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News & Tours

Was Valhalla's fourth hole too drivable Saturday?

By Geoff Shackelford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Valhalla’s fourth hole got a lot shorter Saturday at the PGA Championship. The tees were moved up to play the par 4 at 292 yards versus 372 yards the first two rounds. It sported a 3.311 third-round scoring average versus a 3.824 the first two days.

Too short? Too drivable? And too much reward without enough risk?

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Rory McIlroy pulled his tee shot out of bound and had to drop on the par-4 fourth, but still managed to save par. (Getty Images)

Those seem like absurd questions considering the power of the 2014 PGA’s leader board, a product in part of a setup that is allowing the world’s best to play aggressive golf. When leaders Rory McIlroy and Jason Day came through the classic, drivable par 4, drama broke out. McIlroy pumped one into the creek way left of the green and had to sink an 11-footer for par. Day drove the green and had an easy two-putt birdie.

“They set it up a little bit easier today,” Hunter Mahan said after his 65. “[It] seemed like front tee on 4 [was set] so basically everyone can hit that green.”

And most tried with a 3-wood, with 88 percent hitting the green in regulation. Of the 69 who tried to drive the green (out of 74 golfers competing Saturday), just 18 actually landed it on and kept their ball on the putting surface. Seven made eagle and 41 more birdied.

Yet buried in the ShotLink numbers for Valhalla’s fourth: the hole had produced no double bogeys or others the first two rounds. Saturday when it played 80 yards shorter? Two doubles and one other.

Maybe temptation was not a factor, but risk, reward and penalty worked very well in concert, making the move a welcome addition to a lively Saturday at Valhalla.

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News & Tours

In missing cut at Valhalla, Tiger Woods heads into an uncertain offseason

By Dave Shedloski

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tiger Woods’ reward for attempting to compete in the year’s final major championship was an inglorious amalgamation of pain, frustration and a future filled with doubt.
 
Five days after withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with back spasms -- but just three removed from declaring himself pain-free -- Woods bowed out unceremoniously from the 96th PGA Championship after carding a second straight three-over 74 at Valhalla Golf Club under appropriately cloudy skies Friday afternoon. At six-over 148, the four-time PGA winner missed the cut by five strokes at the site where in 2000 he set the championship's 72-hole scoring record of 18 under par.
 
“I tried as hard as I could. That’s about all I’ve got,” Woods, 38, said after missing the cut for just the fourth time in a major and for the second time in four years in the PGA.
 
What he had didn’t remotely resemble the player who just a year ago won five times, reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world ranking and was the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

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Woods said he doesn't know when he'll play again. 
Photo by Getty Images


Woods said he re-aggravated the back injury that caused his early departure last Sunday in Akron, Ohio, when he was warming up for Friday’s second round, and although he did not appear in the same distress this time, his game was sending out day-long SOS signals.
 
He found nine fairways but only eight greens in regulation, which resulted in three bogeys and a double bogey against just two birdies. That’s one more birdie than he scored on Thursday.
 
“I couldn’t make a backswing,” Woods said. “I can’t get the club back. Coming through is fine [but] … it throws everything off. I can’t get anywhere near the positions that I’m accustomed to getting to.”
 
He was referring to positions in his golf swing, but the 14-time major winner just as easily could have been referring to the positions he’s accustomed to on the leader board.
 
As he changed his shoes by his courtesy car and drove off, Woods was 15 strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy. At this stage in 2000 at Valhalla, Woods stood 11-under 133 and out in front of the pack.
 
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Woods replied to a question about when he might try to play again. He will not play in next week’s final regular season PGA Tour event, the Wyndham Championship, which means he will not qualify for the playoffs and his season is complete. Given his uncertain health and uneven form, a captain's pick from Tom Watson for this fall's Ryder Cup seems highly unlikely, meaning Woods would miss a team competition for the U.S. for just the second time in his pro career.

He finishes with one top 25 among seven starts with two withdrawals and two missed cuts.
 
