Who is under the most pressure at the PGA?

By Jay CoffinAugust 8, 2012, 7:38 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Much is at stake this week at the 94th PGA Championship. It’s called “Glory’s Last Shot” for a reason. It’s Tiger Woods’ last chance this year to end his major drought. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker are still looking for their first major victories. Can Adam Scott rebound from his British Open disaster? It’s the last week to automatically qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup and Stricker, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson are all on the outside looking in. Which player is under the most pressure this week at the Ocean Course? Our team in Kiawah Island debates.


All of the aforementioned names are faced with a degree of pressure. Jim Furyk faces the most.

He’s 11th in Ryder Cup points and only the top eight Sunday at the PGA Championship automatically qualify for the U.S. team. If Furyk doesn’t play well many still believe he’s a lock to make the team via a Davis Love III captain’s pick. I just don’t buy it.

Sure, Furyk would be a safe pick and would not be controversial, but his inability to close the deal last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – which was compounded by the fact he played poorly down the stretch of the U.S. Open while in contention – has to be cause for concern for Love.

It's not like Love has a lack of options. Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson are all on the outside of the top eight and all would be worthy of a pick. Furyk has been on every U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1997. If he wants that streak to continue he needs to shake off last week’s disappointment and find a way to play well at the PGA Championship.


Sure, most eyeballs will be fixated on Tiger Woods this week, but should he be feeling the most heat? No. That’d be Dustin Johnson. Twice in position to win a major – including this championship in 2010 at another Pete Dye gem (Whistling Straits) – the titanium-denting South Carolinian still is without one of golf’s most important titles.

More pressing this week, though: He ranks 14th in Ryder Cup points, and only 12 guys can make the team. Let’s assume there is no fluctuation in the standings this week (an unlikely proposition). So, would you pick DJ ahead of Jim Furyk, a Ryder Cup veteran? Or Steve Stricker, an ideal partner for Woods? Or Hunter Mahan, who is ninth in points and has won twice this season? Or Rickie Fowler, who authored one of the signature moments of the 2010 Cup?

Let’s not forget, for all of his immense talent, Johnson has struggled in these match-play competitions. After going 1-3 in his first Ryder Cup, in 2010, he stumbled to a 1-3-1 mark last year in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. Yes, 2-6-1 the past two years. He’s no lock for a captain’s pick, so DJ better play well at Kiawah.


As chips go, Brandt Snedeker is of the 360cc variety, but in the affable Tennessean’s defense he has come by it honestly.

Few, if any, have endured the cold capriciousness of golf’s team selection process as harshly as Snedeker and this week’s looming Ryder Cup deadline will only serve to make the Ocean Course’s 7,700 odd yards that much more grueling and pressure packed.

In 2003 Snedeker won the U.S. Amateur Public Links, earned All-America honors and was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and yet was snubbed for that season’s Walker Cup team.

Last year, he was passed over again for a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team by captain Fred Couples and he enters this week’s PGA Championship13th on the Ryder Cup points list. He is, officially, on the outside looking in.

His plight is compounded by a stark reality for captain Davis Love III, who will make his four picks Sept. 4. It seems certain Love would pick No. 9 Hunter Mahan, No. 10 Steve Stricker and No. 11 Jim Furyk; which would leave one pick for either Snedeker, Rickie Fowler (No. 12) or Dustin Johnson (No. 14).

If Snedeker is going to make the U.S. team he will likely need to do it this week at Kiawah.


I’ll answer this question the same way I’d answer it prior to any major championship.

The player with the most pressure on him this week is Tiger Woods.

The other 155 players in the PGA Championship field are chasing a victory. Most want to win a major for the first time; others want to add a second or third (or even fourth or fifth) in order to validate their previous success. And yes, many have other goals in mind, such as qualifying for a Ryder Cup team or even keeping their PGA Tour card.

But nobody else is chasing history.

The only one for whom each passing major either means one more step toward breaking Jack Nicklaus’ all-time victory record or watching the window continue to close ever so slightly is Woods, whose odometer has been stuck on 14 ever since the 2008 U.S. Open.

When Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, his hair started falling out. When Hank Aaron chased the Babe’s all-time home run record, he received death threats.

The moral of the story? There are both internal and external pressures athletes endure when it comes to chasing history. Woods is no doubt feeling each of those once again this week.


Luke Donald is under the most pressure this week in his bid to win the PGA Championship.

As the world No. 1, a victory will prove he belongs at the top.

Whether Donald likes it or not, a segment of golf fans dismiss his ranking because he hasn’t won golf’s great prize, a major. He’s 0 for 37 in them. It has to be irritating to be dismissed, in some quarters, as a caretaker of the top spot until Tiger Woods returns to No. 1 or some player wins multiple majors to leave no doubt who deserves to be called No. 1.

Donald has been reminded constantly that of the 16 players who have reigned as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he and Lee Westwood are the only ones who haven’t won a major championship. Donald has held the top spot for 56 weeks. Only Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros have held the No. 1 ranking longer.

All of these questions of worthiness have to be annoying, but, also, motivating. Donald handles it all impressively, but he holds the power to make his greatest impression, competitively, by hoisting a major championship trophy.

At first glance, Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course wouldn’t seem a good fit for Donald to win his first major. It will play long, especially with the rain that has softened the course this week. Sometimes, though, a big course just makes the short game more important, with missed greens more common. Given Donald’s wonderful short game, his terrific bunker play and fluid putting stroke, the Ocean Course just might bring out the best in the Englishman. It might bring him the prize he covets.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.