The wait has been building the last few weeks of the PGA Championship, just like the Masters. And just like on the last major, the hype was more about who played than who had a chance to win.
Tiger Woods not only played Augusta National, but also made a resume.
Phil Mickelson won’t even make it to the first game in the Southern Hills.
Six days before the start round at the classic venue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mickelson decided not to defend his title and extend a three-month break from golf.
And come to think of it, it was only a year ago when Mickelson celebrated one of the most stunning feats of 161 years of major activity. He won the PGA Championship on the island of Kiev at the age of 50 to become the oldest major champion in golf.
The last PGA champion not to defend was Woods in 2008, when he was recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Prior to that, it was Ben Hogan in 1949 who had nearly been killed four months earlier when a bus hit his car in West Texas.
Mickelson’s injuries were more self-inflicted. He made everyone guess when he signed up for the PGA Championship on April 25, even if it was a matter of procedure. His manager said the Leftist just kept the options open and then closed them on Friday.
“Personally, I think that coming back and playing after what he went through is an incredible mental challenge. I don’t think it’s as easy as just riding a bike, coming to a golf tournament and playing, ”said six-time CBS chief champion and analyst Nick Faldo.
One way or another Mickelson will definitely become a topic. Alan Shipnak’s unauthorized biography of Mickelson is due out on Tuesday.
His public image was shattered in February when Shipnuk published an excerpt from his book in which Mickelson outlined his involvement in Saudi Arabia’s rival financial league.
He spoke insultingly about the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Hashoghi and his reputation for human rights in Saudi Arabia, saying it should be involved if it means having the leverage to change the way the PGA Tour works. He even said he hired three other players to pay lawyers to write an agreement to operate the new league.
Major sponsors abandoned him, Mickelson issued a statement that was more like an explanation than an apology, and said he “desperately” needed time.
Now the question is when he will return. His absence figures will be vivid, one of several sub-plots for a major that is sure to remain an intrigue even before the first shot is fired.
Woods did not say for sure that he would play in another major, although he was in Tulsa last week to play – and play – in the training round, and it would be strange if he did not play. Woods won the PGA Championship in Southern Hills the last time he was there in 2007.
This is not exactly the same course. Gil Hans and Jim Wagner have completed a restoration project in Southern Hills aimed at making the course a modern test without losing the charm of Perry Maxwell’s original design.
Along with the return of the creek that cuts through the 10th and 17th fairways, the edges of the green now move away from the surfaces rather than to the center, making an allowance for staying in the fairway and at the right angle depending on the pin.
Woods has cast a huge shadow on this sport for so long that it is easy not to notice the strongest field of the four major directions and who will have the best chance to lift this 27-pound Vanamaker trophy.
It starts with a pair of techies heading to the other side of the Red River to chase different Grand Slam options.
Masters champion Scotty Scheffler has a long way to go, and while he rarely thinks of anything other than the next hit, he probably knows that only three players in the last 20 years have won the first two majors of the year.
Despite this, he is attracting public attention with his four big titles over the last four months, which brought him to first place in the world.
“He’s setting the bar pretty high now, and he’s kind of the guy we need to chase after all of us,” Will Zalataris said. “What he is doing is a border tiger. It’s pretty cool to see. “
Jordan Spit is chasing a Grand Slam career tournament. This is his sixth shot at the Wanamaker Trophy since he took his third match at the British Open 2017 and it could be his best chance. His swing is approaching where he can be trusted, and his confidence has boosted his victory in the playoffs at Hilton Head a month ago.
Spieth and Justin Thomas stayed in the Southern Hills earlier in the week. The last time Spit played was in 2009, when he lost in the big playoffs for the last four places in a game match in an American amateur match. He shot 75. He was 16.
And so much has changed, especially with the South Hills.
The most noticeable part of the restoration was the edges of the greenery so that the arrows moved away from the feed surface. Spit felt the goals were smaller than they looked. And with a hydronic system under the greenery that allows you to better control the hardness of the turf, Spieth is waiting for a clear test.
“I think it’s going to be one of the highest PGAs we’ve seen,” he said.
Southern Hills hosts the eighth major since 1958 – three US Open – and the last five champions are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
It was not to adopt the PGA until 2030. This year’s championship was scheduled for former President Donald Trump’s courses in Bedminster, New Jersey. But four days after the brutal January 6 uprising in the U.S. Capitol, when Congress approved the presidential election, the PGA of America unanimously voted to move them to the Southern Hills.
This avoided what might have looked like a circus. And when Mickelson was no longer in the field, the PGA Championship avoided one of a variety.
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