Before departing, he was asked if he was feeling old. He’ll be 39 in December and will begin 2015 having not won a major in six full seasons.
 
“I’ve felt old for a long time,” he replied.

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News & Tours

Why does Bubba Watson rub people the wrong way? The list keeps getting longer

By Dave Kindred

loop-bubba-watson-kindred-518.jpgLOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The fullest and truest measure of Rory McIlroy's serenity in this time of his ascendance is that he walked five hours in the company of Bubba Watson and didn't hear a thing.

"No, look, I've complained after a lot of shots before and everyone out here moans about something," McIlroy said. "It's just part of it . . . I've been guilty of it before, and a lot of players on tour have done the same thing. But it didn't affect me today, no."

We have heard Tiger f-bombing, and that's one thing, and now we have heard Bubba f-bombing, and that's another thing.

The first item on Bubba's personal website appears under the words, "Who is Bubba Watson." It reports: "Christian. Loves Jesus and loves sharing his faith."

So after the f-bomb episode in Friday's second round of the PGA Championship, I got to wondering which biblical character Bubba may have had in mind.

You think Noah? All that rain.

Or Job? All that suffering.

Wait. Noah and Job existed even before Old Tom Morris. So they never went through Bubba's version of a living hell.

He had to play with raindrops on his driver's face. We all know that is Satan's work, for surely the prince of darkness diverted the raindrops from all other players and caused them to settle only on Bubba's sticks. Raindrops everywhere, all morning, beginning at 6 o'clock and falling even through Bubba's tee time at 8:35. For hours, raindrops kept falling on Bubba's haircut, causing, methinks, reverberations in the vast empty spaces beneath.

Small wonder he felt so damned put-upon.

The poor soul has to hit golf balls for a living. A 35-year-old grown man from the panhandle of Florida could be making a decent living at long-haul trucking. Instead, this torture. Country clubs, chartered jets, chauffeured Mercedes, million-dollar paychecks. And, sometimes, if you can believe it, he has to do it in the rain. To protect himself from the rain, he once held an umbrella and asked his caddie, Ted Scott, to set his ball on a tee.

After a bad drive early in the round, Bubba said to Scott, and television's boom mikes sent it across America, "It don't matter what I do, man. It don't matter. It's f*cking horsesh*t."

Maybe Noah said something like that in about the 37th day of that storm, and maybe Job expressed himself colorfully after lightning killed his livestock. But some readers of the Bible took to Twitter immediately to say they could not find those words in either the New or the Old Testament. Those twitterers were moved to append hashtags such as: "#quityerbitchin," and "#helpbubbajebus."

It's only fair to point out, by the way, that Bubba had birdied his first two holes of the round and was at three under par for the tournament going to his ninth hole, the par-5 18th at Valhalla Golf Club. He was then three shots behind McIlroy, the leader. But after McIlroy rolled in a 31-foot putt for an eagle, Bubba missed a three-footer for par. He bogeyed three of the next six holes, wound up with a 72 and now, at even par, is nine shots down. So maybe he had a competitor's good reason to be upset. After his round, Bubba walked past waiting media members, disappeared into the off-limits caddie hospitality room, and left there by a subterranean route that threw most of us off the trail. Only Jason Sobel, who writes for Golfchannel.com, tracked him down. Not frustrated, Bubba told Sobel. "I feel great," he said.

At worst, this is prima donna horsesh*t. At best, it's Bubba being Bubba. At least afterward Watson acknowledged his poor form with a mea culpa via Twitter.

You may remember his trip to the French Open three years ago. There he complained about the thousands of fans wanting to take his picture as he played. The gall of those Gaulists. He also didn't get Paris.

"I don't know the names of all the things," he said, "the big tower, Eiffel Tower, an arch, whatever I rode around in a circle [the Arc de Triumphe]. And then what's that -- it starts with an 'L' -- Louvre, something like that, one of those."

Last season on tour, when he dumped a shot into water and cost himself a victory, he threw the caddie Scott under the bus, right there in front of the TV cameras, the boom mikes again catching him in a Bubbableat.

