Like most majors these days PGA is anyones title

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2010, 5:05 pm

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – With five of the last six majors won by first-timers, the days of the biggest names hoarding the best titles may be over.

Ahead of Thursday’s start of the PGA Championship, players like Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Lucas Glover, who once only dreamed of hoisting a claret jug or Wanamaker Trophy now look at their unassuming practice-round-partners-turned-major-champions and think, “Why not me?”

“It’s more tangible,” said Padraig Harrington, who credits Michael Campbell of New Zealand with inspiring his major swing. Two years after Campbell’s victory at the 2005 U.S. Open, the Irishman won the British Open, quickly followed by a second straight claret jug and the 2008 PGA title. “You need that familiarity. You had that in the ’80s when Seve (Ballesteros) started winning majors and other (European) players followed. Mentally, they could see that it could be done.

“It’s the old story, once the record is broken, a lot of people can follow.”

Of course, breaking through is a lot easier when Tiger Woods is playing like a mere mortal.

With his personal life in turmoil, so is Woods’ game. He’s been stuck on 14 majors since the 2008 U.S. Open, and arrived at Whistling Straits fresh off the worst tournament of his career. He beat just one player in the 80-man field last weekend, and shot a whopping 18-over 298 at Firestone – a course where he’s won seven times.

“I’ll be honest, the feeling in the locker room is slightly different,” England’s Paul Casey said, choosing his words carefully. “With the way (Woods) played the past week, guys feel like this is wide open, and that’s not a feeling that a lot of guys have had before. Graeme McDowell played tremendous golf at the U.S. Open. So did Louis playing his golf at The Open. That, combined with the way Tiger played last week, I think guys now feel there are multiple possible winners this week.

“It’s different. Not a feeling we’ve had in a while.”

Woods could usually be counted on to win at least one major each season and, as recently as 2006, he won two of them. Throw in Phil Mickelson, and the world’s top two players combined to win six of the eight majors in 2005 and ’06. That’s a formidable club for an up-and-comer to crash.

But with every victory by a Glover or McDowell or Oosthuizen, the majors don’t seem quite so daunting.

Glover was 71st in the world when he won the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. McDowell had to sweat out his exemption to the U.S. Open before holding off Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els at Pebble Beach. And Oosthuizen had made the cut at only one of his previous eight majors before winning at St. Andrews.

“I think the days of no-names getting in contention on Sunday afternoon and backing up, it doesn’t really happen anymore,” McDowell said. “Guys only have forward gears now, as opposed to anything else. Guys are not scared anymore.”

As if there was any doubt, McDowell turned to some unlikey sources for inspiration Sunday at Pebble Beach, when Woods, Mickelson and Els – multiple major winners – were chasing him.

“Y.E. Yang, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson – I was taking some belief from those guys doing it,” McDowell, the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open, said, rattling off a list of first-timers. “There’s no doubt, it has a knock-on effect.”

So who’s next?

Rory McIlroy is always a popular choice. McDowell’s fellow Northern Irishman tied the major-championship record with a 63 in the first round at the British Open, only to blow up with an 80 on Friday afternoon. But the 21-year-old player showed his mettle, closing 69-68 to finish in a tie for third.

There’s Ryo Ishikawa, the Japanese phenom who earlier this year shot a 58, the lowest score ever on a recognized tour. Paul Casey’s run at becoming the first Englishman since Faldo to win the British Open might have disappeared in a gorse bush, but his tie for third at St. Andrews shows he is as dangerous as he was last summer, when he climbed to No. 3 in the world before being sidelined by a rib injury.

Hunter Mahan is fresh off a win at Firestone. And don’t forget about local favorite Steve Stricker, whose rock steady consistency has him in position to claim the world No. 1 ranking – although he’d need a bit of help from Mickelson and Woods.

“Anyone that tees off in any of these events can win it,” Oosthuizen said. “I just think it’s getting to a stage where you can have, in the majors, different winners all the time.”

All that being said, no one’s about to count out Woods or Mickelson.

Woods’ debacle at Firestone allowed him to put in some extra time at Whistling Straits, and he sounded genuinely excited Tuesday about the progress he’s seen in his game. Mickelson may have stumbled in his opportunities to claim the world No. 1, but those struggles were put in a different light after he revealed Tuesday that he has psoriatic arthritis, which causes his immune system to attack his joints and tendons.

Mickelson first felt symptoms of the condition five days before the U.S. Open began, and experienced such intense pain he couldn’t walk. Medication has brought the illness under control, and Mickelson said there will be no long- or short-term negative effects on his health.

This major free-for-all may be maddening for golf fans who got used to having to worry about only a handful of players. But rather than seeing it as a sign the game is in disarray, McDowell said it’s a celebration of golf’s strength.

“We have such a wealth of talent all over the world – from Asia, from Europe, from the British Isles, from America,” McDowell said. “It’s just strong right now, the sport, and I think long may it continue.”

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

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Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.