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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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.

Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

Titleist representatives could not be immediately reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!

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Hot Seat: Honda fans bring noise and heat

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

The Bear Trap awaits in South Florida.

With hot, sunny days forecast for all four rounds of the Honda Classic, the mercury’s rising, especially at the 17th hole, where the revelry at the Goslings Bear Trap party pavilion could turn the tee box into a sweat box.

It may be even steamier for women playing the Honda LPGA Thailand, with temperatures forecast in the 90s for the weekend.

Here’s our special heat index gauging the toastiest seats in golf this week:

Five-alarm salsa – PGA National’s 17th tee

PGA Tour pros almost universally don’t want to see the craziness promoted at the Phoenix Open’s party hole (No. 16) duplicated at other Tour events, but they will get a distant cousin this week at the Honda Classic.

The Goslings Bear Trap party pavilion sits over the 17th tee, where Graeme McDowell cracked that players can get “splashed with vodka cranberries” if the wind is right. The Cobra Puma Village surrounds the 17th green.

That pretty much means everyone playing through there late in the day, with the party fully percolating, is on the Hot Seat.

Tiger Woods is scheduled to go through there at about Happy Hour on Friday afternoon.

“I said to myself, ‘This isn’t Scottsdale, this is ridiculous,’” Billy Horschel said after playing through there a year ago.

Sergio Garcia was among players who got heckled there last year.

It’s one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour, ranking as the 21st most difficult par 3 last year.

Hot-collar rub – Rickie Fowler

Fowler returns to the Honda Classic as its defending champ.

He also returns for his first start since losing the 54-hole lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he bogeyed three of the final four holes and fell all the way out of the top 10 at Sunday’s end.

Fowler is now one for his last six closing out 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Spicy Tom Yum heat – Shanshan Feng

The Rolex world No. 1 in women’s golf is back in action with the strongest field of this young season ready to resume chasing her at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

World No. 2 Sung Hyun Park will be making her first start of the year. No. 3 So Yeon Ryu, No. 4 Lexi Thompson, No. 5 Anna Nordqvist and No. 6 In Gee Chun are all in the field.

Park and Ryu shared Rolex Player of the Year honors last season. Thompson was the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year.

Feng has ridden atop the world rankings for 15 consecutive weeks. She opened the year tying for third at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic last month.