"Water," he said. "It's in the water. That club. So you're telling me that's the right yardage?"

A Google search identifies Bubba as "embarrassing and disrespectful," "petulant" and given to "whining," "pouting" and "baby-boohooing." The kindest of observers calls him "amusingly foolish."

Even before Friday's travails, Bubba had found reason to complain here.

During Tuesday's practice round, the PGA of America asked players to compete in its revived long-drive contest.

Padraig Harrington did a Happy Gilmore run-and-hit-it thing. Great fun.

The big blond John Daly showed up in Loudmouth pants seemingly spray-painted with every pastel ever conceived, both the man and the pants happily hallucinatory.  

But Bubba, one of the game's longest hitters, wanted nothing to do with it.

"I'm here to play golf, not to hit it far," he said. "Just kind of weird to me. I'm here to win a championship, I'm not here to goof around."

So he hit an iron off the tee.

And so some of us were well pleased two days later when all that rain fell only on Bubba's head.

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News & Tours

Playing in the rain stinks. Here are seven reasons why


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As Bubba Watson sulked his way through the rain on Friday, evoking all sorts of "suck it up" sentiments on social media, it was perhaps lost that golf in the rain is not fun. Or at least it's not fun when there's a $10 million purse at stake and people are jabbing at you on Twitter.

Watson's histrionics aside, rain is not a perceived nuisance, but a real one -- testing everything from your patience to your caddie's ability to balance an umbrella, a yardage book and a bag all at once. Asked what was the most difficult part of playing in the rain, Henrik Stenson responded in typical deadpan, "Uh, staying dry?"

Which technically is true. But if you broke it down even more, the challenges go something like this:

1. The balancing act. So if we agree that "staying dry" is the goal, then you have to consider all that entails. Umbrellas, towels, rain gear -- they all have to be put on, held on to, constantly wiped down. Meanwhile, it just keeps raining. "The main thing is it's just kind of a nuisance," Graham Delaet said. "It's more just trying to juggle the umbrella, keeping dry and all that stuff."

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2. Rain gear sucks. Even the best rain gear, expertly made and drawing on years of scientific research, isn't as effective as playing in short sleeves. You can look it up. "There's always that break even point when you have to play and swing in the rain jacket," Stenson said. "Even though we've got good gear, it feels like it slows you down a bit."

3. The uncertainty causes you to rush. You can have the best caddie in the world, shielding you from the rain like your own personal Astrodome, and yet at some point, he has to pull away and leave you to fend for yourself. "The hardest part for me is I get a little quick," Ryan Palmer said. "I guess you're wondering if your hands are wet or if it's going to slip."

4. The dreaded mud ball. Talk to most tour players about what happens when mud cakes on the ball and they'll say they can't tell for sure where the ball is headed. In other words, it devolves into the type of golf the rest of us play. In a profession that demands precision, such guesswork is unnerving.

5. The ground changes. Our science education never got past high school, but we've been told rain causes the consistency of a surface to change. That, too, is an adjustment. From the fairway ("The ball sticks in the ground a little bit more," J.B. Holmes said) to the rough ("It's more grabby") to the sand  ("The sand has got really compacted and it's hard to slide your club underneath the ball," leader Rory McIlroy said), it's all new, relatively untested terrain. On the plus side, rain makes firm greens more receptive to approach shots. But for some players, it also means . . . 

6. A long golf course gets looonger. Valhalla is playing to 7,458 yards, but when you add the rain that fell early Friday, it felt like closer to 8,000. That's particularly damning for those players who rely on roll off the tee to close the gap with their more powerful counterparts.  "Because I'm not a very long hitter, I think it's a very long golf course," said Jim Furyk. "I would say it's playing right into the bomber's hands right now."

7. Rain is unpleasant. Need we state the obvious here? Rain is annoying. You're left to dodge mud puddles. When you want to distract yourself by checking out the gallery, you're instead left to look at a sea of umbrellas. Golf is a hard enough game when it's 75 degrees and sunny. In rain, it can be, well, water torture.

