"Cool Stat Of The Week"

In looking over Brett Avery's Golf World PGA Championship stat package, I loved the "Cool Stat":

Of the field Tiger Woods defeated to win his 13th major championship, 80 players went into the PGA Championship having competed in fewer than 13 majors. Only 50 players at Southern Hills had made the cut in at least 13 majors. And of those, only eight had placed in the top 10 at least 13 times.

If nothing else, check out the stats to see the side-by-side shots of Tiger circa 1998 and Tiger today.  

"Suddenly, he was Steve Martin giving a call to arms in 'Three Amigos:'"

Add Grant Boone to the list of those not quite grasping Woody Austin's various rants from last week's PGA press center:

And Austin is accurate when he suggests that he and lots of his peers have a similar desire to succeed, even if they can't back it up on the course as often as Woods.

Austin backed it up all week. He was the only player to shoot par or better each day. And despite beginning the final round four back of Woods, he actually had a birdie putt at 15 that would've pulled him even. It was only after a hard-fought 67 left him two shots short that Austin finally began to crack. First, he interrupted a reporter's observation that he'd been hard on himself earlier in the week because of missed opportunities:

"I was right, wasn't I?"

Whoa, big fella. After the reporter finished his question, Austin responded specifically to shooting a 70 in the second round to Woods' 63:

"Well, like I said on Friday, you cannot give somebody seven shots, especially someone who happens to be the best player in the world. And I, like I said, I went over his round and over my round, and I outplayed him from tee-to-green."

It was right here that you were telepathically giving Austin the same advice Brian Fantana gave Champ. "Why don't you stop talking for awhile? Maybe sit the next couple of plays out." But Austin kept going:

"I don't think anybody plays any better than I do when I'm on; I know that's crazy, but I think I can hit any shot anybody in the world can hit."

I was with him right up to the point that he talked about being crazy. Woody wasn't done:

"You give anybody who is really good a four-shot lead over you -- I beat him today, but it doesn't matter because he had four shots on me. So, you know, I don't care -- he happens to be the best player in the world, but if you put any great player, any good player with a four-shot cushion, their odds are going to be pretty good. Especially when they happen to be the best."

Suddenly, he was Steve Martin giving a call to arms in "Three Amigos:" "The people of Santo Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo." And then came a little Yogi Berra from the AFLAC commercial:

"He always says -- what does he always say? He always says, 'I want to be in the last group on Sunday.' If he wants to be there, and I want to be, why do I not want to be there? Why would I want to be somewhere else?"

Beats me. And finally, like a punch-drunk fighter swinging wildly before the inevitable face plant into the canvas, Austin offered this:

"Well, you said in the media, especially on Friday, that he played just an unbelievable round of golf and that he was in total control and that he was just toying with the field. We can go through our rounds. I outplayed him on Friday, but he beat me by seven shots. So, does that mean he's that much better? I don't get it. It just happens that he scored better, and like I said on Friday, can you not throw away that many opportunities when you are trying to win a big golf tournament. He took advantage; I didn't. Does that mean he played better than me or he's better than me? I don't agree with that."

 

"He's comfortable with his game again"

Jaime Diaz not only shares several of Tiger's technical adjustments that led to his wins at Firestone and Southern Hills, but also looks at the possibility of an Ernie Els resurgence, offering this from his agent:

"I think Ernie is really back to his old self," said his agent, Chubby Chandler. "He's much more relaxed, and he's comfortable with his game again. He's settling back when he's out to dinner, having a glass of wine, laughing and getting back to who he really is. And he's not got Tiger on his mind. He's getting a bit more chilled out. He's not getting in his own way."

 

 

Fields On Woody

I prefer to read Bill Fields's lengthy essays in print, but I couldn't help sneaking a peak at his Southern Hills piece and mercifully, he called Woody Austin on some of the more bizzarre assertions from his press conferences.

Austin reiterated the notion of a double standard regarding Woods when it comes to more mundane slams of club to turf. "That's his 'competitive fire,' is what it's called," Austin said. "He's 'competitive,' he is 'aggressive.' I do that, I am a 'loose cannon.' I 'can't control' myself. I'm not competitive? It's like I'm not good enough to get mad. He's good enough to get angry all the time? Why can he get mad more than me, but it's competitive fire as opposed to somebody who is too hard on themselves? I don't get it."

The topic of Woods crept into much of what Austin had to say last week, but parts of his critique made more sense than others. Austin insisted repeatedly, for instance, that he had outplayed Woods in the second round even though the world No. 1 shot a 63 to his 70. "I watched [his round on TV]," Austin said, "and I had it inside him all day long. I outplayed him by at least four or five shots, and he beat me by seven."

That is a cockeyed view because golf is not only a gauge of ball-striking skills but also of how capably good shots can be converted into birdies. Austin must know that, but his view is jaundiced by his history as an above-average player until he gets a putter in his hand. "I'm a very nervous person, I have a lot of nervous energy, and it shows [when I putt]," Austin admitted. "It's very hard to make a putting stroke when you're real nervous; it's a lot easier to make a golf swing when you're real nervous as opposed to putting."

 

PGA Final Round Clippings, Vol. 1

2007pgalogo.gifSeveral final lede's and stories considering the burning desire our finest scribblers had for departing to the Tulsa Airport as soon as they possibly could. Oh, and Tiger's won 13 of these major thingy's now and it gets just that much tougher to say something fresh...

Doug Ferguson writing for AP:

The 13th major for Tiger Woods looked like so many others until he finished.

His father is no longer alive for Woods to walk into his arms. His mother no longer travels to any major but the Masters. He now shares his triumphs with a wife and baby daughter, and the biggest surprise Sunday at the PGA Championship was seeing them when he walked into the scoring trailer to sign for a 69 and a two-shot victory.

Thomas Bonk writing for the LA Times:

Row after row, they rose to their feet in the sun-splashed late afternoon and cheered as Tiger Woods reached the 18th green at Southern Hills Country Club, ready for another chapter of history to be made, this time right before their eyes.

aug12_tigerfist_464x600.jpgMike Strain in the Tulsa World:

The billboards around Tulsa advertised the PGA Championship as Tiger vs. Southern Hills. We have a winner.

