Thursday, August 9, 2007
Everything is OK at the PGA
By DJ Gallo
The 89th PGA Championship tees off today at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Here are some people and things to watch for.
Tiger Woods: This week's PGA Championship is Tiger Woods' final chance to win a major in 2007. In golf circles, the feat of losing every major in a season is referred to as the "Sergio Slam."
Southern Hills: The Tulsa country club has hosted three previous PGA Championships -- 1970, 1982 and 1994 -- and this year becomes the first course to host a fourth. Southern Hills is practically to the PGA what Augusta National is to the Masters, only the members of Southern Hills don't think girls have cooties.
Heat: Temperatures at Southern Hills are expected to be hotter than 100 degrees each of the tournament's four days. Expect to hear the on-course reporters using their regular annoying golf whisper, only this time it will be because they're dehydrated and dying of heatstroke: "Water
Hydration: With such intense heat, proper hydration will obviously be paramount for the players. Most will drink copious amounts of water. Others, such as John Daly, might drink copious amounts of another liquid so they completely forget that it's so hot outside.
History: Southern Hills is a rare country club built and opened during the Great Depression -- a particularly difficult period in Oklahoma. Golfers are still able to purchase leather shoe and rainwater soup at the turn, and the course to this day exclusively uses hobo caddies rescued from a life riding the rails.
Yardage: At 7,131 yards, Southern Hills is relatively short for a modern major championship course. Expect to see Gary Player's secret steroids user hitting a pitching wedge off of every tee.
Lost balls: Southern Hills is a tight, sloping, tree-lined course with plenty of danger areas. Many of the game's greats have struggled there. As Jack Nicklaus famously replied to a kid who asked him for a ball after one of his rounds at the 1994 PGA at Southern Hills: "Son, I don't think I have any left." Upon which the kid, hearing the golfing legend's high-pitched voice, no doubt responded: "Understood. You clearly have no balls."
Trees: Southern Hills is not Oakmont -- trees are everywhere. There are 3,000 on the course, in fact. Yes, those who play well this week will most likely do so by staying in the fairway and out of the trees, but doing that will also keep them in the direct rays of the brutal Oklahoma sun. So chin up, players who miss the cut. As the old saying goes: "'Tis better to not win the PGA Championship than to die of skin cancer."
Retief Goosen: Retief Goosen is the last winner of a major held at Southern Hills -- the 2001 U.S. Open. Goosen's game has slipped since then, but he will try to recapture the feeling of that special period of his career by wearing the same style of clothing popular during that era of golf: the khaki pant and a polo shirt.
First-time winners: Every major championship trophy so far this year has gone to a first-time winner -- both on the men's and women's tour. Will it happen again at Southern Hills? Maybe. Actually, no -- no maybe. I guarantee that at the end of the weekend, obscure no-namers Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, David Toms and Mark Brooks will all have PGA Championship titles.
Club pros: Among the 156 players in the field, 20 are PGA-certified club pros. Some fans complain about the number of "no-names" in the field, but the practice of putting club pros in the tournament helps keep prices for golf lessons in check. It's tough for your local PGA pro to charge you more than $100 for a lesson when they just shot 81-84 on national television and brained an old woman with an errant drive.
European fashion: If nothing else, major tournaments always provide entertainment by way of the outfits worn by many of the European players. Pink shoes, skin-tight shirts, cycling hats -- the list goes on and on. Sadly. But what will be this year's fashion staple? Why, butt-less Dockers, naturally, to help stay cool in the 100-plus temperatures.
Second-round leader: In every major ever contested at Southern Hills, the player in the lead after the second round went on to win the tournament. So, really, everyone in second through last place at the end of Friday shouldn't even bother showing up for the weekend because the guy in first is a lock to win. Unless that guy is Sergio Garcia, of course. That poor guy gets ALL the bad breaks. (What's Spanish for "sarcasm"?)
72nd hole: In the previous six majors held at Southern Hills, no winner has yet managed to par the final hole of the tournament. This fact should be encouraging to players like Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie, who could post their customary final-hole 12 and -- based on history -- still have a chance to win. Southern Hills: It's choke-tastic!
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" is on sale now.