Bubba, we feel your pain.

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PGA Championship

Lee Westwood doesn't have a clue where he sits in the Ryder Cup standings


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The most difficult question Lee Westwood faced Thursday was about his position in the European Ryder Cup standings. Because time is running out to qualify for the team? Actually, because he had no idea where he stood.

"If you tell me where I am in the standings, I'll give you my opinion on it," said Westwood, who soon learned he is 18th on the European points list and 16th in world points. "I don't even know what position I'm in."

Some golfers obsess about every decimal in the Ryder Cup points list, but Westwood isn't one of them. He has played on eight straight teams and would like very much to play on a ninth when the Europeans defend the Cup again at Gleneagles. But for the 41-year-old Westwood, the more pressing issue was simply distancing himself from a stretch of mediocre golf.

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He managed that in the first round at Valhalla, with four straight birdies to close giving him a 65 and a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell in the PGA Championship. The score matched Westwood's best round ever in a major, but most impressive is that it came when it did. Prior to last week's no-cut Bridgestone Invitational, he had missed cuts in four straight tournaments, including in the British Open and U.S. Open. 

In need of help, he brought in instructor Mike Walker, who took over for Sean Foley at the beginning of this year, for practice sessions at Old Palm GC near his South Florida home. The rewards were not immediate -- he shot over par the first two days at Firestone -- but then came a 63 on Sunday, followed by the 65 to start here.

"You know, it's a frustrating game," Westwood said of his struggles. "Anybody in this room that plays it knows how frustrating it is and how much it can get to you, and how much you can swear."

If missed cuts have been one source of frustration this year, missed opportunities in majors have been another throughout Westwood's career. He's had eight top threes in majors, and his stretch of 67 starts without a major win is the longest among active players. Is it too early to start thinking about ending that streak this week? Given his track record, yes. But it's at least not as ludicrous a thought as it was even a few weeks ago. And the same can be said of his inclusion on another European Ryder Cup team this fall.

"Obviously I'm not on the team at the moment, but I've had chats with [European captain Paul McGinley] and he said, 'You know, try and show some form,' " Westwood said. "I don't know whether he's just looking for a reason to pick me, but I've shot 63 last Sunday and I'm leading a major this week. So I'm ticking that box for him."

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News & Tours

Even in doing virtually nothing, Tiger Woods is still the biggest draw in golf (Updated)


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Once we saw Tiger on the 18th green lifting trophies. Now we see him in parking lots.

So there we were this morning in Valhalla Golf Club's contestant parking lot, waiting by an empty space reserved for ...
 
TIGER WOODS
1999, 2000, 2006, 2007
PGA Champion

Would he show up?

Would the winner of 14 major championships, now in his seventh season of chasing the 15th, play in the PGA Championship less than four days after back spasms forced him to limp into yet another waiting ambula . . . .er . . .  SUV?

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He hadn’t withdrawn and his people had not said a word. Woodsologists reckoned the silence meant that Tiger would soon arrive. “There’s a vanity to his injuries,” one said. “He talks like he’s a real athlete, a ‘knee,’ an ‘Achilles,’ a ‘broken leg,’ ‘back spasms’ -- spare me -- he’ll be here.”

Until then, television cameramen focused on the empty parking space.  Inkstained wretches, along with their pixilated digital pals, stood by. Golf fans waited on the steamy asphalt to be allowed a glimpse, maybe, of the greatest golfer they would ever see, unless, of course, they once saw Barbara Nicklaus, driving the family flivver, deliver Jack to Augusta National.

And what would happen if, say, Tiger arrived at noon? Would he walk directly to the practice range? Would he work through the wedge to the driver as if he had never heard of back spasms, let alone had one? Would he be that casual about showing up at the site of a major only at noon on the day before an 8:35 a.m. tee time? Then go play a practice round?

As unusual as all that is, that's how Tiger rolled on this day.
 