Damon Hack writing for the New York Times:

There was a different texture to this five-mile walk, an appearance of tension and conflict in Tiger Woods’s midst as he stepped into the furnace of Southern Hills Country Club and tried to pass another milepost.

As an old foe and a hot-tempered journeyman prodded him along the way, Woods pushed back during the 89th P.G.A. Championship, throwing a roundhouse punch after an early birdie and holding off all challengers in the end.

Lawrence Donegan writing for The Guardian:

The surest bet in golf became drama of the highest order last night as first Ernie Els, then Woody Austin, turned an expected procession in Tulsa into a genuine contest as they sought to deny Tiger Woods victory at the 89th PGA Championship. That he finally secured the title by two strokes from Austin with a closing round of 69 might read as a routine victory, but it was anything but.

And Steve Elling for Sportsline:

The perspiration beads dripped off his nose, down his chin and, at one point, from the bill of his sweat-saturated black cap.

And not solely because the 89th PGA Championship shall officially go into the meteorological record books as the hottest major in history after weathering four consecutive days of Tulsa's triple-digit boil, either.

gwsl10_pga4.jpgHere are the final results and more importantly, the FedEx Cup point breakdown.

The final course stats are here. The 13th was the only hole that played under par for the week and I don't think it's a coincidence that the holes with the more dramatic short grass banks produced most of the others during the week.

Chris Lewis selects highlights from the final day, with photos and a nice acknowledgement for the scribblers who dared to be on the first tee instead of in the Southern Hills tennis center.

Gary Van Sickle with some fun, offbeat awards for the week including a nice award package of Woody Austin's best diatribe.

Eddie Pells on Woody Austin bumping Lucas Glover out of an automatic spot on the President's Cup team while Stuart Appleby edges Nick O'Hern.

Reuters reports 264 were treated for heat related exhaustion during the week, with 85 on Sunday alone.

Please, help the big golf sites generate page views since I borrowed a few here: golf.com's photos are here, Golfchannel.com's are here, and GolfDigest.com's are here.

Sporting Life compiles the best quotes of Sunday, but if you want to read more, Tiger, Ernie and Woody are posted below the ASAP transcript links are here.

Some Southern Hills Setup Thoughts

2007pgalogo.gifThe one glaring weakness of Southern Hills is a lack of flexibility that might have given the PGA's Kerry Haigh a chance to move up some tees and encourage drives at a short par-4 (the par-5's proved reachable thanks to the heat and the remarkable athleticism of guys like John Daly). Still, it seemed like the hole locations were nicely varied throughout the week and offered a great mix of both easily accessible and tucked.

However, two hole locations looked a bit silly Sunday, and I'd love to hear from those on site if they agreed.

Number 6 was tucked so close to the creek and shaved bank that there seemed to be no rational reason to attack it. It made 12 at Augusta on Sunday look accessible.230136-953403-thumbnail.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Same deal with No. 12, which was hidden behind the front bunker.

To achieve some element of temptation, and therefore risk/reward scenarios that make for captivating golf, both holes probably saw their best Sunday locations on...Saturday. For round three, the sixth was cut in the center left while No. 12 was cut in the center back right near the shaved bank leading to the creek.

That's quibbling though. Once again, the PGA Championship left me feeling like the players faced a tough test and yet were able to display their skill at the right times. Sure, they were on the defensive quite a bit due to the narrow nature of Southern Hills and there were still plenty of irons off tees, but the opportunity was there to attack at times during each round, as opposed to select times chosen by the committee as we see more and more at the first two majors.

Thoughts? 

"At home all the miles I log on the road and run in that heat, granted it's not as hot as this but it's certainly more humid. And that's what you do. You pay the price. You go outwork everybody and days like today or weeks like this week, it shows."

200218.jpgSome great stuff came out of Tiger's post-PGA Championship win press conference, though shockingly, no one asked about the pressure of being the FedEx Cup points leader.

Q. This is a great victory on Thai Mother's Day. Would you like to make a special message to children in Thailand that look up to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, every time I go back there it's been fantastic. We do junior clinics there and my mom helps with a few shelters there in Bangkok. So we try and help the kids as much as we possibly can. And what my mom's done back there no one really knows about it, but she's done a lot for a lot of kids. And awfully proud of her.
Tiger note to self: tell Steiny to send mom flowers asap for Thai Mother's Day.
Q. Just to get back to Steve's question earlier, the television crew seemed to indicate they thought perhaps you had hurt yourself when you fist pumped on 8 after that birdie and might have hurt you going into 9. Talk about that. Secondly, a local question: Your thoughts on Southern Hills, Tulsa, and Oklahoma hosting this major this week?

TIGER WOODS: As far as hurting myself, no. All good. The only thing that hurt me on 9 was I didn't trust the wind up there. The wind was right to left all day, and you look at the flags up behind 18 and 9, they were left to right. And Steve says the wind's off the right, you gotta trust it's off the right. I just kept telling myself, Look at those flags behind 18. It's off to the left. So we just shoot it more down the left side so the wind will bring it back and actually took it the other way, took it left. So that was my fault for not trusting Stevie and trusting how the wind was all day.

As far as Tulsa hosting the Championship, I mean, this has been a great crowd. For them to come out and support this event with the temperatures the way it was, absolutely phenomenal. I don't know how they could have been enthusiastic being that hot and that tired, but they were. And they were supporting all of us and want to see great shots and they applauded. It was just a great atmosphere all day, all week, especially today. Especially given the temperatures.

TigerCelebVuich7_600x400.jpgHey, granted he was gimpy, but an admission that he hurt himself doing the fist pump would mean he's human. 
Q. You disproved the belief that your game wasn't meant for Southern Hills, do you believe that your ability to hit the 2-, 3- and 4-iron the way you did all week really made this a golf course that was really well-suited to your game?

TIGER WOODS: I don't understand why people kept saying that. If you watched the way I hit the ball in 2001, I wasn't hitting it very well. But if you look at where I was hitting it, I was hitting it to exactly the same spots I did this week. I just wasn't able to hit the fairways.

