Tiger Tackles Atlanta
And each year, the PGA Championship endures the slings and arrows fired by critics who say the tournament truly brings up the rear in accordance to major championships.
However, things were different in 2000.
The final major was the most compelling. The most competitive. The most intense. Quite simply, the best tournament of the year.
Complete Coverage of the 2000 PGA Championship
Tiger Woods was looking for his second consecutive Wannamaker Trophy. Looking for his third straight major. Looking to cap possibly the greatest individual season ever.
All the while, the public was just looking for a challenge, a bit of drama.
Such was found that Sunday afternoon in Louisville, Kent.
It wasnt provided by David Duval. It wasnt provided by Phil Mickelson. It wasnt provided by Vijay Singh.
It was provided by Bob May.
May was Tiger before Eldrick. He tore up the junior circuit in Southern California, setting records that Tiger, in time, would break.
But Mays professional accomplishments never equaled that of his amateur days. At least not until that Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club.
Playing in the final pairing with Woods, May matched the worlds No. 1 ranked player shot for shot down the stretch, with both men coming home in just 31 strokes.
On the 72nd hole, May needed to make an 18-footer to stay alive. His birdie effort broke oncebroke twiceand gently dropped into the hole.
Tiger then confidently made a four-footer to force the first three-hole playoff in tournament history.
To the 16th the two combatants went, where Tiger made television highlight history by nearly picking his ball out of the hole before it fell in for birdie.
That putt proved to be the difference as both men parred the final two playoff holes.
The scene now shifts to the Atlanta Athletic Club in Atlanta, Ga. Its the first time the PGA of America has played the 7,213-yard, par-70 Highlands Course since Marietta resident Larry Nelson won the first of his three majors here in 1981.
This is the 83rd playing of the Championship. It began in 1916, when department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker hinted at the need for an annual all-professional tournament.
Wanamaker put up $2,500 as part of the prize fund, and voila!
Eighty-five years later, the 150 participants will vie for $5 million, with $900,000 going to the winner.
But more than gold coins and a silver trophy are on the line this week. For many, a spot on the 2001 Ryder Cup team is at stake.
This is the final event for U.S. players to qualify for the matches, to be contested in late September.
Many, including the man himself, will be trying to duplicate Brad Faxon's feat in 1995. On the outside looking in, Faxon shot a final-round 63 in the PGA Championship to lock up the 10th-and-final automatic spot on the team.
Faxon is currently 11th in the standings.
Aside from Tigers back-to-back victories in 1999 and 2000, the seasons final major has been known for crowning a first-time major champion.
From 1988 to 1998, only one victor had a previous major under his belt ' Nick Price in 1994.
That bodes well for those trying to make the trip to The Belfry for the Ryder Cup. Nos. 10 through 17 on the American side are '0-fer' in major championships.
Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain
PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.
She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.
“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.
Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.
“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”
She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.
“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”
Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.
“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.
She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.
“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”
Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.
While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.
“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”
Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead
PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.
In fact, she named her “Mona.”
For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.
While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.
And that has her excited about this year.
Well, that and having a healthy back again.
“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”
Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”
Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.
She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”
Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.
Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders
PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.
Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.
Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.
Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.
Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC
PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.
With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.
After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.
“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”
It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.
Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.
“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”
Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.
Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.
“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”
Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).
Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.
“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”
Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.
“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”
Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.