Pleasure and Pain at the PGA

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2010, 7:03 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – At Whistling Straits there are upwards of 1,200 bunkers, 12 billion mosquitoes and now one inexplicably cruel turn to the season’s final major championship.

The Cliff’s Notes version is this: steely Martin Kaymer won Germany’s third Grand Slam title on Sunday at the PGA Championship, Bubba Watson earned a Ryder Cup berth and cried and Dustin Johnson did not.

If Roberto De Vicenzo has it right and a player is remembered for his legacy in defeat, more so than victory, then give Johnson a spot in Cooperstown. No kid should have to suffer so much Grand Slam grief in a single calendar. And no one maybe since De Vicenzo handled it with more class.

That’s not to take anything away from Martin Oosthuizen . . . eh, make that Kaymer, a rising star on the European scene who impressed then-Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo so much in 2008 Sir Nick let him tag along on scholarship. This year in Wales he won’t be carrying a walkie talkie. Instead he may well carry a European team thanks to a meticulous performance that would make a BMW engineer proud.

“When it comes to playoffs,” Kaymer’s caddie Craig Connelly said in fading light Sunday. “He’s a natural winner.’

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer follows fellow countryman Bernhard Langer as a major champion (Getty Images).

And now he’s Germany’s first major champion since Bernhard Langer in 1993 thanks to a final-round 68, a gutsy playoff victory over Watson and one of the most surreal major finishes since a Frenchman stepped into the burn at Carnoustie.

Tied with Watson for the clubhouse lead at 11-under 277, Kaymer and the rest of the golf world watched in shock as Johnson, who a hole earlier seemed to dash the demons of his Pebble Beach collapse with a 14 footer birdie at the 17th hole to move to 12 under, pushed his drive at the finishing hole five rows deep into the gallery along the right side of the fairway.

From what appeared to be a decent lie, Johnson grounded his club before sending his approach left of the green. The bogey should have sent the lanky American into the playoff, instead a 20-minute ruling ensued when officials realized his drive had landed in one of Whistling Strait’s ubiquitous bunkers.

The two-stroke penalty cost Johnson a spot in the playoff and sent him to the airport stinging from a second major heartbreak this year.

“I just thought I was in a piece of dirt,” said Johnson, who birdied two of the final three holes. “It never once crossed my mind I was in a bunker. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have thought I was in a bunker.”

Players were advised, repeatedly, that there were no “waste areas” at Whistling Straits, meaning the endless collection of rugged pits were all considered hazards. But in Johnson’s defense it’s hard to swing a 3-wood at Whistling Straits without hitting sand and from his vantage point in the gallery it would have been difficult to realize his plight.

“It’s too bad,” Stewart Cink tweeted. “Maybe Whistling Straits should rethink some of those obscure bunker-ish features.”

Asked after the playoff if they would rethink the rule or the value of what are essentially esthetic features, both architect Pete Dye and owner Herb Kohler were unapologetic.

“It’s what should have happened,” said Kohler, who added they would work on creating paths through the bunkers for spectators before the PGA Championship returns to Wisconsin in 2015 and in 2020 for the Ryder Cup.

“It’s just like (De Vincenzo) not signing his card (at the 1968 Masters),” Dye added.

Perhaps, but this much is certain, Dye got a tad too creative coloring outside the lines at Kohler’s masterpiece.

Dye built the Stadium Course in north Florida for public consumption, and an Obstacle Course in Wisconsin for largely private enjoyment. PGA of America officials doled out pedometers to press types to count paces. Ice packs and Ibuprofen would have been more useful.

For the second PGA, Goat Track National proved a worthy test for competitors, but the contrived dunes took a heavy toll on ankles, if not Johnson’s title chances.

As for Kaymer, he will savor his first major with or without an asterisk and for good reason.

Like Louis Oosthuizen before him, Kaymer was a hidden gem to those who watch carefully. A superior ballsriker with a deft touch on the greens and an icy demeanor that would make his hero, Langer, proud.

“If you know the Germans, most of the people in the world think that they are boring people,” said Kaymer, who took the lead on the sixth hole Sunday. “I’m not boring, but I’m not like a crazy guy. How you see me on the golf course, that’s the way I am when I have my time off.”

Even in the three-hole playoff Kaymer took the long view, laying back with a 3-wood on the short par-4 10th hole while his opponent whaled away with pink-shafted abandon.

“We expected Bubba to do that (on No. 10),” Connelly said. “It’s pretty much a par 3 for Bubba. We pretty much gave him the birdie.”

At the second extra hole the German turtle roped a 5-iron to 15 feet for birdie and played for bogey at the finishing hole when Watson, who was gambling on a flyer from the rough with a 6-iron, hit into a creek and made double bogey.

The victory wrapped a Ryder Cup bid for Kaymer, giving Europe two majors this year and a 2-up advantage heading into Wales, and brought one of the most explosive, both on and off the golf course, PGA Championships to an anticlimactic end.

They say the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday but the 92nd PGA Championship seemed to flat-line after a wild Wednesday. With all due respect to Kaymer and his on-course heroics, hump day was anything but mundane at Whistling Straits.

In order, both Ryder Cup captains suffered through a contentious news conference that would Rod Blagojevich shudder, Tiger Woods appeared to fill the void left by Hank Haney with Orlando, Fla.-based swing coach Sean Foley and Phil Mickelson went vegetarian.

As for Woods, the report card on his work with Foley was mixed. The world No. 1 never broke 70 (71-70-72-73), lost ground in his quest to avoid a captain’s pick (slipping to 12th on the points list) and is running out of time to get off the victory schneid in 2010, to say nothing of the FedEx Cup bubble.

“I feel like my game is a lot better than it was obviously last week, and given a little bit more time it's starting to head in the right direction now, which is good,” said Woods, who tied for 28th. “And I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully Corey will pick me on the team.”

While Mickelson revealed he is a vegetarian and is suffering from a rare form of arthritis he is still not No. 1 in the World Ranking. Other than that, Lefty spent most of the week treading water, shooting the round-of-the-day on Sunday (67) to tie for 12th but still searching for some sort of consistency.

But then few, if any, events are as contentious as an overseas Ryder Cup, save a Ryder Cup news conference. If Wednesday’s meet-and-greet was any indication, Wales will be a war for all the wrong reasons.

Within 10 minutes of starting Wednesday’s news conference both captains uttered the phrase “Let’s get this out of the way,” with Colin Montgomerie being grilled on an alleged injunction against a former girlfriend and Corey Pavin fielding tense questions regarding Woods as a potential captain’s pick that concluded with a public discussion with Golf Channel contributor Jim Gray.

“Glory’s Last Shot has never felt so gory, at least until Sunday’s shootout ended in heartbreak for Johnson.

It’s a shame, really, considering that this PGA was every bit a coming-out party for Gen Z. Along with Kaymer and Johnson, fellow twenty-somethings Nick Watney, Jason Day and generation standard bearer Rory McIlroy all made cameos.

Kohler brought Northern Ireland to Wisconsin with Whistling Straits and McIlroy nearly brought a PGA Championship to Northern Ireland, finishing a stroke outside the playoff despite missing more putts than a Sunday morning four-ball at a local muni.

Conversely, Kaymer, 25, made everything that mattered including his Sunday night flight to Jamaica for a week of sun and sand. Johnson, however, will be avoiding the sand, if not Whistling Straits, for some time.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.