I played to the same spots, Stevie and I had the same strategy. Nothing's changed. The only difference is we're hitting less club because the ball's going so much further this year because of temperature and also the improvements in the golf ball in the last six years.
Uh, don't  forget to include the grooves. They make you more likely to bomb driver and, oh, I don't even know. Just remember, it's the grooves, not the ball!
Q. In hindsight, what advantage might you, your conditioning advantage have you in this heat, and also does this change at all your intentions to play all four of the playoff events?

TIGER WOODS: As far as the last part, yes, my intent is to play. As far as your first part of your question is physical fitness is always a huge advantage. And when you play any sport and you have heat and anything that wears you down mentally and physically, the more in shape you are, the more fit you are -- I feel when I walked up 18 I felt the same way as I did going off the first tee. I felt great.

At home all the miles I log on the road and run in that heat, granted it's not as hot as this but it's certainly more humid. And that's what you do. You pay the price. You go outwork everybody and days like today or weeks like this week, it shows. I felt fresh all week. And I felt great.

Other guys may have gotten tired and you see their shoulders slumping and dragging a little bit; I feel fine. I think that's how you should always be. You should always train hard and bust your butt. That's what a sport is, is to do that. And not everyone considers golf a sport and they don't treat it as such.

Take that boys!

Q. You've won your last three majors using a long iron off the tee, a 5-wood off the tee, primarily Medinah. Here you made your birdies with irons. In the back of your mind, do you get frustrated with your driver and the driver swing, and is it any different, could you explain to the rest of us, than your regular swing and why is it a struggle?

TIGER WOODS: I feel the same. The only difference is when you're hitting it, especially this week, 330-, 340-yard fairways 20, 22 yards wide, that's not a lot of room.

And most of the tournaments, if you look at the configuration of how they design the golf courses now for us is that they pinch the fairways in about 280. 280 to 320 is kind of like the major number where they start pinching fairways in.

So a lot of times they're more narrow at that distance than they are shy of 280. And sometimes I see a lot of guys hit driver down there try to play out of the rough. Some golf courses you can, some golf courses you can't. And as far as my swing being different, I feel it's the same.

The only difference is not a lot of room for error when you're hitting it that far. And that's one of the reasons why you see a lot of longer hitters hit 3-woods off the tee because the 3-wood nowadays goes as far as it used to when I first came out here as far as a driver went. I had no problem hitting 3-wood this week over 300 yards, just because it was so hot. And every week is different. It really is. It's kind of a feel thing.

And a groove thing too, right? No? It can't be the combination of narrow fairways and a ball going longer. Just can't be!

Q. You said a little bit earlier you feel by far you're a better player than you were in 2000 which is the year when you won the last three majors, and people were wondering if anybody else would win another tournament you were entered in. This year you had to grind it out in the last major of the year to get your first major and I'm wondering just what that says and maybe in terms of the challenge that it becomes over the years to keep winning these majors?

TIGER WOODS: Well, everyone's not going to stay stagnant. Everyone is going to try to improve and they all have. Everyone's worked hard to improve their game through technology, through fitness. Look back when I first came out here on Tour, how many guys had personal trainers. I don't think any of them did.

Now going to the fitness van everyone has a trainer there. So the game has changed and everyone's gotten stronger, more fit. They're hitting the ball further. Technology has certainly helped that out. Your dispersion patterns aren't as wide.

Well that'll all change in 2009 when you are playing with V-grooves!

And guys are shooting a lot better scores. And it has become a lot harder to win tournaments. And that's the fun of it. That's the challenge.

And finally, a jab at the scribblers...

Q. Stephen Ames said there wasn't as much craziness inside or outside the ropes when he played today. He said there just wasn't the mayhem. Has Tiger mania changed that much or has everybody's concentration levels so much more concentrated now?

TIGER WOODS: No, I think you guys are lazy (laughter). I didn't see a whole lot of you guys walking with us like you normally do. It's a little hot. And I think maybe the buffets are good in here and air conditioning is nice (laughter).

No, it was different. We didn't have as many media inside the ropes, being whether it's you guys or it's photographers or TV crews. There weren't just as many.

"What, are we going to fight? Are we going to get into a fight? Why should I be intimidated?"

The Golf Channel boys were lauding Woody Austin's wonderful week of rambling, neurotic media center appearances. And why not, it makes great television! Highlights from Sunday's train wreck:

 Q. You were right, yeah. That was sort of -- but that was where I was kind of going. Now that it's over, how do you feel?

WOODY AUSTIN: Well, like I said on Friday, you cannot give somebody seven shots, especially someone who happens to be the best player in the world.

And I -- like I said, I went over his round and over my round, and I outplayed him from tee-to-green. Seven shots I gave up in one round. Now, I wasn't supposed to be disappointed? Like I said, a person in my position cannot give that man that much cushion. That's why I was disappointed and that's why I came up short.
Okay Rory.
Q. My question is quite similar. You're in your early 40s, why now, what about your game, your career has made this possible?

WOODY AUSTIN: Well, like I said all along, I was a pretty good player a long time ago. I didn't just come out of the bank like everybody thought I did. I just got sidetracked. Everybody gets sidetracked.
Kind of a Roy Hobbs of golf, eh? 
There's only a few of us that their lives just kind of go according to plan. Most of us have all of those bumps and peaks and valleys. Unfortunately I had a few pretty big peaks and valleys, and it's just taken me a little bit longer to maybe -- like I said, it may be just that at 43 I deal with my nerves better than I did at 32. I was a better player at 32 than I am now, but maybe I just handle my nerves better. That's the biggest key for me is how I handle my nerves.

I don't think anybody plays any better than I do when I'm on; I know that's crazy, but I think I can hit any shot anybody in the world can hit. But it's hard to do that when you're afraid of it, and that's the fight I have every day.

Yeah, it's crazy, but we'll let it slide.

Q. I understand that qualified you for the Presidents Cup. Do you have any thoughts on that or is it too early for you to tell?

