PGA Hype From Hamilton to Shingo

By Kraig KannJuly 23, 2004, 4:00 pm
Get ready world, Shingo Katayama, currently 55th on the Official World Golf Ranking, will win the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits!
You heard it here first. And if you dont like Shingo, then how about Ian Poulter? Or what about Alex Cejka? How does Geoff Ogilvy sound? Anybody have a problem with David Howell? OK, fine, then lets go ahead and make way for some more appealing names like Briny Baird or Tim Petrovic.
Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen will no doubt be there to provide some reality television. Heck, theyve been right there on Sunday in the last two links championships.
But itll be one of those guys who holds the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy. And for those of you who dont know much about Rodman Wanamaker ' heres his background.
Wanamaker was a department store owner who saw the merchandising opportunities in a professional golfers organization. So he rallied some prominent players and other leading industry representatives for a fancy lunch in New York City. It happened on Jan. 17, 1916. And among the 35 individuals sat the legendary Walter Hagen.
This exploratory meeting resulted in the formation of the PGA of America.
Now, 88 years later, the PGA Championship heads to Wisconsin for the most anticipated major in years. Anticipated by fans, players and PGA of America brass as well.
Its the most anticipated major I have seen, said PGA of America C.E.O. Jim Awtrey. And hes right.
The course, Whistling Straits, runs out at about 7,600 yards. And as 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel put it: I may need the 4400 volunteers to help look for my golf ball!
Walking 18 holes at Whistling Straits has been likened by the tour professionals who have played it to walking 54 holes on any other course. And thus, fitness will play into the weeks winner.
For the record, the trip to Wisconsin is not the first for a mens major. It will be the second PGA Championship to be played in Dairyland. History buffs will remember Gene Sarazens 1933 PGA Championship win at Blue Mound Country Club in Milwaukee. Back then, the PGA Championship was a match-play event.
History aside, wed be well served to gear up for the upset once again. The names I threw out are simply a reminder that great golf is played beyond the small inner circle of Tiger Woods, Mickelson, Els, Vijay Singh and Goosen. On a given day, we must begin to understand that Todd Hamilton has as good a chance to play HIS game BETTER than Ernie Els does HIS.
And so, Shingo Katayama had better be prepared for a coronation in a few weeks. One-hundred and sixty countries and territories are now sufficiently warned that it might just happen. Households totaling 371 million worldwide will be watching you take aim at Mike Weir, Sergio Garcia and the gang.
And on a course that Micheel says could (given the right weather conditions) require driver on EVERY hole, wed better be ready for Rory Sabbatini or Bo Van Pelt.
For those who will remember this venue as the one created when Pete Dye went wild with a bulldozer, wed better be ready to see Ted Purdy plow his way past Tiger, making him go another year without a chance to call himself golfs Big Cheese.
Funny, the possibilities, arent they? Youd better start thinking about them. Ben Curtis shocked us into believing that Rich Beem wasnt a fluke. And then Micheel told us that Beem was far better than we thought. And now, Royal Todd has let us in on the secret Micheel is just as deserving as Weir was.
Go ahead, Shingo ' make it your week. And if you dont want it, I can start at No. 56 (Hamilton prior to Troon) and start heading south in search of someone whos not afraid to make it theirs.
Wheres my plane ticket? I cant wait!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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?