Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Review of the 2010 and 2011 PGA Championships

The 2010 PGA Championship was held at the majestic Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI. After three rounds of exhilarating play, the championship was close heading into the last few holes on Sunday. Dustin Johnson birdied the 16th and 17th holes to take a one stroke lead into the final hole of the 2010 PGA Championship. Johnson missed the fairway right. As Johnson addressed the ball he grounded his club. Usually that would be no big deal but Johnson did not know that he was in one of the reported 1,000 "sand traps" at Whistling Straits. Johnson hit out of the sand trap and had a putt to win the 2010 PGA Championship. Johnson missed the putt and ended up bogeying the hole to send the tournament into a three-hole aggregate score playoff with Johnson, Martin Kaymer, and Bubba Watson.

As Johnson walked of the 18th green a rules official approached Johnson and told him that his second shot on the 18th hole was under review. After a lengthy review the officials ruled that Johnson grounded his club, which meant Johnson incurred a two-stroke penalty. That meant that instead of participating in a playoff, Johnson ended up tied for 5th place with Jason Dufner and Steve Elkington.

Kaymer and Watson proceeded to play the 10th, 17th and 18th holes to determine the winner of the 2010 PGA Championship. Kaymer played the three holes at even par while Watson finished one stroke worse so Martin Kaymer won the 2010 PGA Championship. Much like the 2002 MLB All-Star Game played at Miller Park ending in a tie, the 2010 PGA Championship will ultimately be remembered for a calamity as opposed to a triumph.

Let's fast forward forward to the 2011 PGA Championship that was held at the Atlantic Athletic Club. Thursday ended up being Cheesehead Day thanks to the impressive play of Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly. Unfortunately Stricker and Kelly faded as the weekend approached so they were not a factor in the 2011 PGA Championship.

After jockeying for position Jason Dufner (a factor in the 2010 PGA Championship) and Keegan Bradley (making his first ever appearance in a major) were both in prime position to win the 2011 PGA Championship. Bradley played in the second to last group while Dufner was in the final group so the back nine turned into a scoreboard watching affair for both competitors.

The final four holes at the Atlanta Athletic Club are possibly the four hardest finishing holes in PGA Championship history. Through the first three rounds Dufner was the only player in the entire field to not bogey the 15th, 16th, 17th, or 18th hole. When Bradley triple-bogeyed the 15th hole to trail Dufner by five strokes with three holes to play it looked like Dufner was going to win the 2011 PGA Championship running away.

Not so fast. Dufner bogeyed the 15th, 16th, and 17th holes for the first time all week. As Dufner was faltering, Bradley birdied the 16th and 17th holes to put both Bradley and Dufner tied at 8-under heading into the final hole of the 2011 PGA Championship.

Bradley parred the 18th hole, which meant Dufner needed to par the 18th hole just to get into a playoff. It is no small feat to par the 18th hole because the hole played more like a Par-5 than a Par-4 all week. Dufner reached the green in two and two-putted to send the 2011 PGA Championship into a playoff for the second year in a row.

The three-hole playoff was staged on the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Bradley and Dufner both had short birdie putts on the first playoff hole. Dufner missed the birdie putt while Bradley made the short putt to take a one stroke lead. Dufner sputtered on the next hole bogeying the 17th hole while Bradley parred the hole. That meant that Bradley carried a two stroke lead into the challenging 18th hole. Dufner made a birdie on the 18th hole so Bradley had two putts to win. Bradley missed the first putt but made his tap-in to win the 2011 PGA Championship in his first ever major start (first time someone has done that since Ben Curtis won the 2003 British Open at Royal St George's Golf Club).

Some might claim that Dufner choked but there is no shame in bogeying any of the four final holes at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Unfortunately Dufner played those holes great Thursday through Saturday but struggled there on Sunday.

Bradley, the nephew of World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, entered the weekend as the 108th ranked player in the world. Bradley became the second major winner in a row that started the week ranked outside the top 100 in the world golf rankings (Darren Clarke won the 2011 British Open at Royal St George's Golf Club). Bradley ended the weekend as the 29th ranked player in the world, which vaulted Bradley past Tiger Woods who missed the cut.

Unfortunately all the Cheesehead PGA Tour golfers finished outside the Top-10 at the 2011 PGA Championship: Steve Stricker (tied for 12th place) Jerry Kelly (tied for 26th place) and Mark Wilson (tied for 26th place) so the Cheesehead went another year without winning a major.

No one has won back-to-back majors since Pádraig Harrington won the 2008 British Open and 2008 PGA Championship, which makes 13 different major winners in a row. The 2011 PGA Tour is shaping up to be one of the most interesting seasons in a long time despite Tiger Woods struggling on and off the course thanks to young guns like Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy actually winning majors.

No comments:

Post a Comment