Did not see this coming

By Rex HoggardAugust 14, 2011, 1:03 am

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – A week that began with the promise of colossal comebacks, Chubby Slams and youthful coronations has been reduced to a pop quiz that no one could have prepared for.

In order, Sunday’s second-to-last two-ball will feature a player whose next major will be his second and a 47-year-old miracle of modern medicine; followed 10 minutes later by the day’s final tee time that has collected just a single PGA Tour title, combined.

From the ashes of great expectations comes the unpredictability of obscurity.

If Sunday’s marquee leaves middle America wanting for name tags and thumbnail bios, the uncertainty of it all promises to fill the void with a measure of anticipation.

Your 54-hole front-runners are Auburn’s Jason Dufner, whose most meaningful trip to Atlanta was last year’s Southeastern Conference championship game, and Brendan Steele, who compared Glory’s Last Shot to his victory at last year’s Nationwide Tour Championship – really, he did – and is playing his first major.

In Steele’s defense, you can’t win 18 majors without winning your first.

“You can only want something so much,” the 28-year-old figured. “I really wanted to win the Nationwide Tour Championship and (this year’s Texas Open), so it’s not that different.”

For those in search of more familiarity, or perspective, the leaderboard at the 93rd PGA Championship offers precious few outlets. Keegan Bradley, a rookie like Steele, and veteran Scott Verplank will begin the final round one and two strokes back, respectively; and the top 12 players have a combined two majors.

“It feels great,” said Verplank , who has been slowed this year by a wrist injury. “I don’t feel a day over 100.”

Those who run major championships like to say they identify the week’s best player. Chances are Sunday’s champion will just need to be identified for the general golfing public.

That’s not to say the PGA leaderboard is entirely void of needle movers. Steve Williams . . . eh, Adam Scott begins the final turn five back at 2 under, tied with David Toms, the 2001 champion here at AAC who posted a round-of-the-day 65, and Steve Stricker, the leader in the clubhouse for Player of the Year, is just three behind.

But it is not who remains so as much as it is how they finish. The dearth of major experience combined with the toughest closing stretch of holes this side of Barry Burn make no lead or leader, no matter how nondescript, safe.

Consider Jim Furyk’s misadventures on Saturday. Just two strokes back through 13 holes, the former U.S. Open champion bogeyed No. 14, rinsed his tee shot at the downhill 15th hole and dunked two into the water at the finale. For the record, he played his last four in three splashes.

It is a story that has been told ad nauseam this week on the par-4 18th hole. It’s an old tale by now, boy meets hole, hole dropkicks boy, boy walks off course shaking his head and counting ’em up like an 18 handicap.

“There’s nowhere to hit the ball off the tee and the bunkers are virtually unplayable (at No. 18),” said Stricker, one of the lucky ones who stole a par at the last after hitting his drive into a fairway bunker. “It’s a better par 5 than a par 4 and I play it like that. I don’t mind laying up.”

In many ways it is why this week’s leaderboard looks more like the Atlanta Classic than the PGA Championship. Through three rounds the golf course is the week’s only lasting star, for better or worse.

As a general rule, pros don’t like to putt for pars. They are not fans of three-shot par 4s, driveable par 3s or no-shot bunkers. So it was no surprise that the sweat-stained field has marched off Atlanta Athletic Club with something just short of disdain for the Highlands track.

And this goes well beyond Phil Mickelson’s aversion for Rees Jones’ handiwork on the Hotlanta gem. The field has done more scrambling on the 18th hole this week than a third-string Redskins quarterback, and late Saturday the only safe bet was that whoever emerges from the sizzling scrum will play the closer just like Toms did when he won in 2001.

Just like Steele did on Saturday.

Despite his lack of Grand Slam pedigree the man of Steele showed impressive moxie coming down the stretch on Saturday with two-putt pars from 50 and 60 feet at Nos. 16 and 17, respectively. And when his drive flew into the third bunker down the right side of the finishing hole he calmly laid up, pitched to 20 feet and took his bogey – the way God and Rees Jones intended.

Whether Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner do, as golf writing legend Dan Jenkins once penned, what Brendan Steeles and Jason Dufners do on a Sunday at a major, which is to say wilt like bent grass in the August sun, remains to be seen. What is certain, it will be the golf course that ultimately wins this contest.

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.