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PGA Championship thoughts – A changing of the guard

Written by: Tony Korologos | Date: Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Categories: PGA TourPro GolfTiger Woods
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I had a family reunion this past Sunday afternoon, so I only watched the final group play the first hole live.  Then I had to record the rest.  I started watching the 7 hour recording (I always extend it an hour) at about 6:00pm.  By the first few minutes it was obvious that Nick Watney didn’t have the mojo.  He was doing the “major meltdown” which you see many players do when leading a major on Sunday, giving up a three shot lead on the first hole.

Players who made a run

Meanwhile many players made a run at it like Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Steve Elkington and my pick Rory McIlroy.  Rory had a chance to go into the playoff if he capitalized on a great approach shot to 18, but the birdie put slid left.  He will get his share though, perhaps sooner than later.

Bubba Watson

I’m turning into a big Bubba Watson fan.  I’ve exchanged a few tweets with Bubba and from all I’ve seen he’s a genuine guy.  This guy is contenting in majors and he’s never had a coach.  Bubba did make it into the playoff with eventual winner Martin Kaymer (first image upper right).  In fact, Bubba’s final round was by far the best of all the leaders at -4. Many are questioning Bubba’s choice on the 3rd playoff hole where he went for the green and came up quite a bit short in a water hazard, allowing Kaymer to play for bogey and win the PGA.  Bubba stands behind his decision and even said he’d do it again.  That has sparked much debate.  The facts are that if he’d hit that shot good enough to get on the green, he would have won and we’d all be talking about how brilliant and gutsy of a shot it was.  But perhaps Bubba might have been better off playing for bogey himself and extending the playoff?  We’ll never know.

Dustin Johnson and the infamous bunker disaster

By about 11:40pm in my DVR fest I’d gotten to the final group on the final hole.  Dustin Johnson had played a great round and was sitting atop the leaderboad with a one shot lead going into 18.  He nervously flared his drive way right into the crowd.  All things considered it looked like a pretty clean lie in the sand.

When Dustin first stood over the ball with a club and prior to addressing it, he grounded the club about three inches toward himself.  Though I was by myself watching this, I literally spoke out loud “holy sh*t he just grounded his club!”  I nearly fell out of my chair.  The announcers didn’t say anything.  They didn’t notice.  Then Dustin pointed at the ground and looked at the crowd as if to ask “is this a bunker?”  I thought he was about to penalize himself.  Then it turned out he was asking the crowd (standing in the bunker) to move their shadows.  I then watched him ground his club again when he addressed it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I then started to assume that it wasn’t a bunker.

A few minutes later, Dustin made an incredible chip which gave him a chance to win the PGA with a par putt which didn’t drop.  It looked like a 3-way playoff was about to begin between Bubba, Justin and Martin Kaymer.  PGA officials then notified Dustin that he’d grounded a club in a hazard and the next 15-20 minutes was crazy.  Eventually Dustin was penalized two shots and Bubba Watson lost to Martin Kaymer in the playoff.

Two mistakes were made

Mistake #1

I felt for Johnson and felt like he was screwed at first.  The crowd had destroyed what apparently once was a bunker.  There were footprints in it, trash and the definition of the bunker’s boundaries was nearly impossible to make out.  But in reading this text below which was posted by the PGA to the players and around the locker rooms, it is clear that he and his caddy should have been better informed.  All sand bunkers were to be played as a hazard, regardless of the presence of rakes.  Knowing the local rules is crucial, especially in an event this huge.

“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. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints and tire tracks during the play of the Championship. Such irregularities of surface are a part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”

Mistake #2

The PGA did the right thing in penalizing Johnson based on this local rule and their notice to the players.  In my opinion however, a bunker which is completely downtrodden by spectators, full of trash, has sandcastles in it and no rakes, should be classified as a waste bunker.  In a waste bunker a player can ground his club.

Kudos to David Feherty

David Feherty (pictured right) did a great job getting Johnson out of the shower and conducting a post bunkergate interview.  I’m just glad that Feherty didn’t conduct the interview IN the shower.

Many know how critical of golf broadcasts I am, but TNT and CBS did a great job this week, especially Feherty.

Johnson’s future is so bright, it is blinding

Dustin’s demeanor was to be commended.  He carried himself in a completely calm and professional manner following the penalty and realizing he’d just lost the PGA.  Having the lead and losing it in two majors this year could have a negative affect on some players, but I don’t think it will in Dustin’s case.  I see an extremely bright future and a fair share of major championships for this guy.  I bet that the members of Augusta National are already sweating because Dustin and many new players are so long and so good, that they’re probably already considering another addition of yardage at The Masters.

Changing of the guard – Tiger and Phil who?

Meanwhile Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson weren’t much of a factor in this major.  I’d hoped Phil would win actually, because I’d love to see him (or Steve Stricker for that matter) take over the world #1 ranking.  That will have to wait apparently.

What stood out most of all during this PGA was the future of professional golf.  There are SO many great young players coming up.  Their talent level is sick.  Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy (pictured right, I think he’ll be #1 some day), Nick Watney, Camilo Villegas, Paul Casey and a few other younger guns will be winning a ton of tournaments in the near future.

Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Vijay, Furyk, Retief Goosen, Lee Westwood and the like are not getting any younger.  Yes they still have many tournaments wins ahead, but a changing of the guard is in golf is upon us.  I look forward to it.

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