The TRUE PGA Experience

By Mercer BaggsAugust 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill. -- A large man with a shaved head and unshaven chin sits in a chair. He eyes everyone who walks by, trying to weed out those who dont belong.
If you dont have the proper credentials, then hell ask you politely to leave. And it would probably be best to heed him. He could very well be a gentle man, a pacifist even. Or he could make his own bullets at home. Its really not worth finding out which one.
Medinah Country Club Clock
It's almost 2:20 p.m. Must be time to get a massage.
This man is the protector of the media center, the man charged with keeping out all intruders.
Might not seem like theres much to guard, but theres gold in and around that there tent.
Having a media badge the week of a major championship, more specifically at the PGA Championship, is like finding Willy Wonkas golden ticket: free breakfast; free lunch; free evening snack; free drinks; free ice cream; even free booze in the later hours, if you so desire.
You get most of these things are every PGA TOUR stop ' though, not always as tasty ' but what you dont get elsewhere are massages. Thats right, theres even a little booth you can walk into and get a 10-minute rubdown for 10 bucks.
While I love the free food ' on my salary Id rather eat complimentary goulash than pay for a burger ' I find the massages a bit extreme, like when rappers put television screens in the trunk of their car.
But apparently Im in the minority, because these two ladies were busier than a Hooters waitress serving John Daly (well get back to him).
I can understand why a photographer, somebody whos been humping it up and down Medinah all day, might want one to relax their muscles. But a writer? Elle McPherson with a porterhouse couldnt tempt most of these guys out of the air conditioning and onto the course.
This was just one of the things I happened to take note of this week.
Another would be the fact that my hairline is retreating like Napoleons army out of Russia.
While following the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson-Geoff Ogilvy threesome Thursday, I stopped by the practice green at the turn to do a little two-minute interview with The Golf Channels Rich Lerner for the early Live From coverage.
I saw myself later that night, when they re-ran a snippet to promote Fridays show. I wish I had taken off my glasses ' not during the interview, but while watching it.
Seeing yourself on TV is a little too revealing. I was reminded that, when I actually put a razor to my face, I look like a teenager with his grandfathers scalp. And, while Im 6 tall, standing next to Lerner, who is 64, makes me look like a hobbit as well.
But, as they say, Se Ri Pak ' thats Korean for Thats life.
Covering a major might not be stressful enough to turn what little hair I have left gray ' Im sure thats coming, though ' but it does make for an exhaustive seven or eight days. For me and a lot of the behind-the-scenes Golf Channel personnel, the work week starts on a Monday and ends on a Monday. This week, I figure to have been at the course for about 80 hours.
Not that Im complaining. Its not like Im picking cotton all day ' or having to touch some of these writers with my bare hands.
Probably the best part of this week ' outside of the 45 Twix ice cream bars I consumed ' was following the Woods-Mickelson-Ogilvy group on Thursday. As a member of the media, you are given a badge that allows you onto the grounds, onto the practice areas, and into the press room.
They also give, to accredited news sources, inside-the-ropes armbands, which well, its pretty self explanatory. This means you dont have to deal with what can be excessive crowds and lets you really see and feel whats going on. Most of the time, its not necessary to have one of these; this week it was.
Ive followed Tiger inside the ropes on countless occasions, but this was by far the largest gathering of media, officials and security that Ive ever seen for one group. We looked like those bunch of saps running across the country with Forest Gump.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson showcased their scrambling abilities on Day 1.
It truly is a treat to watch these guys up close and personal ' to walk beside them at times and get to see them play with an unobstructed view. To know that youre just a few feet from the greatest player of this era, and possibly of all time.
Its an experience unlike anything else in any other sport, and one which I appreciate fully.
This Thursday was a little different than times past. I spent most of those 5+ hours, not focused on the specifics of the round, but writing down observations, trying not to get caught staring at Elin Woods, and trying to make sure I didnt get bumped into a bunker or step on anyones ball ' just making sure I didnt draw the ire of Steve Williams.
I really didnt want Tiger to have to find a new caddie had there been a confrontation. I drink protein shakes, Steve. Think before you act.
The one thing I learned most about watching those 18 holes was that Ogilvy strikes the ball as well as Woods and Mickelson. But when Ogilvy got in trouble, he lost shots. Tiger and Phil saved shots like lost souls.
Even under duress, these guys know how to get the ball in the hole. Thats what makes them the best in the world.
This was my second trip to Medinah. I attended my first major championship here in 1999. One of the more memorable moments of that tournament came after Sergio Garcia posted his first-round 66. He had just come off a disastrous performance at the Open Championship, where he shot 89-83 and left the course crying in his mothers arms.
I was the first person to pose a question and simply asked if he was to glad to put the Open behind him with a good score here. My Lord, I thought he was going to cry again. The British Open is done, he defiantly said. I dont want to here any more questions about the British Open.
The winning score that week was 11 under. This week it was 18 under. Some people complained, including some Medinah members, who felt their club was embarrassed, that the No. 3 course allowed such low numbers.
Stop it. Who cares what the winning score is? Once again this was a very enjoyable tournament to watch, and the leaderboard going into the final round had Woods, Luke Donald, Mike Weir, Ogilvy, Garcia, Chris DiMarco and Mickelson all with varying degrees of opportunity to win.
Its not the outcome of the final score, but whos involved in the final outcome, that makes a tournament ' any tournament. And variety is good. Who wants all four majors to play the same?
Granted, Sundays finish had less drama than the Popes social life, but that had nothing to do with the tournament or the course, and everything to do with Tiger.
Back to Daly. Rumor had it early in the week that he had died of a heart attack. A few phone calls quickly put that to bed. I saw him Tuesday afternoon, trudging down to the practice range, with a heater in his mouth and doing the old walk-and-sign. He looked a little rough, but he wasnt dead. I dont think.
That sarcastic little voice in my head said, Give him time. Hes working on it.
I thought back to the movie Kingpin, when Woody Harrelson says to an old man smoking a cigarette, Those things will kill you. To which the old man dryly responds, When?
Daly, now theres a man who would truly appreciate everything the PGA media center has to offer.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 88th PGA Championship
  • Full Coverage - 88th PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

    Getty Images

    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

    Getty Images

    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.