First Round Suspended by Lightning
Woods hit an iron shot down the middle of the 410-yard, par-4 10th hole but, just as he reached his drive, the horn sounded to halt play.
With no rain falling, Woods had a look of, 'Are you kidding me?'' but lightning soon was spotted and heavy rain began falling about 10 minutes later.
During the last major tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the 1991 U.S. Open, spectator Billy Fadell was killed and five others were hospitalized when struck by lightning on June 13, 1991.
As Woods and playing partners Ernie Els (the British Open champion) and David Toms (the defending champion) were coming off the course, a spectator asked Woods' mother, Kultida, what the suspension meant.
'It means he's won,'' she said, laughing.
Els outdrove Woods by about 10 yards, but the South African's ball landed in a large divot.
When play was stopped, less than one-fifth of the field of 156 was on the course, and the best score, shared by numerous golfers, was 1-under.
The last major of the year is often the least appreciated, least identifiable and least watched of golfing's version of the Final Four.
But no tournament has a better field.
All but two of the world's top 100 are entered, led by Woods, who no longer can win the Grand Slam but still can finish a first-ever All-American Slam by winning the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA in the same year.
'I always feel that's one thing the PGA Championship has going for it ' we've always got the best players in the field,'' Thomas Bjorn said. 'That's a great, great thing to have for a championship. If you look at all the tournaments that are played throughout the world over the whole year, this has got to be the strongest field.''
And not just this year, either.
'I think we have the best field of all time,'' Woods said.
That's why the PGA just could be the toughest of the four majors ' well, at least to predict. Of the last 14 PGA winners, 11 had never captured a major before, including Toms in 2001.
Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, arguably the most skilled golfers in the field without a major title, wouldn't mind if that soon becomes 12 of 15.
'I'm here to try to win, and it doesn't matter if it's the PGA, the U.S. Open or whatever major,'' Garcia said. 'I wouldn't mind if the PGA was my first major. It would be great.''
Mickelson has won twice this year and has 21 career PGA Tour victories. But the frustration that always accompanies him in majors is best illustrated by his PGA second-place finish a year ago at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Despite shooting 14-under ' the best score ever by a non-winner ' Mickelson lost by a stroke to Toms, who wouldn't have won without his hole-in-one on No. 15 during the third round.
'I think it would have been more frustrating had I not had a chance to win,'' Mickelson said. 'Although I didn't beat every single player in the field, I played to a level that I need to play at to win a major championship.''
But when? Only Harry 'Lighthorse'' Cooper (31) and MacDonald Smith (24) have won more times on tour without claiming a major championship. Mickelson has never held the 54-hole lead in a major, but has finished second or third in five of the last 14 majors.
The biggest question going into any major, of course, is whether anyone in the field can play up to Woods' level.
Woods seemed loose, relaxed and confident during his early morning practice round Wednesday, even trotting out his famous bounce-the-ball-at-the-end-of-his-club trick for his huge gallery.
Woods has won seven of the last 12 majors, despite his weather-related breakdown in the British Open ' a pro career-worst 81 in the third round ' that prevented him from going for the Grand Slam at Hazeltine.
What also makes the PGA especially difficult to handicap is its ever-changing venues. Unlike the U.S. Open, which sticks mostly to a fairly predictable circuit (Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Baltusrol), the PGA likes to stop at the new or rarely frequented: Hazeltine, Valhalla, Sahalee, Crooked Stick, Whistling Straits.
'It's the major that plays in the most different golf courses than all the others,'' Garcia said. 'The PGA always seems to move a little more, but they always seem to find some really nice courses to play.
'It's a tournament that you want to have in your house ' and, hopefully, I'll have a good chance in it.''
Full coverage of the 84th PGA Championship
Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.
Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.
Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.
“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”
No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.
On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.
“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.
“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”
A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.
“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”
Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship
It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)
How to watch:
Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream
Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.
Purse: $6 million
Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)
Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.
Notables in the field
• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship
• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open
• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts
• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)
• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)
• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)
Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17
Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.
Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.
Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.
"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."
But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.
After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.
"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."
McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status
For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.
The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.
McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.
"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."
By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.
But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.
Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.