PGA Dinner Like No Other

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- The only players invited to dinner are former champions, so it is exclusive company. The defending champion decides the menu, and the evening is filled with laughs, stories and memories.
 
It sounds like the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night at Augusta National.
 
But the Masters champions don't get a a pair of Ostrich cowboy boots; or a print of the ninth hole at Riviera, each one signed by Ben Hogan; or an electric guitar.
 
The PGA Championship is building a tradition all its own with a Champions Dinner that has turned into a contest to see which winner can outdo the other.
 
Shaun Micheel might have come up with the most unique night of all.
 
For the meal, he had Rendezvous Ribs from his home in Memphis, Tenn., come up to Wisconsin to give 17 former champions a taste of the South. Then it was time to open the presents.
 
Micheel got each of them a Gibson electric guitar, and they posed with them for a photo like none other. But unlike the boots (courtesy of Rich Beem) or a personalized magnum of Berringer Wine (Davis Love III), it wasn't easy to make practical use of this gift.
 
John Daly was the only guy who knew how to play, and he complained that the guitar wasn't tuned. Someone in the house took care of that, and Daly put on a show that went past midnight.
 
Micheel, who grew up a KISS fan and still goes backstage with the heavy-metal rockers, is learning.
 
'I was with my friends from KISS last week,' he said. 'The guitar player and the lead singer were both trying to give me some guitar lessons, so my first song I'm learning is 'Kumbaya.' That's only two chords, and I have not quite figured out how to do that.'
 
Kumbaya?
 
'I wanted to start a little more advanced,' Micheel said.
 
PGA champions have been gathering for a pre-tournament dinner for years, but the PGA of America decided to jazz things up 10 years ago. They gave players a budget for dinner and a gift (the Masters champion is responsible for all costs), and there have been some interesting selections.
 
Steve Elkington served lamb chops and gave everyone a Gerrard's bracelet for their wives. Vijay Singh chose a miniature Wanamaker Trophy on a mahogany base. David Toms stayed with his Louisiana roots, bringing the champions an alligator belt with a sterling buckle.
 
Tiger Woods had two cracks at a gift.
 
As the defending champion in 2000, he gave everyone four-image clock from the time zones where each of the majors were played that year - Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Valhalla. A year later, he gave the PGA champions a personalized humidor.
 
Woods didn't get too elaborate with the food - filet mignon and Dover sole one year, sushi and teriyaki the next.
 
Toms also was the first PGA champion to spare no expense on the meal. He brought a crew from Emeril's Executive Chefs for some New Orleans style cuisine.
 
Beem followed by inviting the chef from Cafe Central in El Paso, Texas, to cook Tex-Mex.
 
The dinner, always a nice occasion, is a big change from when Jeff Sluman was defending champion in 1989.
 
'The PGA took care of the dinner and had a nice money clip for everyone, or something like that,' he said. 'There wasn't even a slide show. A few people got up and spoke, and it was done very well.
 
'Now,' he said, 'it's totally different.'
 
What was the worst gift he got at a PGA champions dinner?
 
'There's are no bad gifts, because you're there,' said Sluman, who won his PGA title at Oak Tree in 1988.
 
The biggest difference - besides the exotic gifts - is that a former Masters champion rarely misses the dinner. Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd or Jack Burke Jr. aren't always likely to show up at the PGA Championship.
 
'It has a relatively short history,' Love said of the PGA dinner. 'When it started out, it didn't have all of the different things going on now.'
 
The biggest change this year was something that doesn't happen at Augusta National.
 
Wives were invited to the dinner - but they didn't get their own guitar.
 
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”