Straits Forward Thoughts From the PGA

By Kraig KannAugust 13, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipDay 2 at Whistling Straits begins with Darren Clarke as the targeted man. My hunch is that he's up to and up for the task.

The galleries here are among the best I have ever seen in major championship sports, let alone golf. It's been some 70 years since Wisconsin played host to a major golf championship. Interestingly, it was the PGA Championship in Milwaukee back in the 1930s. Given the demeanor of the folks here in the land of bratwurst and beer, I suggest it not be more than another seven years before major golf returns.

Let's be real, this is a hearty bunch, these Wisconsinites. They know their suds, yet don't get out of control. They're respectful and grateful for the chance to be hospitable. They deserve the week they've been given, and given the number of folks who've come up and said hello, we're fortunate to be here.

Now...from suds to duds. And I've got to start with Tiger Woods. From the beginning of the week, his body language has been off. Many of us in the media have been chatting about his apparent lack of excitement for the venue. Comments about Whistling Straits not being fun for the 18 handicap aren't ways to excite the locals and add to your supportive gallery. There was no need to take down 'The Straits' before the first ball was struck in competition. And the golf gods remember things like that. If you believe in things like that, you know why Woods couldn't get the flatstick on his side on Thursday.

Now Woods is in serious trouble. 75s don't strike fear in the field. And they haven't for the streak of majors that will number 10 at week's end. Friday, it could be argued, might just be the biggest round of his professional career to date. Make a charge with say, 66, and he's back in contention and back in golf's good graces. Another pedestrian 73 and he might just be shown the way from Sheboygan with his unfathomable cuts made streak shattered, and 'badgered' for weeks after another disappointing major.

And then there's the No. 1 Ranking which has a better than average chance of going up with the smoke coming from brat grills all over the course. No. 1 in the world - Ernie Els. N o. 1 in the world - Vijay Singh. It just doesn't seem right, but we might need to get used to it.

Ernie Els deserves a huge pat on the back. His emotional tank apparently has plenty in reserve. Vijay Singh is proving, yet again, that he is one of the game's truest warriors. Never blinking while Woods and ...gulp...Ryder Cup hopeful John Daly went south in the north.

Beware the likes of Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazabal. Short game wizards both of them, they haven't won majors by luck alone. This is a big statement.

And Briny Baird and Tim Petrovic are proof yet again that the PGA Championship accepts all comers, and all those who come with excitement and dreams. Tiger should take note.

This emerging story of Stan Utley as a short game coach to the stars is getting long and strong legs. Utley won on the PGA Tour back in 1989. Since that time he's been toiling on both the PGA and Nationwide Tours searching for the same magic. Truth be told, it hasn't given him much. And apparently the carrot dangling in front of him all along wasn't another tour victory for himself, but instead many tour victories for others. Majors included.

Utley worked with Clarke for three days prior to the start of play this week, changing his chipping stroke and adjusting his putting routine. At this point, who's going to argue that it didn't make a difference? Clarke, thus far, has found more holes than the man in charge of Swiss cheese at the local dairy.

In short, the folks here in Wisconsin are getting a treat. They haven't seen scoring like this since the Packers whooped up on the Bears last year on Monday Night Football.

There's plenty to enjoy, and plenty of reason to enjoy the hospitality being heaped upon us. Cut day is upon uslet's see what curves lie ahead here at 'The Straits.'
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  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

    He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

    Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

    Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

    Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

    Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

    Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

    Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

    Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

    Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

    Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

    Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

    Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

    Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

    Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

    Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

    Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

    Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

    Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

    Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

    Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

    Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

    The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

    Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

    And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

    Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

    Photo Galleries: Best of ...

    Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

    Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.