Then he played nine holes of a practice round and walked the second nine, surveying the course he won on in 2000. Done with that minimal work -- he decided only Tuesday to come here and had not hit a full shot since Sunday -- he told the assembled media, "I played all right. All right. Nothing great. It's only Wednesday." He added, "I'm pain-free -- except for the headache of talking to you guys." Such a kidder, Tiger.
 
He said the Sunday injury was a dislocation of the sacrum, the wedge-shaped bone at the base of the spine. Pinched nerves caused the pain. "Once it was put back in, I was fine," he said. He also said his physiologist is here and can "fix it" if the injury reoccurs.
 
The sacrum dislocation, he said, had nothing to do with the previous back injury. "It's not at the site of the surgery," he said. "It's a different pain than I had experienced."

With the question of Tiger's arrival answered, the planet Earth could resume its normal rotations with the more important questions to be answered in the next four days, or fewer, depending on both muscle spasms and Tiger's recent tendency to accumulate double bogeys rather than birdies.

The first question is, can he win the 15th?

Second, will he be named to the U.S. Ryder Cup team?

I'd guess no and no. History is on my side. For a long time now, Woods has been just another guy who could win if he played sensationally the week of a major; but since winning the 2008 U.S. Open, he has not been able to muster even a suggestion of the mastery he once commanded. As for the Ryder Cup, unless he wins this PGA, his playing season is over and he will have no more chances to prove to the team captain, Tom Watson, that he deserves a spot on the American side -- and this is especially important because Watson has put two conditions on choosing Woods as a captain's pick: that he be playing well and that he be healthy.
 
Woods, on what he needs to do this week to make the team: "Just play well. That's the only thing I can control. Go out there and try to win."

As far as Watson would go Wednesday in a press conference was to say he was "encouraged, yes," that Woods showed up here. "He said to me he really wants to make the team in the worst way . . . . . "

But now, someone said, it's hard to tell if he's truly healthy or not.

"Exactly," Watson said.

So . . . ?

"Really, honestly, it's speculation what's going to happen. I can't tell you what's going to happen with Tiger. I don't know his physical condition right now."

Now, now, Mr. Captain Sir, permission to speak frankly: It's been in all the papers, the back surgery three months ago, the recuperation away from the practice range, the time out of real competition, the sudden Sunday spasms of last week. One need not be an orthopedist and/or Ryder Cup captain to recognize that this man soon to be 39 years old should not be asked to do heavy lifting. Easy for me to say, of course, but hardly the stuff of diplomacy -- for one must cover one's rear. Maybe the golfing gods in a fit of nostalgia, will sprinkle magic dust on Tiger one more time, for old time's sake, as they did for Nicklaus at age 46 in the Masters of '86.

Maybe they will.

Maybe.
 
Asked after his practice nine if he could win, Woods said, "Yes."
 
What does he need to do to win?
 
"Hit it great and make every putt, like I did in 2000."
 
That year, Rory McIroy was 11 years old. Now he's a grown-up and playing Tigerishly, which is to say sensationally. Rickie Fowler is healthy and playing well. Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar. Hell, Tiger now has knee scars almost as old as Jordan Spieth. Keegan Bradley is young and strong. Bubba Watson can fly. Suddenly, Sergio Garcia can putt. Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen.

So maybe Tiger can win. All he has to do is beat all the world's best players. And he has to do it when he hasn't played well since this time a year ago, when he has had back surgery three months ago, when he is in his 35th year on stage -- remember the tyke impressing Merv Griffin? -- and when he has played the full four rounds in only two of his six events this season.

So maybe he can win.

But I'm thinking Damon Runyon had it right. "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong," the wise guy wrote, "that's the way to bet."

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News & Tours

Eight surreal moments from Tiger Woods' weird Wednesday arrival at the PGA

By Geoff Shackelford

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It was the closest the PGA Championship will ever get to its own Bronco chase. The media mob awaiting Tiger Woods’ arrival in Valhalla’s parking lot for a 2 p.m. practice round suggested the four-time champion was planning to play this week.

