PGA Championship offers many story lines to follow
As featured in the Chicago SunTimes BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org August 3, 2012 10:04PM
When a golf course puts up posters stressing ‘‘Pace of Play,’’ chances are it has a pace-of-play problem. And when a major has to remind people that it’s ‘‘Glory’s Last Shot,’’ it probably senses it has an image problem.
Which is a shame. Because the 94th PGA Championship has a lot going for it. It’s not a historic harbinger of spring, like the Masters. It’s not our national championship, like the U.S. Open. It’s not the most compelling title in the world, like the British Open.
But the PGA does a really nice job of putting on a good show. It tests the strongest field in golf on an interesting and challenging course. And the player who hoists the Wanamaker Trophy is a major winner, same as the players at the other majors.
The 2012 PGA, which begins Thursday on the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, S.C., should continue the trend. Shortly after the Pete Dye-designed course opened, it was the scene of the dramatic 1991 Ryder Cup. Mark Calcavecchia, heartbroken after blowing a four-hole lead with four to play against Colin Montgomerie, was spared when Bernhard Langer missed a six-foot putt that gave Team USA the victory.
There will be no shortage of story lines this week.
† Will Tiger Woods, who has been stuck on 14 majors since the 2008 U.S. Open, end his drought? Woods put himself in contention on the weekend at the U.S. and British opens this year before fading both times.
† Will the parity in golf continue? The last 16 majors have been won by 16 different players. That’s the longest run without a duplicate champion since the Masters began in 1934.
† Is Adam Scott ready to bounce back quickly? In position for his first major victory, Scott bogeyed the last four holes at the British, opening the door for strong-finishing Ernie Els to put his name on the claret jug for the second time.
† Will a young gun follow in the footsteps of Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA last year at Atlanta as a PGA Tour rookie? Bradley survived a playoff with Jason Dufner after a roller-coaster finish in regulation.
† Will foul weather add spice to a seaside golf course that’s often wind-swept? In addition, the long-range forecast is filled with the potential for scattered storms.
One issue that doesn’t figure to surface is a repeat of the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits, where Dustin Johnson lost his opportunity to win because he grounded his club in one of the myriad sand bunkers that come with the territory at courses such as Kiawah.
‘‘With the unique topography of the Ocean Course, natural sandy areas spread throughout the entire property, the rules committee has determined that all of these areas will be treated alike and played as through the green,’’ PGA of America president Allen Wronowski said.
That means players will be allowed to move loose impediments and ground their clubs, eliminating the infraction that ruined Johnson’s day at the 2010 PGA.
Woods, who often left his driver in the bag at the last two majors to find more fairways, expressed concern about a course that’s listed at 7,776 yards.
‘‘It’s going to be long, a big ballpark,’’ Woods said after a practice round Tuesday at Kiawah. ‘‘A lot of the holes are crosswind holes. It’s going to be a great test. There’s so much room out there, but as soon as the wind starts blowing 20 or 30 miles an hour, there’s not much room. There are so many collection areas. Where do you have to miss to give yourself the correct angle? Do you pitch into the wind? Do you pitch downwind? Where do you leave yourself on these different angles?’’
Bradley said he also sees trouble ahead.
‘‘I’ve played it, and the golf course is unbelievable,’’ said Bradley, the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley. ‘‘It’s going to be very difficult. I’ve heard it’s going to rain there for the next week, and that’s only going to make the course longer and tougher. [And the PGA] can set it up a million different ways. It’s going to be a great tournament. It’s just an awesome venue.’’
Scott said he sees another back nine that might be a major headache.
‘‘The front nine is a really nice, playable golf course; the back nine is not,’’ he said, sparking widespread laughter in the interview room last week at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. ‘‘The back nine is very severe. There are good scores out there in good weather. But if the wind blows, it’s going to be very difficult.’’