Last Chance for First Major

By Mercer BaggsAugust 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
Davis Love III did it. So did Payne Stewart and John Daly and Nick Price and Vijay Singh. The same can be said for Wayne Grady and Mark Brooks and Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel. Thirteen of the last 16 PGA Championship winners have been maiden major champions. As the field of 156 prepare to compete in the 86th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, several in attendance hope to add their name to this list. Here's a look at the top-ranked contenders without a major victory, with some analysis from PGA Tour winner and Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo.
Padraig Harrington Name: Padraig Harrington
World Ranking: 8th
Appearances: 5
Best Finish: T17 (2002, Hazeltine)

The Facts: The PGA Championship is the only major in which Harrington has failed to record a top-5 finish ' or top-10, for that matter. A sore neck ' which flared up at the British Open and resulted in a missed cut ' has kept him out of competition for the last two weeks. However, in his most recent start, the Nissan Irish Open, he notched his 24th career runner-up finish; two of those have come on the PGA Tour this season (Players Championship, Buick Classic).
Nobilo's Analysis: Currently the highest-ranked European. He possesses a wonderful touch around the greens and does not give up on a shot. But to be considered to have a realistic chance, he will have to bring a better iron game to the PGA. At nearly 7,500 yards, good iron play will be essential, as there will not be the gimmie birdies seen on some shorter venues.
Sergio Garcia Name: Sergio Garcia
World Ranking: 10th
Appearances: 5
Best Finish: 2nd (1999, Medinah)

The Facts: Where does the time go? This is Garcias 25th major played. Its been five years since a 19-year-old Garcia sprinted and scissor-kicked his way to a runner-up finish at Medinah. Hes since been a consistent major performer, with seven top-10s in 19 starts. His Sunday 66 at Augusta National earned him a backdoor tie for fourth at the Masters, but his final-round 80 at Shinnecock dropped him to a tie for 20th at the U.S. Open. He then missed the cut at Royal Troon.
Nobilo's Analysis: Arguably the best iron player in the world, Garcia will give himself plenty of opportunities to warrant a chance to raise the Wanamaker Trophy. But he really needs to rediscover his swashbuckling attitude ' and make a few putts ' to send shivers through the field.
Perry, Kenny Name: Kenny Perry
World Ranking: 11th
Appearances: 13
Best Finish: 2nd (1996, Valhalla)

The Facts: Perry has never missed the cut in 13 PGA Championship appearances. He was the runner-up in 1996, when he bogeyed the 72nd hole and then lost in a playoff to Mark Brooks. Coming off his best season on tour, when he won three times in four starts, Perry has yet to win in 2004. He missed the cut in both the Masters and U.S. Open, but tied for 16th at the British Open, where he finally felt comfortable off the tee. Perry broke his old driver ' the one I made all of my money with ' at the Buick Classic.
Nobilo's Analysis: Shinnecock and Troon will help Kenny adjust to the links look of Whistling Straits. Strangely enough, he will still need softer conditions for it to play into his hands. Length and attitude are never in question for the big man from Kentucky, but he will be hoping it plays really long for him to get a little closer than he did eight years ago.
Adam Scott Name: Adam Scott
World Ranking: 12th
Appearances: 3
Best Finish: T23 (2002, Hazeltine; 2003, Oak Hill)

The Facts: Like Garcia, Scott has a pair of PGA Tour victories to his credit this season. But unlike Garcia, he doesnt have a notable record in major championships. Scott has only one career top-10 (2002 Masters) in 14 majors played. This year, he missed the cut at the Masters, missed the cut at the U.S. Open, and tied for 42nd at the British Open. In three career PGA Championship starts, he has a pair of T23s and a missed cut.
Nobilo's Analysis: Like Garcia, one of the few players younger than Tiger with a game to contend. Elegant power and technique throughout his repertoire of shots, backed up with solid putting. While he lacks the consistency week-to-week, and his major record leaves a lot to be desired, given a hot week, he has the nerve to go all the way and become one of the few to win the PGA and the Players Championship in the same year.
Name: Chad Campbell
World Ranking: 13th
Appearances: 2
Best Finish: 2nd (2003, Oak Hill)