And it only got stranger from there.

For those not watching live on Golf Channel as the normally monotonous practice-round coverage turned into a dream TV spectacle, I give you the eight weirdest things about Tiger’s wacky Wednesday arrival:

-- The same guy who could barely get out of Firestone on his own two legs Sunday drove himself into the Valhalla parking lot, got out of the car and opened the trunk to reveal . . . an Ogio travel bag? The Stanford-logoed piece included no fluorescent “HEAVY” tags, so we can rule out Tiger flying through O’Hare to get to Louisville. The travel bag did confirm, however, that Tiger does not keep his golf bag and buddy Frank the headcover in the G5’s cabin, but instead slips a cover over to ensure his beloved headcover does not get cold.

-- Rickie Fowler photobombed the mob as it watched Tiger unpack his car. 

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-- Tiger put on his shoes in the parking lot, including the right shoe with just one hand. Quite adventurous for a man who could barely take off his shoes upon withdrawing Sunday. 

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-- Tiger strolled to the range with a blue PGA-logoed bag in his hand. Presumably his free Valhalla golf shirt, free sleeve of PGA-logoed balls and other much-needed swag for finally checking in to the PGA Championship.

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-- He arrived at the driving range and never stretched in any significant way or appeared to attempt to loosen up the “jammed” back that “spasmed” on him Sunday. It’s warm here in Louisville, but not that warm.

-- Before he could hit two sand-wedge shots, Sean Foley was already talking to Tiger about the swing, emulating some sort of left-hand-leading-the-club-forward motion. Folsey, let the man warm up before filling him with thoughts! Unless of course you two have been working on his swing at a secret, undisclosed location! Do tell!

-- Tiger is sporting a goatee. He’s never won a major with a goatee. 

-- Tiger teed up all of his own drivers as a huge crowd looked on, then bent over and picked up tees and, in general, exhibited no apparent concern for re-injuring his back.  

And off he went to the first tee. To be continued…

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News & Tours

Bold prediction: Why a hockey beard will win the PGA

By Mike Stachura

loop-pga-trophy-300.jpgThe question today class is, “What is the average between Mark Brooks and Tiger Woods?” If you can figure out that one, you’ll have a leg up on who to pick to win the year’s final major, the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

The question is meaningful, obviously, because Brooks and Woods are the two players to have won the PGA title when the event was played previously at Valhalla (1996 and 2000). Now, some rightly might argue the average of Woods and Brooks could easily be determined to be Kenny Perry or even Bob May, but neither of those answers, while plausibly correct, are helpful to our purposes. I suppose it makes some sense even to suggest that the average between Woods and Brooks is Anthony Kim, the hero of the U.S. team during its victory at the 2008 Ryder Cup, played at Valhalla. But that’s not going to get us the answer we’re after either (although it spawns a whole series of other questions, doesn’t it, like what is the average of an injured thumb, a sore elbow and a strained achilles? Don’t know, but it looks like a diamond-studded belt buckle that doesn’t exactly fasten anymore.)

But I digress. Back to our original postulate, namely that the way to figure out who’s winning this week at Valhalla is to determine the average of the 1996 Mark Brooks with the 2000 Tiger Woods. It’s a flawed concept, certainly, but then who would have predicted John Daly would win the PGA Championship? Y.E. Yang? Or, well, Mark Brooks? We all know predictions for golf’s major championships are like eyeballing the 20-scoop Vermonster at a Ben & Jerry’s: A pointless, but entertaining, distraction that if pursued to its final conclusion usually makes you out to be, well, horribly bad at predicting what might be possible. In short, senseless or without sense.

So here’s what we’re going to do. Basically, I’m going to attempt a variation of the process I’ve used in the three previous majors this year. Never mind that all of those previous attempts have produced choices that did not, in fact, win and, in fact, made almost no sense: Jordan Spieth at the Masters (T-2, impressive), Bill Haas at the U.S. Open (T-35, meh) Adam Scott at the British Open (T-5, but really more a backdoor contender).