WOODY AUSTIN: Well, that makes me real happy because I've always wanted to be in one of those things. I think my personality suits that kind of competition. I'd like to think that my personality is a lot like Tiger's, very out there, very emotional, and I think in that format, in a team format, in a two-man or a one-on-one, I like the idea. I like the competition. I like the mano-a-mano, one-on-one, look you in the eye, as opposed to coming out at 8:00 and the other guy comes out at 3 o'clock. I like looking right at you when I'm playing you and I think that's going to be a lot of fun.

Ah but it won't be the same seeing you in nice clothes.

Q. Going back to your comment about liking to look players in the eye, would you have liked to have been paired with Tiger today?

WOODY AUSTIN: I said it yesterday. I was upset -- I was disappointed with my bogey and Steve's birdie. I wanted to be in that arena. Like I said, I maybe looked at it as a little bit strange, but I think I have the almost identical personality in a way that he does, in that I want to be right there.

He always says -- what does he always say? He always says, "I want to be in the last group on Sunday." If he wants to be there, and I want to be -- why do I not want to be there? Why would I want to be somewhere else? I want to be there just as much as he does. I don't get why you would want to not be there or be, as you say -- as you always say, are you intimidated by him? I don't get that either. What, are we going to fight? Are we going to get into a fight? Why should I be intimidated?

I'm intimidated by the fact that I have a chance to win a golf tournament. I'm not intimidated by any other person. I'm intimidated by the golf.

Ok, on that note, let's move on to the heavyset gentleman sweating profusely in front of mike 4.

Q. You've had a good summer. What do you attribute the good play to, and the second part is, you putted well today, were there any adjustments you made after Friday on the stroke?

WOODY AUSTIN: I did work on some things today. One of the best -- one of the best pieces of advice I think I ever got far as putting-wise was from one of the best putters of all-time, Ben Crenshaw. I really concentrated really hard today to not grip the putter. I did the best I could on short putts or anywhere from ten feet or closer to make sure I had the lightest grip I could possibly have and still actually make the stroke.

You know, I putted from ten feet a hell of a lot better today than I did the rest of the week.

Now, I swear I heard him then say "So thank you, Ben."  

Am I hearing voices or are these transcripts lacking? 

"We've got the FedEx thingy coming up; I'd like to play well there and finish my year off here in America."

I swear I heard Ernie Els say things on the Golf Channel version of his post round press conference that did not make the transcript, so, working with the digital edition, here are a few highlights after his second place finish at Southern Hills:

Q. There are times when people come in here after Tiger has won a major and he just went out and beat everybody. Do you feel like you guys really put up the fight that you wanted to, and that maybe you did some things that kept you from winning today?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, every day I've made a bunch of birdies. You know, I haven't done that in any majors that I've played recently.

So, you know, there's a lot of good in my game. As I just said, you know, I'm not quite there where I think I can be. But if I get up to this next level where I want to be, maybe I can at least give him a real go, a run for his money. Because somebody needs to step up; he's playing some awesome golf.

My Callaway equipment, I'm starting to feel comfortable with it. It's been a big change for me this year, I changed before the Masters, and I'm starting to feel comfortable with that. My putting is better, my short game is coming around. I just have to keep going on this trend and hopefully start giving him a go soon.

And it's still the thingy...

Q. You said before that you're just a little shy of that next level. I just want to find out, what's going to have to happen to get you to the next level, and do you believe more in yourself as Major Champion again after the past month?

ERNIE ELS: Yeah, first of all, I do believe that I'm working on the right stuff, and I've made strides, especially the last couple of months.

But you know, you just -- I just need to keep working on it. I just keep grinding it out, you know. I'm happy with my equipment, the way things are going.

We've got the FedEx thingy coming up; I'd like to play well there and finish my year off here in America. I need to start, you know, basically winning tournaments, and that will create more confluence, and winning becomes almost a habit; look at Tiger.

I had a couple of years where I won a lot of tournaments, and you start feeling a lot more comfortable on Sundays and Saturdays and weekends, so that's what I'm working on. Thanks, guys.


Okay, I Give Up! - Sunday PGA Blog Continued

I've tried to keep the live blog going but way too many technical issues made me have to end Sunday's and take down Saturday's for now. Thanks for your comments and interaction, it was fun and I'm sure Altcaster will work out the kinks because it's really cool software but definitely still in beta form.

So please post your profound thoughts below! At 2:42 we have a three man race! Tiger -8, Els -6, Austin -6, with Tiger in the back bunker on 13 in three!

2:43 - Unlike the other announcers, Macatee is not shy about pointing out the decline in Tiger's game since tweaking the eagle on 8. 

2:48 - Tiger taps in on 13 but looks gimpy as he walks off.  

2:52 - 6-iron from 222 on 14 for Tiger! 

3:01 - Tiger three putts 14, the lead is one over Austin and Els. 

3:03 - Kostis says Els has 96 yards for his third shot on 16, takes full, hard swing with what must be a 60 degree wedge and hits it 20 yards past the hole! Bogey. 

3:04 - I just noticed the American Express card on the leaderboard. Has that been there all week!? 

3:08 - In between the now relentless commercial breaks we see Tiger hit it pretty close on 15 (12 feet?) while Els bogies 16 and Austin is down the center of the par-4. 

3:13 - Woods birdies 15. Ian Baker Finch: "this man can really roll the potato."

3:16 - Driver gives it the full club twirl on 16 tee, and that should just about do it. Though Woody Austin hangs tough with a nice par save on 16 green

3:22 - Els pars 17 to stay 3 back, Tiger's on 16 with a relatively easy birdie putt. Austin is in 17 rough and misses the
green. No way Tiger can lose.

3:33 - Faldo apologizes for his earlier telecast comment about Woody Austin having the lights on but no one home. Did CBS tell him to do that? 

3:35 - Tiger in the middle of 17 green and it's over with Austin in trouble on 18. And the Crowne Plaza ad is the capper for me! Sayonara, looking forward to the post round analysis, it certainly was a lot more interesting than many thought it would be.

