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.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -2009 PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry