Here’s to the first major!
PGA Championship week is finally here
Celebrations at major championships are usually saved for Sundays, but you'll be excused for wanting to pop the cork early this week.
Eight tournaments into golf's restart, and three weeks after the final major of the year was supposed to be played over in England, 2020's first major, the PGA Championship, has finally arrived.
After the season was shut down one round into the Players Championship in March, it was anyone's guess when, or if, this week would arrive. There have been bumps along the way (the latest being South African Branden Grace having to withdraw from last week's opposite-field Barracuda Championship while tied for second place after testing positive for COVID-19), but on a whole golf has done an admirable job with its travelling hub, especially compared to (cough, cough) baseball.
Last week's WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational started a frenzied eight-week stretch of tournaments that, barring another stoppage, will include the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, a WGC, and three PGA Tour playoff events. After all that, we still have the pumpkin-spiced Masters to look forward to in November.
“It's really exciting that we're going to be able to compete in three majors,” Phil Mickelson said. “It's exciting that I'm starting to play well as we head into them and exciting that golf has been able to do this in a safe environment. I really think the Tour's done a great job of having us come back, get golf on TV that I think people are enjoying watching.”
Mickelson, 50, finished tied for second behind Justin Thomas on Sunday in Memphis.
With no fans in attendance this week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and players using a cavernous merchandise tent as their social-distancing locker room, it will be anything but a normal PGA Championship. But a PGA Championship it will be, and this Sunday somebody will be lifting the 27-pound Wanamaker Trophy.
Tiger Woods has played just once during the tour's restart and skipped last week's WGC, but the 15-time major champ arrived to Harding Park early and was spotted out on the course practicing on the weekend. This will be the first major championship the public course in San Fran has hosted, but golf fans likely remember it as the site of the club twirl to end all club twirls.
During the Presidents Cup in 2009, playing Saturday foursomes versus our man Mike Weir and Tim Clark, Woods hit a perfect 3-iron approach shot at the par-5 18th to win, capping it off with quick twirl before raising his arms like a Jedi Master using the force to ensure a soft bounce onto the green. He went 5-0 that week and there has since been a stopaction Lego video made recreating the twirl.
So it's safe to say that golf's biggest star has fond memories of the course, where he also beat John Daly in a playoff to win the WGC-American Express Championship in 2005. Growing up in California and attending Stanford, Woods is very comfortable on the West Coast, although with notoriously cool mornings and wind in the forecast it could be another touchand-go week for the 44-yearold's surgically-repaired back.
Last week's winner Thomas comes to the championship after knocking off Jon Rahm to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking. Two-time defending PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka is looking for a three-peat and, coming off a tie for second, his game (surprise, surprise) looks major-ready. Then there's Rory McIlroy who will be trying to shake off his slow restart. And there's Bryson Dechambeau who's bringing his new body, swing, and mood to a major for the first time.
And, and, and . . . Somebody get me a glass. Here's to the season's first major. CHIP SHOTS
There are four Canadians in the field: Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes, and Corey Conners. All of them are PGA Tour winners, with Taylor becoming the first of this generation of Canadian men to win twice when he took down Mickelson at Pebble Beach in February. Hughes has been the hottest of the bunch so far during the restart with two top-six finishes. The Dundas, Ont. native has been at his best on tough courses. Forty years ago, Jack Nicklaus won the last of his record-tying five PGA Championships. The Golden Bear finished at six-under and was the only player under par that week at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. His seven-shot victory in 1980 was a record margin for the championship until 2012 when Rory McIlroy won by eight at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Nicklaus took home a winner's cheque of $50,000 for his 17th of 18 major victories, which the internet says is worth roughly $160,000 today. This week's winner will get US $1.98 million.
Phil Mickelson putts on the 17th green during the final round of the WGC - FedEx St. Jude Invitational golf tournament at TPC Southwind in Tennessee on Aug. 2.