Heads and Tails at Whistling Straits


04 PGA ChampionshipThe 19th Hole.
Thats right. The headline most appropriate in the wake of the 86th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is The 19th Hole.
Almost everybody in golf loves the 19th hole. And certainly the good burghers of the state of Wisconsin understand this. More important, the 19th hole of Vijays Singhs Sunday was where he won the golf tournament. He smashed a drive up the 10th fairway on the first hole of the playoff with Justin Leonard, and Chris DiMarco and made his first and only birdie of the day.
The 19th Hole.
Prior to the start of Sundays final round, the headline writers were lined up like jumbo jets waiting to land at a crowded airport on a Sunday evening.
For Els there was The Importance of Being Ernie, a takeoff on the great Oscar Wilde play The Importance of Being Earnest. Els trailed leader Singh by four shots after 54 holes and would have been closer but for two bogeys on Saturdays final four holes.
The importance of this tournament for Els was simple. He would have a chance to overtake Woods at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings if he won here. It would also get him three quarters of the way to the career grand slam. Ernie missed the playoff by a shot.
For his part, Phil Mickelson, also four back after three rounds, had once again captured the hearts and minds of the crowds at a major championship. Mickelson grew up in San Diego, a place that doesnt have a lot in common with Sheboygan, the nearest city of any consequence to Whistling Straits.
But here was Phil ambling down the fairways to wave after wave of applause hole after hole. Here was Phil tying for the low round of the day Saturday, shooting 67 thanks, in large measure, to a magical up and down on the 18th hole.
And here was Phil, in Wisconsin, smiling like there was no tomorrow. Say Cheese, was going to be the easy headline if Mickelson won. He finished a shot behind Els.
Singh was always going to be a tougher proposition for the headline writers.
When was the last time you saw Singh shilling for cars or watches or clothes on TV. Hes the last to care about whether or not hes marketable. Mainly he cares about the feeling of a well-struck blow, delivered on balance and the sight of a clean shallow divot followed by a tracer trajectory and the proper shape as his golf ball hisses off the face of his club.
Its not the end of the world if I dont win a major, said Singh, semi-heretically, before he teed it up Sunday.
It might be the end of Singhs world if someone told him he couldnt play golf anymore.
Leonard used to be that way a little, too. Then he got married. His wife had a baby. Leonards hyper-focus softened. He gained perspective. And it helped him accept golfs vagaries with a little less stress.
Justin Time, is a headline we have seen before. And its one that would have applied even more so if Leonard had won at Whistling Straits. Maybe Straits Arrow. Alas for Leonard, he missed three putts of 10 feet or less on the last four holes and opened the door for.............
The 19th Hole.
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