Sunday PGA Championship Clippings

2007pgalogo.gifThe players look like the heat has gotten the best of them, and I think the writers are about to crack too! Some good, honest, cranky filings after a boring Saturday at Southern Hills.

WoodsSat18Biver_600x400.jpgDamon Hack files this New York Times game story, Steve Elling focuses on the Tiger-Ames pairing fun, while Doug Ferguson offers this reminder why I might be on the beach by about, oh, 1:30:

Woods is 12-0 when going into the final round of major with at least a share of the lead, and he has never lost any tournament when leading by more than one shot after 54 holes.

Sally Jenkins called the third round stifling and motionless.

Pete McDaniel explains the swing tweak that Tiger has made. I'd like to know what he's done to make everything he looks at.

Bill Elliott has definitely seen enough of the Midwest and the PGA of America.

These major things are now set in stone, the game's Holy Quartet, the benchmark against which every Tom, Dick and Tiger ultimately judges himself. This is why we are paying such rapt attention to the US PGA this weekend, a tournament indistinguishable from any of the US Tour's better rumbles and sited, as ever, on a course that looks like almost any other preening American country club.

While the Masters is rooted forever at Augusta National and the US Open flits from East to West Coast, the US PGA guardians tend to scoop up the big bit in between. This addiction to popsicle America on top of an August date that is (a) too soon after our Open and (b) always encourages the sort of temperatures that fry a man's hands just when he needs them most, has led to the USPGA being, by a long way, the most minor of the majors.

But if the US PGA suffers from a bad date and a worse climate regime, the bigger point here is that the world has changed since Palmer and Drum came up with their Big Idea sometime between midnight and dawn. Factor in the three so-called World Championship weeks that are now staged in the United States and you have a depressing situation that accurately reflects American arrogance, or perhaps more accurately insularity, when it comes to golf.

Last time anyone counted there were 60 million committed golfers on the world's fairways with close to half this number in North America. This gives the Americans the upper hand when it comes to lots of things.

Financially, too, they exist in a different world with, for example, golf ball sales in Florida alone exceeding the entire gross for all golf related sales in Europe. This position of pre-eminence is one they jealously guard. As far as the Yanks are concerned, the rest of the world can get lost most of the time.

Hunki Yun looks at Tiger's post-63 record tying round with a look at scores after other record low rounds.

Michael Bamberger sums up the genius of Tiger and the bloody heat.

gwsl08_pga3.jpgDamon Hack with the highlights of another zany Woody Austin press conference.

John Klein of the Tulsa World will cheer up many with his Sunday column stating that it'll be at least 10 years before another major returns to Southern Hills, although he writes that the PGA has been awarded through 2015. I think 2014 is still open, so there's always hope for a quick return! Right gang!?

Gary Van Sickle looks at the few who stand a chance of catching Tiger should he decided to fire a 74, which seems unlikely.

In case you missed it, make sure you check out Geoff Ogilvy's piece on the setup.

An AP story on Sergio's DQ, with this from Boo Weekley:

Garcia got the boot Saturday for signing an incorrect scorecard after the third round. In tournament golf, players keep each other's scores. Garcia's playing partner, Boo Weekley, put down a 4 for Garcia on the 17th hole when the Spaniard actually made a 5.

It's the player's responsibility to ensure his scorecard is accurate before he signs it. Garcia didn't. And when the mistake was noticed in the scoring tent, Garcia had already left.

''He just took off,'' Weekley said. ''I called him back down and tried to get him before he got all the way up the stairs.''

Garcia did, in fact, return to the scoring area, but only to be told he had been disqualified. Once he left what PGA officials call the ''scoring area perimeter,'' his scorecard was considered turned in and not able to be changed.

Garcia had left the course and was not available for comment when his disqualification was announced.

''It's my fault for putting the wrong score in, but it's his fault for not checking,'' said Weekley, who shot 5-under 65. ''I just said 'Sergio, I put a 4 but in fact you had a 5.' He said, 'That just puts the icing on the cake.'''

Indeed, it has been a rough week and a rough summer for Garcia. On Thursday, Garcia got into an animated argument with a course official who put his group on the clock as they made the turn. After an opening-round 70, he shot 75 the second day to fall out of contention. He made the cut with no room to spare.

WetFansSatBeck_600x400.jpgMeanwhile Mark Reason of the Telegraph called Sergio's quick departure "pitiful" and builds his game story about the study in contrasts between Woods and Garcia.

Mark Soltau has a few Weekley highlights as does Jeff Latzke who says Boo did not know that he had a shot at history.

Of the three majors he’s played this year – including the U.S. Open at Oakmont and the British Open at Carnoustie – Weekley said he thought Southern Hills was the only course where a record-breaking 62 might be possible, but still not easy.

“You sure ‘nuff got to be on,” Weekley said in his Florida Panhandle drawl, a day after Tiger Woods lipped out a putt for 62 at the 18th green.

Weekley said he isn’t driven by the chance to win majors and instead only wants to earn enough in the next decade or so to be able to retire early. He enjoyed shooting 65 at a major, but said “what would be funner if I’m sitting at the house catching about a 10-pounder.”

Weekley is unfamiliar with the rules of the FedEx Cup playoffs, couldn’t tell you where he is in the Presidents Cup rankings and doesn’t know a whole lot about the Ryder Cup.

But he’s finished in the top 35 at the past two majors, and is in position for an even higher finish this time.

“I’m learning more about how to accept just making pars,” Weekley said. “Pars ain’t bad for you. Even making a bogey ain’t bad for you sometimes.”

GolfDigest.com photos are here, golf.com here.

And finally, the links to Saturday's interviews...

Tiger Woods
Boo Weekley
Scott Verplank
John Senden
Adam Scott
Arron Oberholser
Trevor Immelman
Nathan Green
Ernie Els
Woody Austin
Stephen Ames

"It May Be Damned Hot, But It's Heartening Too"

Geoff Ogilvy's look at Southern Hills for Sunland In Scotday Scotland On Sunday is notable for several reasons, mostly because it's just so fun to read a modern day player so eloquently stating why the direction of the Masters and U.S. Open is so absurd.