Nevertheless, let’s look at Brooks’ statistics and Woods’ numbers heading into their victories in 1996 and 2000. Specifically, wins, driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putting. The average of the averages should lead us to today’s average of Mark Brooks and Tiger Woods. Brooks won nothing important and Tiger was in the midst of the greatest stretch of golf in human history. They both hit a lot of fairways and greens, Woods putted great, Brooks was somewhat below average, and Tiger was obviously long, while Brooks, well, wasn’t. (Interesting sidenote: Brooks actually won a major championship while averaging 263 yards off the tee for the year. You know who averages 263 yards off the tee this year on the PGA Tour? No one.)

(P.S.: Mark Brooks and Tiger Woods have 10 letters in their names. So if form holds that means that Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Ross Fisher, Nick Watney, Luke Donald, Jonas Blixt, Shane Lowry, Marc Warren and Boo Weekley might have a chance. This is just in case my actual choice doesn’t pan out.)

Again, I digress. The calculations for this year's crop of PGA Championship contenders showed several players who came close to the magic number. (My calculations show the magic number to be 92.003, but that’s probably as relevant as the NCAA’s passing efficiency rating, which for some reason can reach as high as 175.62). Continuing: Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Thomas Bjorn, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk and Charl Schwartzel all were close to that mark, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was very close. (By the way, Rory McIlroy was way over the number, for what it's worth, but not as high as Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods. But it's not about accumulating the highest average, it's about matching the average of Mark Brooks and Tiger Woods. Because that makes sense.)

graham1.jpgThe man on the number, the man who will win the PGA Championship, is ...

Graham DeLaet.

Look at his numbers: He drives it over 300 yards, he hits 63 percent of the fairways, and he’s hitting almost 71 percent of the greens. He doesn't putt great, but apparently that’s not going to matter, especially since it didn’t for  Brooks. He’s got the feel of a Rich Beem, or maybe an Al Geiberger. I could see a Wayne Grady vibe, too, or perhaps a Bobby Nichols sort of feel. It makes no sense, but the PGA Championship clearly has that club in its historical bag. (Shaun Micheel, anyone?)

So by my calculations, the average of Brooks and Woods is a Canadian with a hockey beard who played his college golf in Idaho and is currently on IV treatments for the flu. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. A Mark Brooks kind of sense.

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News & Tours

The 5 worst decisions in PGA Championship history

By E. Michael Johnson

LOUISVILLE -- The great shots in any tournament's history tend to be the memory makers, but everyone loves a good train wreck, too -- and the PGA Championship has seen its share of doozies. However, not all the missteps have been of the shotmaking variety. Whether brought about by forgetfulness, loose lips, too much bravado or a complete lack of attention to detail, some of the biggest gaffes in the championship's dossier have short-stopped several major dreams. 

The Mystery of the Missing Cup
loop-wanamaker-trophy-300.jpgThe greatest run in PGA Championship history belongs to Walter Hagen, who captured four straight championships from 1924 through 1927. In fact, he won the Wanamaker Trophy so often he treated it as if it were one of his own possessions. After winning in 1925, Hagen returned to New York and promptly made a critical error in judgment as he handed the trophy to a cab driver with instructions to deliver it to his hotel. It never arrived. When Hagen won in 1926 and 1927, no one noticed its absence. But after Hagen lost in the 1928 quarterfinals to Leo Diegel and had to turn the trophy over to its new owner, he confessed he had lost it. The PGA bought another cup as a replacement. It wasn't until two years later that an unmarked case in a Detroit manufacturing plant that made golf clubs bearing Hagen's name was opened. In it lay the missing trophy.

