Major season has been tough on sentimental favorites

By Randall MellAugust 9, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 PGA Championship'Now is the summer of our discontent...'
Yes, Shakespeares line from 'Richard III' is wrongly constructed there, but so is this major championship season.
Its as cruelly contorted as the future king of Englands hunched back.
Were witness to the coldest-hearted season in major championship history.
If the theme to this years majors holds true to form this week at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the strangest slam in the history of golf will be complete.
If another sentimental favorite is led to the brink of something spectacular before losing in dramatic fashion, this years majors will go down as the Heartbreak Slam.
Ladbrokes and other golf oddsmakers ought to scrap their traditional betting lines for the PGA Championship.
Instead of listing odds on who is most likely to win at Hazeltine, they ought to rate which sentimental favorites are most likely to join Kenny Perry, Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Tom Watson among the Grand Slammed.
Apologies to the deserving winners of the Masters (Angel Cabrera), U.S. Open (Lucas Glover) and British Open (Stewart Cink), but this major championship season is all about the losers. Cabrera, Glover and Cink might have been the best players, but they werent the best stories.
Perry losing the Masters in a playoff, Mickelson and Duval falling short in spirited final-round runs at the U.S. Open and Watson losing in a playoff at the British Open mesmerized us as the dominant storylines.
Even in defeat, these nearly great stories helped make this major championship season one of the most compelling in history.
So who will complete the Heartbreak Slam?
Following the cruel theme, heres how we make the odds on players ' other than Perry, Mickelson and Duval ' whom we would like to see win this week but fear watching befall the same fate as these other favored sons:

Ernie Els (35-to-1) The Big Easy turns 40 this fall, and though passing that birthday hasnt stopped Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry, something has not been right with Els game for awhile now. His victory at the Honda Classic last year is his only PGA Tour title in the last five seasons.
A three-time major championship winner, you know he thought there would be more along the way, but his British Open title in 2002 remains his last major triumph. He tied for eighth at the British Open last month after missing the cuts at the Masters and U.S. Open.
While we speculated that trying to keep up with Tiger Woods might have finally taken a dispiriting toll on Els, the answer may be simpler than that. Els putting stroke hasnt been as reliable as it once was. Hes 154th on Tour in putting average this season. He tied for 35th in putting in 02, when he won his last major.
Outside the ropes, Els has been challenged in other ways. A week after winning the Honda Classic in 08, he showed up on Tour with an Autism Speaks logo on his golf bag. He went public revealing that his then 5-year-old son, Ben, had autism. He formed the Els for Autism Foundation as part of his dedication to finding a cure to the neurological disorder.
Ernie is very, very serious about finding a cure, Els wife, Liezl, said before this years Honda Classic.
Should Els find his putting stroke this week, he will be Big Easy to root for to ruin the Heartbreak Slam theme and win his fourth major.

Fred Couples (100-to-1) Though he turns 50 and becomes eligible for the Champions Tour this fall, Couples remains competitive on the PGA Tour. Hes still among the top 100 in the world rankings (No. 86). He was in contention at the Northern Trust and Shell Houston Open this year before tying for third in each. He shot four rounds in the 60s and tied for eighth at the EDS Byron Nelson earlier this year.
Its still all about Couples back. He withdrew from the RBC Canadian Open with a sore back two weeks ago, which doesnt bode well for a magical run this week. Neither does the fact that hes focused on his duties as the Presidents Cup captain.
Still, if Watson can conjure magic at 59, we can dream about Couples doing the same 10 years younger. Plus, if Couples pulls out a miraculous victory, theres sure to be calls for him to be a playing captain as one of his two captains picks.

Darren Clarke (100-to-1) Clarke was there with words of encouragement for Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open, where Mickelson was trying to bring home the silver trophy for his wife, Amy, who is being treated for breast cancer. Clarke lost his wife, Heather, to breast cancer in August of 2006. He has his own foundation, which helps fight the disease.

John Daly (150-to-1) After shooting 88 at the Buick Open two weeks ago, his highest score in a PGA Tour event, Dalys team cited fatigue from world travel and excessive weight loss from Lap-Band surgery as factors that placed him in a toxic state.
It seems the more spectacularly Daly fails, the more intrigued his fans are by his story and the harder they root for him.

Colin Montgomerie (150-to-1) Hazeltine is probably way too much course for Montgomerie, 46, this late in his career, but the odds against him are part of why hes on this list.
Though Montgomerie has rubbed American fans wrong over the years, its difficult to imagine, should he somehow get in contention, that he wouldnt gain great favor as the underdog bidding to break through and finally win his first major. Plus, there will be no Sandy Lyle there to poke at old wounds. Montgomerie is 0-for-68 in majors.
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