Instead of the silly thick rough and ultra-narrow fairways the USGA come up with in a misguided attempt to 'protect' par, the USPGA officials have clearly decided to let us play a more strategic and interesting form of golf. By not trying to engineer a winning score, they gave themselves the opportunity to set the course up properly. If you do try to manipulate the winning score - level par in the case of a typical US Open - you have no chance to set a course up properly.
And that's from a former U.S. Open champion.
All of which has been doubly nice after last week at Firestone, where we played the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The course set up there was probably the worst I have seen all year. Not only was the course really narrow, the rough was ridiculously thick - injury thick. Which is no good. Firestone's holes are all basically straight up and down and somewhat boring, so it needs a more imaginative set up to make the course even remotely interesting.

Now, you're probably wondering why, if Firestone is so bad, Tiger Woods seems to win there every year. Well, the reason is simple. Tiger is the best player we are ever going to see from long grass. So when everyone is in it, he is going to win.

Thankfully, the same mistakes have not been made at Southern Hills.

This next part makes me wish Geoff had seen the rough a few weeks ago, when it was closer to the ideal he described. But the rains stopped and the grass took off, so at least Kerry Haigh gets points for seeing that 2 3/4 was going to be plenty tough. 
Apart from the fact that the rough is maybe half an inch too long - that bit shorter would have encouraged more aggression from the players and taken the spin off the ball, which is all rough really needs to do anyway - the course has been presented almost perfectly. I like the design, too. It has lots of doglegs in all the right places. And we are able to hit a variety of clubs from many of the par-4 tees. This week I've hit everything from driver to 4-iron, depending on where I want to be for the approach shot. So it's an interesting test.

Even better, there is a lot of risk versus reward decisions to make on almost every tee. The bunkers tend to be on the inside of the doglegs, so you can play short of the sand, go over it, or play away from it altogether. But the greatest thing is that, if I wished, I could hit driver off every tee. It would be risky, of course, but I could do it. John Daly did that on the first day and shot 67, so it can work too.

That's the best aspect of this golf course. There are multiple ways to play every hole and every one of them is correct, depending on what you want to achieve and are comfortable with. To me, that's what makes any golf hole good and what allows almost any type of player to have a chance to contend for the title. So, while the long-hitter has had an advantage here this week, his edge has been in proportion. The guy who hits it straight off the tee has also enjoyed an appropriate advantage, as has the player who can move the ball both ways in the air. No-one attribute has outweighed any other though. Which is as it should be.

And...

As for the greens, they have been terrific, despite the heat. The pin positions have also been sensible. None have looked contrived. And the bunkers have been a revelation, compared with what we typically see at the US Open. There is no rough growing around them, so the ball is allowed to run into the sand unhindered by long grass. They look fantastic, too, like those at Augusta. And because there is sand in the faces of the bunkers, you get to see a lot of the sand from the tees. I like that look.

Still, the best aspect of this week is my hope that the obvious success of this type of course set up will have a positive effect on the other American majors. My feeling is that Augusta National will have been paying attention to what has been going on. They are a proud club and, while I'm sure they will never admit it, they do listen to the world of golf. They won't like the fact that there is currently such a negative impression of their course, so over the next three or four years I can see them moving the Masters back to what it once was.

Saturday Live Blog

If you have nothing better to do Saturday, I'm going to be trying a new live blog software that supposedly allows for us to interact, but in my trial run I couldn't get that working.

Anyway, you should be able to view it by logging in here or going to Altcaster and searching "Shack" under current altcasts to follow along. I'll get going in earnest around the time Tiger tees off at 2 pm, noon Pacific.

Saturday's PGA Championship Clippings

2007pgalogo.gifWait, let me close the window because a light fog just rolled in and I don't want to get cold here. You know, the town where they'll never play another PGA in my lifetime.

The game stories were all a bit different but everyone focused on the 18th hole scene surrounding Tiger's quest for yet another record. Here's Steve Elling's game story, Doug Ferguson's AP piece, and from the other side of the pond, James Corrigan filing for the Independent and Lawrence Donegan with a lively account that Guardian readers will enjoy.

aug10_tigerputt_372x400.jpgTo put the 63 into a little context, here's my Links cover story from earlier this year looking at the vaunted 63 mark and various theories as to why it hasn't been broken. They also posted a list of the other 63's.

Michael Bamberger says the 63 was another reminder of how easy Tiger can make it look and that the PGA will be the key to breaking Jack's record.

He'll get to 18 because the PGA is a relatively easy win for him. It has a deep field — advertised as the strongest field of any tournament except the Players Championship — but few golfers in the dog days of August are ready to take on Woods in full throttle.

Angel Cabrera, the U.S. Open champion, and Zach Johnson, the Masters champion, both missed the cut here at Southern Hills. Both looked worn out, Cabrera physically, Johnson mentally. The sauna-like conditions will do that to you, but the PGA is hot most years. Tiger used to perspire like crazy, but at Tulsa on Friday he looked like an ad for some new Nike product, one that takes perspiration and turns it into some sort of cash-and-prizes incentive system.

Jim Furyk is playing hurt, Vijay Singh is off his game, Bob May's not in the field, John Daly's 100 pounds overweight, and Woods is 7-0 in majors where he leads after 36 holes — who's going to beat him? Who has his level of intensity and desire and fitness? Nobody.

Mark Lamport Stokes reports on Paul McGinley's hardly-noticed 66.

Gary Van Sickle is rooting for Scott Verplank because the OSU grad doesn't take himself too seriously.

Jeff Rude says Tiger's use of irons off the tee is almost a replay of Hoylake last year.

John Antonini wonders about several fun things over at Golf Digest's Local Knowledge blog.

These Sports Network notes put Tiger's 63 into context and they tie up several other odds and ends.

Thomas Bonk starts out his notes with a look at Phil Mickelson's position at two-over.

Doug Ferguson starts his notes off with news that Lucas Glover and John Rollins are hoping to make the President's Cup team. Wait, we did that last year. No other young Americans have emerged? Can we claim Andres Romero? Nope, Ferguson says he's on the bubble for the International squad.

gwsl11_pga2.jpgChris Lewis is glad not to be at Southern Hills and notes those AmEx ads starring Shaun White.

