Saving the Best for Last

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2003, 4:00 pm
The PGA Championship: That Cinderella of majors; the one with the descript, but non-distinct identity.
The Masters is the first major; the secret handshake major.
The U.S. Open is the national major; the formal, fairways-and-greens major.
The Open Championship is the universal major; the elemental major.
On the PGA Tour schedule, the PGA Championship is the final major; theum, the club professionals major.
The PGA Championship doesnt have the radiant allure of the first three majors. But its not tattered and torn, busting the table after the other majors have fed.
Its one of those teen movies where the girl with the glasses, pony tail and paint-stained overalls pops in a pair of contacts, lets down the locks, fills out a sexy red dress and gets the guy of her dreams.
Thats the PGA Championship -- overlooked, but, in the end, the one most admired.
Each year the seasons final major offers unparalleled drama: Tiger Woods trying to chase down an unrelenting Rich Beem in 2002; David Toms denying Phil Mickelson in 01; Goliath Woods withstanding the barrage of stones slung by David Bob May in 2000; Tiger surviving a Sergio scare in 99.
But why is that? Why is the least revered major the most exciting?
Maybe its because of course set-up. PGA courses generally are less penal than those on display at a U.S. or British Open. The fairways are a little wider, the rough a little less dense, the greens a little more navigable.
And as a result, the leaderboard tends to turn redder than Boris Yeltsins nose.
Over the last five years, the average winning score at the Masters has been 10.6 under par; 5.6 at the U.S. Open; 6.0 at the Open Championship.
Beginning in '99, the average winning score at the PGA Championship has been 15.5 under par.
Birdies ' not in a ridiculous Bob Hope Classic manner ' are fun to watch during a major week. Allowing players to expose their talents is enjoyable. Listening to them whine and moan about difficult course conditions is not. Watching them suffer publicly loses its appeal after a round or two.
Thats not to say that watching a player grind induces instant channel clicking; there is just more pleasure derived from watching players move forward on the leaderboard as opposed to witnessing a constant retreat.
Youre not going to back into the winners circle at a PGA Championship. You have to step inside front foot forward.
Another criticism of the PGA is that, perhaps because of the more hospitable course conditions, some of the winners are not worthy of being considered major champions: theyre fluke winners from the fourth of four majors.
Thirteen of the last 17 PGA champions have made this event their maiden major victory, and nine of those players have yet to notch another major.
But who are we to determine who deserves major recognition? After all, the PGA annually boasts the best field of the season ' according to the World Golf Ranking ' and if Rich Beem or Mark Brooks or Wayne Grady or Bob Tway is the last man standing, then job well done, Mr. Major.
And dont overlook who the underappreciated defeated en route to their coronation.
Tway won in 1986, with Greg Norman the runner-up; Jeff Sluman bettered future champ Paul Azinger in 88; Grady beat Americas best at the time, Fred Couples, in 90; Azinger got his revenge at Normans expense in 93; Steve Elkington out-dueled Europes best at the time, Colin Montgomerie, in 95; David Toms beat the worlds second-ranked player at the time two years ago, while Beem held off the world's No. 1 last year.
They all earned the honor of having their names forever etched onto the Wanamaker trophy.
This year, the seasons final major carries with it added importance.
Its not just Glorys Last Shot ' a trite catchphrase that reeks of Jim Nantz ' its Tigers last chance to win a major in 2003. Its an opportunity for Woods, Davis Love III, Kenny Perry, Mike Weir or Jim Furyk to secure Player of the Year honors. Its yet another ' No. 46, if youre keeping count ' opportunity for Phil Mickelson to become a major winner. Its a chance for Ben Curtis to validate his shocking Open Championship triumph. And its where the next Ben Curtis can rise to fame.
The PGA Championship doesnt have the aura of Augusta National, the national prestige of the first Open, or the worldly appeal of the second Open.
You may never hear a player say, The one major I most desire to win is the PGA Championship.
But, year after recent year, the PGA has been the most entertaining major, the most compelling major, the major most fun to watch come Sunday afternoon.
And to the viewing audience, those are major attractions.
Related Links:
  • 2003 PGA Championship Home
  • More News from the 2003 PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

    Well, this is a one new one.

    According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

    “No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

    Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

    “If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

    The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

    “I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

    The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

    Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

    Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.