Teed Off (Aug. 11, 2013)
with Robert Bicknell
The PGA Championship holds a special place in the hearts of professionals for different reasons than The Masters or The "Open" Championships. This is the only major tournament where a few places are reserved for club professionals.
The event was originally only for club pros (PGA members) until the PGA Tour was launched and split off from the PGA of America. After that, the Tour players kept complaining that they needed more and more spots until they took over 99 per cent of the event. Their argument was somewhat sound in that they have to make a living only from playing, so they should have more spots. They also argued that nobody wanted to see old, fat club pros waddling around and shooting mid-high 80's.
So we have what we have today and, thankfully, they still allow a few club pros to participate as to keep the original premise of the event, which is nice.
The way Tiger Woods played last week, it seems like he is determined to annihilate anyone who gets in his path during this event. He is a man on a mission and hell-bent to destroy. Of course, Phil Mickelson would love to be the one to throw a huge monkey wrench into Woods machinery and, coming off his back to back wins in Europe (The Scottish Open and The Open Championship), he just might have enough momentum to do it.
Woods, when he's at his best is almost impossible to stop, but the problem is that he hasn't been at his best for a very long time, and there is no guarantee "which" Woods will show up on the first tee of the PGA Championship. There seems to be two of them lately. One who can rip it up in normal events; and the one who keeps showing up in major events not knowing which end of the club to swing.
Rory McIlroy is another very wild card in the event.
Rory was touted as the "next Tiger Woods" and, so far, has not even come close to the mark. Granted, that's a lot of pressure for a young kid. Especially, for a kid who switched clubs to make money and now must deal with the consequences.
While McIlroy has the game to be on top, he doesn't seem to have the mental toughness or the maturity needed to stay focused like a laser beam throughout the event. That said, I still think he'll be a force to be reckoned with once he finds himself.
I don't think Steve Stricker or Sergio Garcia has much of a chance in the event simply because they are getting a bit long in the tooth and, especially in Sergio's case, snake bit when it comes to majors.
The same argument can be made for Lee Westwood.
Westwood played a great Open Championship before the wheels came off as they tend to do whenever he seems to close in on a major tournament win. I don't know what is in his head, and I don't think he knows either. The guy has talent and a beautiful swing, but something is stopping him from reaching his true potential and, unfortunately, he's running out of time.
Come to think of it, Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood seem to suffer the same problem. Something is keeping them from being all they can be, but nobody seems to know what it is. Maybe something in the beer over there?
Ian Poulter seems to have a chance at a win. He's got the game and experience to pull it off but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Just a feeling. The same doubts go for Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson… I just don't see it.
If pressed to make a pick, I'd have to stay with the safe bet of Phil Mickelson with a Tiger Woods kicker. Either of them could explode and wipe out the field, Tiger more so than Phil, but Mickelson does have two huge wins under his belt and that momentum could propel him to the win once again. Phil's biggest problem has always been a case of trying to prove himself better than Tiger, which caused him to over-reach and take chances he shouldn't have.
Tiger and Phil in the final pairing could be awesome. — VNS