GolfDigest.com's photos are here, GolfChannel.com here and golf.com here.

And Nancy Armour tagged along with John Daly. Guess who was in his gallery...

Thing is, Daly doesn’t do anything by anybody’s plans. Never has. Which is why, despite the blistering heat and suffocating humidity, a Tiger-sized gallery was following every move of the topsy-turvy 3-over 73 that turned him back into America’s favorite side show after a brief stay atop the leaderboard at the PGA Championship.

“For some reason,” wife Sherrie said during a brief interview Friday as she walked the course, “everyone likes John.”

Whoa...guess the charges weren't filed.

Just two months ago, Daly showed up at a tour stop in Memphis with a face full of scratches that he blamed on Sherrie, saying she came after him with a steak knife. They’ve since reconciled. Or at least are getting along well enough for to come to Southern Hills with the kids.

Don’t ask about it, though.

“That’s where we end,” Sherrie Daly said.

But it’s hard not to love the big lug. That’s why the people keep showing up.

“I’ve been telling him he could win soon,” Sherrie Daly said. “He’s due. He hasn’t had much luck.”

Well maybe if you weren't trying to kill him!

If that didn't do it for you, here are the links to Friday's interviews, including Woody Austin's cranky exchange:

Tiger Woods
Camilo Villegas
Scott Verplank
Graeme Storm
John Senden
Justin Rose
Pat Perez
Geoff Ogilvy
Phil Mickelson
Paul McGinley
Padraig Harrington
Niclas Fasth
Ernie Els
Darren Clarke
Paul Casey
Woody Austin
Stephen Ames

Notes From TNT...Friday Edition

2007pgalogo.gifGet out your thinking caps, deep revelations to follow, courtesy of TNT's PR department:

Bobby Clampett on Scott Verplank’s college nickname:  “(College teammates) nicknamed (Verplank) “Five” when he was in college after a five-star general and the way he would always take charge.  He is taking charge this week.”
You know, the research he does is just breathtaking.
Clampett’s thoughts on Verplank’s mindset: “I consider Scott (Verplank) one of the most self-motivated people I’ve ever met.”
Translation: he goes to PGA Tour bible study without Bobby reminding him!
Kostis on Jeff Sluman’s future plans: “(Sluman) is going to turn 50 and go out on the Champions Tour.  He’s going to win the PGA Senior Championship and come right back (to the PGA Championship) with an exemption.”
A reason to live.
Ernie Johnson on John Daly’s first round:  “I don’t know if we have enough paper or if the press center had enough paper for John Daly’s quotes after day one.”

That's why they don't use Underwood's anymore Ernie.

Clampett on watching Daly play:  “(Daly) is like a tight-rope walker with vertigo, you wonder what is going to happen next.”

Kind of like your announcing.

"Evidently didn't want to go in."

Highlights from Tiger's subdued (he explains) post-63 press conference:

KELLY ELBIN: Tiger Woods, ladies and gentlemen, in with a round of 7-under par 63 in the second round of the 89th PGA Championship. With this round of 63, Tiger becomes the 21st individual to shoot 63 in major golf championship history. The score also equals the course record set by Raymond Floyd in the opening round of the 1982 PGA Championship.

Here's the list of 20 who have done it prior to Tiger.

Q. Tiger, amid all the allegations that Southern Hills was a Tiger tamer, how did it feel to put that to rest and also how did that last ball not go in?

TIGER WOODS: As far as the first part, I finished 12th in the U.S. Open. It's really not that bad. And my dad had a heart attack, was placed in the hospital in '96. So those are my two appearances. I really can't say it's really that bad.

But as far as that last putt, I was trying to make it. And I hit it a little bit firm and I thought I made it, because it was breaking at the end. I knew it broke a lot more at the end than at the beginning. Started diving.

Evidently didn't want to go in.

Tigerphiles, refresh my memory, has he talked much about that with his father in 1996? A follow up is in order, either way.
Q. Digression a little bit.

Ah, at least the rally killer is preparing us...

There was a memorial service for Bill Walsh today at Candlestick/Monster Park. They read a telegram from you during the ceremonies, and ...

Okay back to the 22nd 63 in major championship history:

Q. After a personal best round in a major, you don't seem brimming with satisfaction. How satisfied are you?

TIGER WOODS: I'm very satisfied, Tom. I'm just really hungry (smiling). I just want to go home and go eat. That's the only reason why I'm pretty mellow right now. I ate a banana on the way in here and that wasn't enough.

Q. After a round like this, what do you do preparation-wise where it appears you're doing everything correctly? Are you afraid to touch a club, you might screw it up in preparation for tomorrow's round?

 And...

TIGER WOODS: No, I'm not going to go out there and practice. I didn't practice at all last week after my rounds because it was hot and humid. Conserve my energy and make sure I'm fired up and ready to go for the next round for tomorrow.

Check this out...

Q. When you're going over your birdies, it was 2-iron off the tee, 3-iron, 4-iron, how much is the dog legs, how much is it the ball carrying in the heat, and how much does that fit into your confidence when you can hit those clubs off the tee?

TIGER WOODS: I've been hitting 4, it goes 240, 230. 5-iron, between a 5-iron and 6-iron off of 10. The ball is going a long way. 3-under 2-irons because it's so hot and you get the right wind. You have to have the right wind to hit these that far.

And it's just the way the golf course is playing. And I just play it to my spots just like I did in '01, just I'm hitting it a little bit better than I did in 2001.

Friday's PGA Championship Clippings

2007pgalogo.gifDoug Ferguson's round 1 game story focuses on John Daly's rigorous pre-PGA preparation while Lawrence Donegan's Guardian piece answers who 29-year-old Englishman Graeme Storm is and how he fired an impressive opening 65.

Craig Dolch blogs about the joys of a John Daly press conference, then writes about it in the paper.

