More Than a Major at PGA

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipTheres a phrase a few fellas on the PGA Tour are using these days.
 
Todd Hamiltons saying it. So, too, is Chris DiMarco. And Jay Haas and John Daly and Scott Verplank.
 
Its nothing new, been around for quite some time. Its clichd to the point where it sounds like a recorded loop handed out to players when they receive their tour cards.
 
Ask them a certain question and youll get a most certain response.
 
I just have to play my game, and things will take care of themselves, said Steve Flesch, echoing the sentiments of so many other Ryder Cup hopefuls.
 
As the start of the 86th annual PGA Championship nears, its now time for a handful of players to play their game and let things take care of themselves.
 
Come Sunday evening, one player will use both of his hands to lift high the Wanamaker Trophy, which looks like the claret jug on steroids. And others will also claim themselves victorious, as they will officially become members of the United States Ryder Cup team.
 
The PGA Championship marks the final opportunity for U.S. players to earn Ryder Cup points ' by finishing inside the top 10. The European team will end their points race Aug. 29.
 
Ten players will call themselves Ryder Cuppers Sunday night, while two more will do so Monday morning, when Hal Sutton announces his captains selections.
 
Because of the Ryder Cup, that makes this weeks PGA Championship more than just a major ' more than just the final opportunity to win a major this season; it marks the last chance for several players to achieve their dream.
 
For a player like Jerry Kelly, who said: Making the Ryder Cup is like winning a major, to me. It would be the pinnacle of my career.
 
And for a player like Fred Funk.
 
My whole focus is: Ryder Cup, Ryder Cup, Ryder Cup ' do whatever it takes to make that team, said Funk, who was criticized when he skipped the British Open because he felt he had a better chance to earn Ryder Cup points at the B.C. Open.
 
Funk is in a precarious position right now as he is battling a rib injury as he attempts to retain his position inside the top 10. Hes in the eighth spot right now. Hes not completely secure and safe, but hes better off than Jeff Maggert.
 
Maggert is 13th on the list and will be unable to push aside those in front of him. He withdrew from the PGA as his wife, Michelle, is due to deliver twins some time this week.
 
No one knows better the importance of this week, in terms of making the Ryder Cup team, than Maggert.
 
He tied for third in the 95 PGA at Riviera to move from 12th in the standings to sixth. Two years later, he shot 65 on Sunday at Winged Foot to again earn enough points to make the team.
 
These players, the top seven on the points list, can go ahead and get sized up for their uniforms: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, David Toms and Chad Campbell.
 
Funk would appear to be safe at No. 8, since usually only two players, if any, get bounced from the top 10 during PGA Championship week.
 
Then it gets interesting.
 
Flesch is in ninth place, 66 points behind Funk and just five points ahead of Jay Haas. Haas finished fifth at The International to supplant Kelly in the 10th spot; the two are separated by less than three points.
 
Stewart Cink picked up 40 Ryder Cup points last week to move into the 12th position. He is followed by Maggert, Verplank, DiMarco, Tim Herron, Hamilton, Chris Riley, Jonathan Kaye and Daly.
 
With 300 points going to this weeks winner, there are still 35 players who mathematically have a chance to break into the top 10 by weeks end. And for those who dont make it on merit, they can hope to play well enough to impress Sutton.
 
Or, in Maggerts case, hope that his history (he is a three-time Ryder Cup team member) is enough to sway his former partner at Brookline in 1999.
 
I wouldnt say Id look just at 11 and 12 (in the standings); Id look at about 15 spots right behind the 10th spot, Sutton said.
 
Im being very open-minded. I want to pick the team that will help us win the Ryder Cup. I want the best 12 players for the team. Im not interested in a popularity contest.
 
That last statement might have been a dig at Daly. Daly, who has never made a Ryder Cup team, despite having won the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open in Ryder Cup years, has garnered a lot of popular support thanks to his victory in the Buick Invitational and his runner-up finish at the Buick Open a few weeks ago. But he also may have hurt his chances when he didnt try to qualify for the U.S. Open and decided not to play last week at Castle Pines.
 
Still, he hopes that a solid performance this week will open up Suttons mind a little more. And hes saying all the right things to convince the Captain that he is a team player.
 
We've got a very strong team, whether I'm on it or not, said Daly. It would be great if I could be on it, and if I'm not, I'm going to root hard for our team as usual.
 
Daly is 20th in the standings and would need at least a two-way tie for fourth to have a chance to make the team automatically.
 
Hamilton did play The International, but was unable to finish in the top 10 and add to his total ' which is comprised solely of his Honda Classic and British Open victories.
 
At 17th in the standings, he would need no less than a solo seventh-place finish to have a chance to qualify via points.
 
If I made enough points, that would be awesome. If I were 11th or 12th and got chosen, I would gladly accept it. But if for some reason I got chosen outside the top 12, I'd feel a little uneasy because all the points I accumulated have been in the first seven months of the year, whereas the other guys have played consistently well over two seasons, said a diplomatic Hamilton.
 
The U.S. started using captains picks to round off their roster in 1989 ' and no captain has ever picked both 11 and 12.
 
Hamilton said he wouldnt turn down an offer to be on the team, should he finish outside the top 12.
 
Yes, Id go, Hamilton said with a what-are-you-kidding-me look. Itd be an honor to be on the team.
 
Similarly, Haas believes that the top 12 should qualify automatically ' That way there would be no controversy, he said.
 
He significantly bettered his chances of making the team with his most recent performance.
 
Obviously, Id like to make the team myself. But I need to play well and show Hal that Im capable of competing, Haas said when asked about his chances of being a captains pick should he fail to pick up points this week.
 
Others a little further down the list ' in points and prominence, like Kaye, wont be holding their breath, sitting by the phone all night Sunday waiting for Suttons call.
 
I wouldnt expect to be picked by the captain, but its nice to be in a position to have that consideration,' said Kaye, who is 19th on the list.
 
If I play well, things will take care of themselves.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs

Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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).