majors, starting with his breakthrough win at the Masters, and now has a chance to become the first player to finish in the top 3 in all four professional majors in the same year.
 
Ernie Els gets one last chance to erase a season of major heartache. While he is closer than ever to replacing Woods at No. 1 in the world ranking, all that matters to the Big Easy is winning majors. And all he has this year are three close calls, including runner-up finishes to Mickelson at the Masters and Todd Hamilton in a playoff at the British Open.
 
Ive come this close, so obviously Im doing something right, Els said. Something is good in my game. Its just not quite there at the end.
 
At stake for the Americans is the last hope of making the Ryder Cup team. Because the points are double at a major, 34 players have a mathematical chance of getting into the top 10.
 
Most of the attention is on John Daly (No. 20), the only two-time major winner to have never played in the Ryder Cup, and Jay Haas (No. 14), at age 50 trying to become the oldest American to qualify for the team.
 
The other focus at Whistling Straits is whether Woods can end a drought that has reached nine majors since he last hoisted a trophy. Woods has twice gone entire years without winning a major (1998 and 2003), but this is the first time he has not seriously contended on the back nine on Sunday.
 
His only victory this year is the Match Play Championship in February. He is $2.3 million behind Mickelson on the money list. He is assured of being No. 1 in the world for the 331st week when he arrives at the PGA, which will tie the record set by Greg Norman, although Els will have another chance to surpass him.
 
But Woods outlook on his season could change in four days.
 
Any time you win a major, its going to be a great year, Woods said.
 
Vijay Singh could only go to No. 1 if he wins and Woods misses the cut. The big Fijian already has four victories this year'twice as many as anyone else'but he is 0-for-19 in the majors since winning the 2000 Masters.
 
When Tiger was winning every other one, we said, Look, this is unusual; you guys dont understand, Davis Love III said. Its going to go back to normal sometime when we get a streak of different guys winning.
 
That certainly has been the case. Ten players have won the last 10 majors dating to Woods last major victory at the 02 U.S. Open. And the PGA Championship is a good place for that trend to continue, since 13 of the last 16 winners had never won a major.
 
Woods can still go another three majors without winning before he matches the dry spell Jack Nicklaus endured at about the same point in his career. And while Woods has been stuck on eight majors in pursuit of Nicklaus record 18, he still thinks he can get there.
 
Im still right on pace'actually, ahead of his pace, Woods said. It wasnt going to happen overnight. It wasnt going to happen in my 20s. For Jack, it took him 23 years to accomplish that. So its going to take a long time.
 
It seems like Woods has been part of the golf landscape forever, although this is only his eighth full year playing the majors. In some respects, he comes full circle at the PGA Championship, returning to Wisconsin for the first time since he made his professional debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996.
 
Whistling Straits was still two years away from opening at the time. The PGA of America is not afraid to try something new, jumping at a chance to go to Whistling Straits when the U.S. Open hesitated.
 
But whether it was Crooked Stick or Oak Tree, Sahalee or Valhalla, its courses have always been user-friendly. The last time a score of 280 or higher won the PGA Championship was in 1990, the longest stretch of any major.
 
That could be about to change.
 
This is the third consecutive major played on a links-style course, preceded by Shinnecock Hills at the U.S. Open and the true links, Royal Troon, at the British Open.
 
Whistling Straits figures to be so much different than the other two.
 
Theres a few more penal areas where you just cannot hit the ball, Love said after his practice round on Monday.
 
What could help the players is that Shinnecock Hills has become a battle cry for how not to set up a golf course. The USGA refused to water the greens, which all but died during the final round and led to 28 players in the 80s and the best score at even par.
 
But at more than 7,500 yards and with the potential for big wind, Whistling Straits could get silly.
 
Then again, no one knows.
 
The last major won with a score over par was the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, which Paul Lawrie won in a playoff after finishing at 6-over 290.
 
Carnoustie is regarded as the toughest links in golf, a big course with tiny fairways and waist-high fescue, made even more punishing by the whipping wind off the Firth of Tay.
 
By the end of next week, that could all sound very familiar.
 
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    Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

    The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

    Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.

    This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

    Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

    • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
    • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
    • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
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    The Social: In perfect harmony?

    By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    Bubba Watson had himself a week.

    The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

    Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

    Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

    Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

    But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

    Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

    Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

    Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

    Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

    On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

    Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

    Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

    If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

    That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

    Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

    Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

    If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

    That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

    The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

    Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

    But we're sad to see her go.

    After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

    Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

    That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

    The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

    Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

    Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

    And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

    So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.

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    Veteran Golf Journalist Bradley S. Klein Joins Golf Channel Editorial Team

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsFebruary 20, 2018, 4:15 pm

    Klein to Lend 30-Plus Years in Golf Architecture, History and Travel Journalism to Golf Advisor, Golf Channel’s Digital Travel and Lifestyle Brand

    Read Klein’s first column here

    Veteran golf travel, history and architecture journalist Bradley S. Klein has joined Golf Channel’s editorial team as senior writer for Golf Advisor, the company’s ever-expanding digital destination for the traveling golfer, featuring more than 700,000 reviews of nearly 15,000 golf courses in 80 countries worldwide. Klein’s first column appears today and provides eight simple tips for becoming a golf course architecture junkie – how architecture can be more relevant to everyday golfers and design aspects to observe that can make a round of golf a more fulfilling experience.

    With more than 40 years of varied experiences within the game of golf – a career that began as a caddie on the PGA Tour – Klein most recently served as the long-time architecture editor for Golfweek magazine and the founding editor of Superintendent News.

    "I've been in love with golf course design since I was 11 years old and have been lucky over the years to find a platform where I can share that fascination with fellow golfers,” Klein said. “It's an amazing opportunity now for me to bring that passion and commitment to Golf Channel and its travel and lifestyle brand, Golf Advisor."

    "We are extremely excited to have Brad join the Golf Advisor team. His unique contributions covering history and architecture will be an excellent complement to the travel content Matt Ginella brings to Golf Advisor and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive,” said Mike Lowe, vice president and general manager, Golf Advisor. “Brad’s reputation and experience in the industry make him a wonderful addition to our expanding golf travel and course design editorial team.”

    Other members of Golf Advisor’s editorial team include: Brandon Tucker, Mike Bailey, Jason Deegan, Bill Irwin and Tim Gavrich.

    Including assignments for Golfweek, Klein has written more than 1,500 feature articles on course architecture, resort travel, golf course development, golf history and the media for such other publications as Golf Digest, Financial Times, New York Times and Sports Illustrated. He has published seven books on golf architecture and history, including Discovering Donald Ross, winner of the USGA 2001 International Book Award. In 2015, Klein won the Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He is well known within the golf industry and has served as a consultant on numerous golf course development and restoration projects, most recently the Old Macdonald course at acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

    Golf Advisor now includes the integration of Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey, two leading travel newsletters with a combined reach of more than a half million subscribers. Both newsletters joined Golf Channel’s portfolio of businesses in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Revolution Golf, golf’s largest direct-to-consumer digital platform offering video-based instruction and integrated e-commerce.

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    Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

    Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

    Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

    West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

    South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



    FALLING

    Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

    Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

    Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

    Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

    Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.