PH2007080902368.jpgSally Jenkins pens a fun column on Daly too:

Daly caromed across the course and into second place with a round that was loud and precarious, a complete disaster waiting to happen and yet spectacularly averted.

"To be honest, I was waiting to make a seven or eight," he said.

He finished with a 3-under-par 67, but that number seemed meek and hardly descriptive of all that happened on the tight, sun-chapped par 70 of Southern Hills. Most of it he couldn't even remember afterward, he was so exhausted by the 103-degree temperature and his various adventures.

"I only had three heatstrokes out there," he joked.

Golf Digest's John Antonini hopes he's wrong, but smells a Daly meltdown Friday. Especially if he tries that 18th hole tee shot strategy, which Damon Hack highlighted in his game story.

Ed Sherman tidies up any other unanswered questions with his round 1 birdies and bogies.

Oh wait, more John Daly fun from Patrick Reusse in the Minneapolis paper:

Actually, Daly said he handled the heat OK from his experience of living in Arkansas. And, he offered this counsel to the Southern Hills spectators who will be dealing with 100-degree heat for three more days.

"I'm used to these kind of little valleys, where you don't get any air, and there's a lot of humidity, and it's tough to breathe," he said. "I light up a cigarette and drink some caffeine and it actually works."

Asked if he had lost weight during these 18 holes, he said: "I probably didn't lose any because I didn't drink one bit of water. I had Diet Cokes, Diet Pepsis."

Mark Whicker explains Angel Cabrera's 10 at the 6th hole which included a few shots I can't really picture, and I can picture a golf ball doing just about anything! ***Reader Martin notes that PGA.com has posted this video of the 10.

Round 1 photos of people look hot and generally miserable: GolfDigest.com, golf.com and GolfChannel.com.

Gary Van Sickle talks to Arron Oberholser about his injury troubles.

And finally, the various transcripts from round 1 are here: 

While I Was Away...

...I can honestly say you guys and gals have absolutely no copying and pasting skills. Not one relevant story worth sharing? I make a simple request and this is what you offer up? Shameful!

230136-963660-thumbnail.jpg
(click image to enlarge)
To settle the mystery of my secure undisclosed location, I've posted a photo of what I woke up to the last two days. And to answer the inevitable questions.  I hit a hybrid where I always hit it, left at the ocean. Provisional made it on the fringe, but found the first one in a horrible lie and chopped it up for my tradition 5. I'm sure you know what hole I'm talking about.

Yes, it remains the coolest, prettiest, wildest place in golf. And I can now say that Room 4 is the best view in golf too.

Now to the most obvious and vital thing I missed today.

The wit and wisdom of TNT's crew. Based on the quotes, I can't wait for Friday's telecast.

From the TNT PR department:

Clampett on Sergio Garcia taking a break since the British Open, where he narrowly missed winning the Claret Jug:  “Sergio (Garcia) has not played since the Open Championship.  He spent a lot of time with friends and family, played a little tennis, hung out on the beach…just got away from the game and coming here is feeling a little more refreshed.”
So he's not quite the sultry surly brat you remember from Carnoustie.

Kostis on missing the fairways at Southern Hills:  “Boy, miss the fairways here at Southern Hills and you have stress.  You think the heat is a problem, no way (compared to the fairways).”

That certainly might make sense to someone from...Jupiter?

Kostis on Masters Champion Zach Johnson bogeying hole No. 1: “Only good news about bogeying the first hole is you’ve got 17 more to make it up!”

The insights you glean!

Kostis on John Daly not being the prototype player you’d pick to win in the intense heat of Tulsa: “Leave it to John (Daly) to go against the norm.  The conventional thinking here is don’t bet on anyone but a thin guy who’s in really good shape because of the heat; that’s not John Daly.”

Ditto the previous pithy comment.

Johnson on John Daly’s approach to golf:  “Think back to what John (Daly) said in Carnoustie on the range as he held his Diet Coke and cigarette; he said ‘caffeine plus nicotine equals protein,’ and here he is leading the PGA Championship (as he finishes his first round).”

Okay, I'm thinking back. Now what?

And now we take a break for something worthwhile...

Feherty on how the relationship between a golfer and caddy has changed over the years:  “I used to hire caddies for their entertainment value. I figured I was a professional golfer, I played golf for a living and I wasn’t going to ask someone for advice that had been up all night drinking cleaning products the night before.  Having said that, caddies have really changed over the last 15-20 years.  There are a lot of very professional people out there that take their jobs really seriously and are of terrific help.  (Mickelson’s caddy) Jim MacKay and Phil are one of the great pairings out there, and when you do see a caddy that has stayed with a player for a long time you know that’s a special relationship.”

 Feherty on the piece showing footage from 1970:  “Watching Dave Stockton win back in 1970, that was polyester (he was wearing)!  You add polyester to 103-degrees and we’re talking about an entirely different situation.”

Well you knew the fun could only last so long...

Clampett on how to gauge the focus of young players such as Graeme Storm who is leading the first round:  “One of the things I look at in a young player when he grabs the lead of the tournament is the speed on his putts. If he’s controlling the speed on the putts, he’s really controlling his concentration and his feel.”

Or drinking lots of Diet Coke?

Kostis on an assertion that David Toms might be looking toward the Champions Tour: “That move right there (bending down for a ball) showed me (Toms) is still on the regular tour because on the Champions Tour when you get to that age, you don’t bend down like that, you tilt your head, keep your legs straight…you don’t get down because you don’t know if you’ll get up again.”

I guess you had to see that one. Tomorrow!

Away Clippings

I'm going to be traveling the next three days with limited time to read up on golf and probably not having access to a Wi-Fi signal. I'm not telling you where because it'll just make you mad, especially if you're sweating through your shorts in Tulsa.  Hint: I'm gladly packing a sweater and several sleeves of balls. But I'll be back Thursday night and if feeling frisky, I may even try a cool new form of live blogging over the weekend (a big if!).

In the meantime, if there are some stories (PGA or otherwise) you see that should not go unnoticed, please post the links under the comments section here and throw in a few comments if you'd like. (Don't post them as references, those are restricted for spam filtering purposes.)

Thanks!