Pleasure and Pain at the PGA

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2010, 7:03 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – At Whistling Straits there are upwards of 1,200 bunkers, 12 billion mosquitoes and now one inexplicably cruel turn to the season’s final major championship.

The Cliff’s Notes version is this: steely Martin Kaymer won Germany’s third Grand Slam title on Sunday at the PGA Championship, Bubba Watson earned a Ryder Cup berth and cried and Dustin Johnson did not.

If Roberto De Vicenzo has it right and a player is remembered for his legacy in defeat, more so than victory, then give Johnson a spot in Cooperstown. No kid should have to suffer so much Grand Slam grief in a single calendar. And no one maybe since De Vicenzo handled it with more class.

That’s not to take anything away from Martin Oosthuizen . . . eh, make that Kaymer, a rising star on the European scene who impressed then-Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo so much in 2008 Sir Nick let him tag along on scholarship. This year in Wales he won’t be carrying a walkie talkie. Instead he may well carry a European team thanks to a meticulous performance that would make a BMW engineer proud.

“When it comes to playoffs,” Kaymer’s caddie Craig Connelly said in fading light Sunday. “He’s a natural winner.’

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer follows fellow countryman Bernhard Langer as a major champion (Getty Images).

And now he’s Germany’s first major champion since Bernhard Langer in 1993 thanks to a final-round 68, a gutsy playoff victory over Watson and one of the most surreal major finishes since a Frenchman stepped into the burn at Carnoustie.

Tied with Watson for the clubhouse lead at 11-under 277, Kaymer and the rest of the golf world watched in shock as Johnson, who a hole earlier seemed to dash the demons of his Pebble Beach collapse with a 14 footer birdie at the 17th hole to move to 12 under, pushed his drive at the finishing hole five rows deep into the gallery along the right side of the fairway.

From what appeared to be a decent lie, Johnson grounded his club before sending his approach left of the green. The bogey should have sent the lanky American into the playoff, instead a 20-minute ruling ensued when officials realized his drive had landed in one of Whistling Strait’s ubiquitous bunkers.

The two-stroke penalty cost Johnson a spot in the playoff and sent him to the airport stinging from a second major heartbreak this year.

“I just thought I was in a piece of dirt,” said Johnson, who birdied two of the final three holes. “It never once crossed my mind I was in a bunker. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have thought I was in a bunker.”

Players were advised, repeatedly, that there were no “waste areas” at Whistling Straits, meaning the endless collection of rugged pits were all considered hazards. But in Johnson’s defense it’s hard to swing a 3-wood at Whistling Straits without hitting sand and from his vantage point in the gallery it would have been difficult to realize his plight.

“It’s too bad,” Stewart Cink tweeted. “Maybe Whistling Straits should rethink some of those obscure bunker-ish features.”

Asked after the playoff if they would rethink the rule or the value of what are essentially esthetic features, both architect Pete Dye and owner Herb Kohler were unapologetic.

“It’s what should have happened,” said Kohler, who added they would work on creating paths through the bunkers for spectators before the PGA Championship returns to Wisconsin in 2015 and in 2020 for the Ryder Cup.

“It’s just like (De Vincenzo) not signing his card (at the 1968 Masters),” Dye added.

Perhaps, but this much is certain, Dye got a tad too creative coloring outside the lines at Kohler’s masterpiece.

Dye built the Stadium Course in north Florida for public consumption, and an Obstacle Course in Wisconsin for largely private enjoyment. PGA of America officials doled out pedometers to press types to count paces. Ice packs and Ibuprofen would have been more useful.

For the second PGA, Goat Track National proved a worthy test for competitors, but the contrived dunes took a heavy toll on ankles, if not Johnson’s title chances.

As for Kaymer, he will savor his first major with or without an asterisk and for good reason.

Like Louis Oosthuizen before him, Kaymer was a hidden gem to those who watch carefully. A superior ballsriker with a deft touch on the greens and an icy demeanor that would make his hero, Langer, proud.

“If you know the Germans, most of the people in the world think that they are boring people,” said Kaymer, who took the lead on the sixth hole Sunday. “I’m not boring, but I’m not like a crazy guy. How you see me on the golf course, that’s the way I am when I have my time off.”

Even in the three-hole playoff Kaymer took the long view, laying back with a 3-wood on the short par-4 10th hole while his opponent whaled away with pink-shafted abandon.

“We expected Bubba to do that (on No. 10),” Connelly said. “It’s pretty much a par 3 for Bubba. We pretty much gave him the birdie.”

At the second extra hole the German turtle roped a 5-iron to 15 feet for birdie and played for bogey at the finishing hole when Watson, who was gambling on a flyer from the rough with a 6-iron, hit into a creek and made double bogey.

The victory wrapped a Ryder Cup bid for Kaymer, giving Europe two majors this year and a 2-up advantage heading into Wales, and brought one of the most explosive, both on and off the golf course, PGA Championships to an anticlimactic end.

They say the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday but the 92nd PGA Championship seemed to flat-line after a wild Wednesday. With all due respect to Kaymer and his on-course heroics, hump day was anything but mundane at Whistling Straits.

In order, both Ryder Cup captains suffered through a contentious news conference that would Rod Blagojevich shudder, Tiger Woods appeared to fill the void left by Hank Haney with Orlando, Fla.-based swing coach Sean Foley and Phil Mickelson went vegetarian.

As for Woods, the report card on his work with Foley was mixed. The world No. 1 never broke 70 (71-70-72-73), lost ground in his quest to avoid a captain’s pick (slipping to 12th on the points list) and is running out of time to get off the victory schneid in 2010, to say nothing of the FedEx Cup bubble.

“I feel like my game is a lot better than it was obviously last week, and given a little bit more time it's starting to head in the right direction now, which is good,” said Woods, who tied for 28th. “And I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully Corey will pick me on the team.”

While Mickelson revealed he is a vegetarian and is suffering from a rare form of arthritis he is still not No. 1 in the World Ranking. Other than that, Lefty spent most of the week treading water, shooting the round-of-the-day on Sunday (67) to tie for 12th but still searching for some sort of consistency.

But then few, if any, events are as contentious as an overseas Ryder Cup, save a Ryder Cup news conference. If Wednesday’s meet-and-greet was any indication, Wales will be a war for all the wrong reasons.

Within 10 minutes of starting Wednesday’s news conference both captains uttered the phrase “Let’s get this out of the way,” with Colin Montgomerie being grilled on an alleged injunction against a former girlfriend and Corey Pavin fielding tense questions regarding Woods as a potential captain’s pick that concluded with a public discussion with Golf Channel contributor Jim Gray.

“Glory’s Last Shot has never felt so gory, at least until Sunday’s shootout ended in heartbreak for Johnson.

It’s a shame, really, considering that this PGA was every bit a coming-out party for Gen Z. Along with Kaymer and Johnson, fellow twenty-somethings Nick Watney, Jason Day and generation standard bearer Rory McIlroy all made cameos.

Kohler brought Northern Ireland to Wisconsin with Whistling Straits and McIlroy nearly brought a PGA Championship to Northern Ireland, finishing a stroke outside the playoff despite missing more putts than a Sunday morning four-ball at a local muni.

Conversely, Kaymer, 25, made everything that mattered including his Sunday night flight to Jamaica for a week of sun and sand. Johnson, however, will be avoiding the sand, if not Whistling Straits, for some time.

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”