PGA is Two Events in One

By Associated PressAugust 7, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipThe PGA Championship is the only major where more than one guy feels like a winner.
The player with the lowest score will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy, deposit more than $1 million into his bank account, go to Hawaii for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and be exempt into the majors for the next five years.
A couple of other players will earn a trip to Detroit'and that could feel just as sweet.
The final major of the year is also the last chance for Americans to earn points toward making the Ryder Cup team, which can be just as stressful as trying to protect a one-shot lead on the final hole.
Other than my family, making that team is pretty much the most important thing in my life, said Jerry Kelly, who is 10th in the Ryder Cup standings. These last three weeks have been emotionally draining, and now I get a week to rest up for the PGA. It all comes down to the majors.
The top 10 players in the standings automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup, to be played Sept. 17-19 at Oakland Hills Country Club outside Detroit. U.S. captain Hal Sutton will announce his two wild-card picks the day after the PGA.
There are 34 players who have a statistical chance of earning a spot on the team. Scott Verplank has the best chance of bumping Kelly out of the top 10, needing at least an eighth-place finish at Whistling Straits.
Indeed, this is a major where some players are keeping track of more than just birdies and bogeys. Every other year, the PGA Championship essentially is two tournaments in one.
If you have a chance to win the tournament, you want to win, Jeff Maggert said. Ryder Cup points follow good play. The hard part is when you dont have a chance to win, and youre looking at the scoreboard the last three or four holes. You think, Man, I need a couple of more birdies. Two birdies and I finish fifth. No birdies and I finish 12th.
Thats where the pressure comes, at least for me.
Maggert is 11th in the standings, but he wont face that pressure this year.
He withdrew from the PGA because his wife, Michelle, was due to deliver twins any day, and Maggert would rather stay with his wife, or with the babies if they happen to be born before the PGA begins.
Still, no one has a better appreciation of the tournament within the tournament.
Maggert was outside the top 10 in the Ryder Cup standings in 1995 when he tied for fourth at Riviera and earned a spot on his first team. Two years later, he closed with a 65 at Winged Foot in the final round of the PGA Championship to collect enough points to make another team.
The real high-wire act took place at Medinah in 1999.
Maggert was 10th in the standings and missed the cut, his chances of making the team seemingly over.
It looked even more dire when Bob Estes, who needed to finish in a two-way tie for fifth to move into the top 10 in Ryder Cup standings, made a late charge on Sunday. Estes was alone in fourth with three holes to play. But bogeys on the 16th and 17th dropped him into a tie for sixth, and the points he earned only got him as high as 11th.
The guys who are 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th in the standings ... theyre thinking about it, Maggert said. Its important for all the Americans. Playing in the Ryder Cup is a close second to winning a major.
Barring a mathematical fluke, the top seven players'Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms and Chad Campbell'have essentially locked up their spots on the team.
Fred Funk is looking good at No. 8, but then it really gets tight.
Steve Flesch (No. 9) is only seven points ahead of Kelly, and 10th place at the PGA is worth 10 points. Maggert (11) cant go anywhere because he isnt playing, so his only hope is to be a captains pick; he and Hal Sutton were partners at The Country Club in 1999.
Behind Maggert are Scott Verplank, Stewart Cink, 50-year-old Jay Haas and Tim Herron, who is recovering from Lyme disease but will go to the PGA Championship as an all-or-nothing shot at making the team.
Everyone will be watching John Daly at No. 20 in the standings. He would have to finish second at Whistling Straits to have any hope of automatically making the team, although Daly is never one to be counted out.
Even if he finishes in the top five, that might be enough for Sutton to consider him. Thats how Verplank made himself an easy pick for the 02 team, by finishing strong in Atlanta at the PGA Championship and tying for seventh.
Daly is saying all the right things.
Were going to have a great team whether Im on it or not, Daly said. I would love to be a pick, but thats Hals decision. If I do get picked, Ill be ready. And Id love to play.
The good news for Sutton is that most of the players from 11th to 25th in the standings are making strides, large and small. The biggest move came from Todd Hamilton by winning the British Open. Others, such as Chris Riley and Charles Howell III, have been stuck in neutral.
It all comes down to one final week, maybe one final round, and possibly the final hole.
And then comes the hard part'waiting for a phone call Sunday night or Monday morning from Sutton to let them know if they made the team.
The best way to avoid the call is to wrap up a spot on the team before the final putt drops at Whistling Straits.
Related Links:
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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, 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?’”