If you don't have anything nice to say …
In the 1949 PGA Championship at Virginia's Hermitage C.C., Jim Ferrier was enjoying a 2-up lead through 20 holes on Sam Snead in their 36-hole semifinal match. Problem was, he was enjoying it a little too much. After Snead's putt for a halve on the 20th hole fell short, Ferrier unwisely cracked, "Sam, the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole." The ill-timed remark put a charge in Snead. The Slammer holed a 60-yard wedge on the next hole, unnerving Ferrier so much that he dumped his tee shot in the water on the 22nd hole. His lead gone, Ferrier struggled the rest of the way, eventually losing 3 and 2. Snead won the title the next day.

The Snowman That Wouldn't Melt
Standing three under par in the middle of the third fairway during the final round of the 1987 PGA Championship at Florida's steamy PGA National, Seve Ballesteros appeared to be a good bet to pick up his first PGA title. Coming up short on his approach to the par 5, Ballesteros was faced with a delicate approach to a tight pin position. Deciding to go for the birdie, he got too cute with the shot and dumped it in the sand. As it turned out, that was only the beginning of his problems. The Spaniard then skulled his sand shot over the green and into a lake. After a drop, Ballesteros chipped onto the green and eventually holed out for a triple-bogey 8. The snowman started Ballesteros toward a final-round 78.

loop-pga-worst-decisions-perry-518.jpgBad TV
Kenny Perry lost the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla C.C. because he played the first playoff hole like someone who had, well, spent more than a half-an-hour in a TV booth. Upon finishing his round, Perry (above) visited CBS's broadcast team beside the 18th green and watched the action unfold -- a surprise move considering the number of players with a chance to catch him (Steve Elkington, Vijay Singh and Mark Brooks). Told by commentators Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi that he was free to go hit balls, Perry decided to stay. After Brooks made an up-and-down birdie to tie, Perry mistakenly thought he had time to hit some warm-up shots, but instead was ushered straight to the tee of the par-5 18th where he put his tee shot in deep grass on the left and never recovered. Brooks birdied for the win and Perry -- one of the game's best never to win a major -- was left to wonder what might have been. "I thought I would have time," Perry said. "I misjudged that. Maybe I let my mind wander."

Reading required
Making bogey on the 72nd hole to fall into a three-way tie with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer wasn't the worst thing that happened to Dustin Johnson at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Failing to read a piece of paper with 97 words on it proved to be a much more devastating decision. Those words informed players that there were some 1,200 bunkers on the course and that, "All areas of the course that were designed and built as sand bunkers will be played as bunkers (hazards), whether or not they have been raked." When Johnson, not realizing he was in a bunker on the 18th hole, grounded his club, it resulted in a one-shot penalty, knocking him out of the playoff. "Perhaps I should have looked at the rules sheet a little harder," said Johnson. Probably so.

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News & Tours

Tiger will give up the best parking spot this week if he doesn't play the PGA (Updated)

By Geoff Shackelford

LOUISVILLE -- There was no sign of Tiger Woods Tuesday at Valhalla, with no new updates about his back pain treatments. Agent Mark Steinberg made a rare media-center appearance to discuss business with PGA of America PR man Julius Mason, but the meeting did not result in a press release of any kind updating Woods’ 2014 PGA Championship status.

(Update: Woods has reportedly asked the PGA of America for an extension in registering for the tournament.)

Asked about Woods, Martin Kaymer noted the four-time PGA champ's absence would be felt if he withdraws.


tiger-woods-parking-space-518.jpg
“If you win a big tournament without Tiger in the field, you know, you still feel very happy about it, but you want to play against him, and it's nice if he's part of every tournament,” the U.S. Open champion said. “He brings a lot of people into it. It has a different flair.  And obviously here everybody knows as well, when Tiger's playing in a golf tournament there's more work for you guys, as well, more entertainment and more people.”

Bubba Watson echoed those views.

“He moves the needle more than anybody else. Rory is trying to move it more than him now," Watson said. "I think Tiger, as soon as he gets back healthy, he's going to be back performing at a high level.”

Woods does, however, have the best parking spot available to if he does come to Kentucky: right next to Phil Mickelson and closest to the locker-room entrance. So he’s got that going for him. 


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