The Facts: Campbell was voted by his peers in a 2003 Sports Illustrated article as the player most likely to win a major. Hes won the Tour Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational, and finished runner-up to Shaun Micheel in last years PGA Championship at Oak Hill. But Campbell is the first to admit he needs more major experience. This is only his 12th major start. And this year hes been dreadful in said events. Campbell has missed the cut in all three majors this season ' and has yet to post a round under par.
Nobilo's Analysis: Chad has to come to grips that major championships have the same players that he beats up on a couple of times a year. The fact that the courses are set up tougher than a regular PGA Tour event should play even more to his strengths, as no player gets to the green more economically day-to-day than Campbell. He just has to figure it out.
Darren Clarke Name: Darren Clarke
World Ranking: 14th
Appearances: 6
Best Finish: T9 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Its been feast or famine this year as Clarke is still trying to find some consistency with his new, slimmed-down physique. In 12 PGA Tour starts this year, he has six missed cuts and five finishes at T11 or better. He missed the cut in the seasons first two majors, before tying for 11th at Troon. But Clarke hasnt been a major factor in quite some time. His last top-10 in a major championship was a tie for third in the 2001 British Open. He has missed the cut five times in six career PGA Championship appearances.
Nobilo's Analysis: With two World Golf Championships victories under his belt, Darren is a little bit of an enigma in the majors. He has to forget that Europeans have had a terrible run in the PGA and remember that all streaks come to an end. So all that is required is a little luck of the Irish, quickly put all that weight back on he lost, and play like he did at Firestone last year.
Stuart Appleby Name: Stuart Appleby
World Ranking: 15th
Appearances: 7
Best Finish: T4 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Appleby says his best chance to win a major is at the British Open. But Whistling Straits, where hell have to shape his shots in the wind, may play into the Australians hands. Hell hope that the links-style course plays more like a British Open, where he has made the cut five consecutive years, than like a U.S. Open, where he has missed the cut five of the last six years.
Nobilo's Analysis: Appleby has a tendency to try and overplay the golf course and play shots that are not always the best choice, or natural for that matter. Stuart is a natural right-to-left player and when he plays this way it becomes almost machine-like. He could take a page out of the great Bobby Lockes book and play right-to-left all day and do the damage with the putter. If he does he just might add another piece of silver to the collection.
Scott Verplank Name: Scott Verplank
World Ranking: 17th
Appearances: 10
Best Finish: T7 (2001, Atlanta Athletic Club)

The Facts: Once again, Verplank needs a strong performance at the PGA to try and make the Ryder Cup team. He tied for seventh in the 1999 PGA ' his best-ever major finish (he has only three top-10s in 40 major starts). It wasnt enough to qualify for the U.S. team, but it was enough to impress Curtis Strange, who made him the first rookie to be a Captains Selection. Verplank, who is 12th in the Ryder Cup standings, has made 17 of 17 cuts this season.
Nobilo's Analysis: Straight driver and solid as a rock with the putter, but power is a question. It is one thing to finish in the top 10, which I believe he will do, but to win over a field littered with bombers and over a course some 7,500 yards will take a Larry Mize Masters performance. Scott will need a dream week.
Stephen Ames Name: Stephen Ames
World Ranking: 18th
Appearances: 3
Best Finish: T30 (2000, Valhalla)

The Facts: Ames finally got his maiden PGA Tour victory in his 166th start, at the Cialis Western Open. That was part of a brilliant stretch, where he had eight top-10s in 10 events, including a tie for ninth in the U.S. Open. This will be just his 13th major appearance, and only his third in the PGA, where he has a tie for 30th, a missed cut and a withdrawal.
Nobilo's Analysis: No man from Trinidad & Tobago had ever won a tour event ' he changed that. A PGA Championship to go with it? Technically, he has a very good golf swing that will fit in nicely on the Wisconsin beast. Hes long enough, but streaky with the flat-stick. Some say he is good enough, but the big question is whether or not he realizes that he is.
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
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    Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

    Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

    Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

    “We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

    “The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

    The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

    (All Times Local)

    Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

    Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

    Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

    Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

    Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

    Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

    Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

    Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

    NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.

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    USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

    The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

    How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

    Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

    So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.

    After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

    “When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

    Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

    Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

    The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

    At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

    “They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”

    By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

    “I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

    That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

    It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

    “They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

    But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

    The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

    “To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

    It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

    So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

    “I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”

    But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

    After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

    “It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

    Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

    Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

    @bubbawatson on Instagram

    Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

    Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

    Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

    A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

    And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

    Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).