A case for the PGA as the game's best major

By Jason SobelAugust 5, 2014, 1:50 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – So, I happened to wander into the 19th hole at a local muni the other day, not far from Valhalla Golf Club, site of this week’s PGA Championship. And who do I run into but none other than an old buddy named Shanks McGee, who’s never met a 19th hole he didn’t like.

We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries – and by pleasantries, I mean Shanks hit me up for 20 bucks and I pleasantly declined. I then asked what brought him into town this week.

“Are you kidding me?” he bellowed, nearly tipping over his barstool as he stood to face me. “It’s the PGA Championship, man. Glory's Last Shot, as they used to call it. The best major championship of them all!”

I started to ask him if he’d had one too many, but decided that was a rhetorical question. Instead, bemused, I asked him to explain.

“Think about it,” Shanks implored, shaking a finger just inches from my face. “The Masters? That’s all so ooh-la-la, with their ‘patrons’ and their ‘second cut.’ Sure, it’s a great track, but you can’t even get on there unless you’ve got eight or nine zeroes in your bank account. Too fancy for my taste. I'd rather hang out with Daly down the street at Hooters.”

Maybe the blue-collar, democratic nature of the U.S. Open suited him better?

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“Oh, don’t get me started on that one,” he said while double-fisting two fresh cocktails. “It’s like the USGA doesn’t think golf is hard enough, so they make it ridiculous for four days. Like playing golf on the moon! I bet Mike Davis enjoys doing advanced trigonometry in his spare time, that twisted dude.”

Mentally taking a note to inquire about Davis’ math skills the next time I see him, I wondered aloud how he could disapprove of the Open Championship, but Shanks cut me off.

“Open Championship?” he growled. “What are you, one of them now? It’s called the British Open – and I’m sorry, but they might as well play Bingo to determine the winner of that old jug. I mean, half the guys wind up playing in a freakin’ monsoon, then the other half play in something that looks like Key West without the palm trees. I like my major champions decided by a little more than luck, thank you very much.”

Fine, I told him. You don’t like the first three majors. I get it. But what’s so great about this one?

He stared at me cockeyed, like Keegan Bradley eyeing a birdie putt.

Then he unleashed.

“Have you never heard the term, ‘Save the best for last?’” he roared at me. “Why do you think God or Arnold Palmer or whoever decided to put ‘em in this order in the first place? Because the best one is supposed to go last!”

He was on a roll now, spittle flying at me like a high school team firing shots at the range picker.

“Before DJ didn’t not get unsuspended or whatever, all 100 of the world’s top 100 players were in the field. The others can’t say that! And there are no amateurs taking up spots from the play-for-pay guys here. OK, maybe the 20 club pros won’t contend, but they still deserve to play. I’d like to see Tiger and Phil fold shirts and run the ladies’ nine-hole shamble for the other 51 weeks and see how they’d do.”

Shanks ordered two more drinks – both for himself – and put ’em on my tab.

“There’s more, too,” he grumbled. “You can say the U.S. Open is democratic, but more dreamers win the PGA. Rich Beem? Shaun Micheel? I mean, Y.E. Yang beat Tiger, for goodness sake. Bob May shoulda, too!”

I tried to explain that the last four champions – Jason Dufner, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer – are all world-class players, but he’d already moved on.

“And I love the Wanamaker! Now that there’s a trophy. Sounds like a good drink, too. Or the punchline to a dirty joke. Hey, you Wanamaker…”

I covered his mouth to keep from hearing the rest, knowing it would just get us thrown out. When I took my hand away, he kept on going.

“I was even reading this piece recently – yeah, I can read; don’t look so surprised – and they quoted Ian Poulter. I have it right here,” he barked as he grabbed a crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket. “Poulter said, ‘I don't care which major I win. Hell, give me the PGA Championship.’ What a compliment, huh?”

Again, I tried to correct him, pointing out that the comment was actually the opposite of a compliment, but he’d already turned his back to me, wobbly trying to practice his swing in front of a mirror behind the bar.

Instead, I changed the subject, asking how he’d played that day.

“Lemme tell ya,” he said, turning around to look me in the eye. “I had the round of my life. Shot even par. I couldn’t miss. And still, those lucky stiffs took every dime in my pocket.”

Um … which lucky stiffs?

Shanks gave me the cockeyed Keegan look again. “My brothers. There’s four of us. Those three always beat me in everything. They get more attention. More respect. People like being around ‘em more. They get invited to parties and have celebrations thrown in their honor. Me? It’s like I’m an afterthought. Always been that way, too.”

I gave him a pat on the chest, right across the PGA Championship logo on his shirt. All of a sudden, his favorite major championship made perfect sense.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x