Tag: PGA Championship

Phil Deserves a Pass

Phil being Phil

Over the past few months, Phil Mickelson has faced an unprecedented level of criticism from the press, golf fans, and many of his peers on Tour for his comments supporting the “Super Golf League.” As most everyone is now aware, the Super Golf League is backed by Saudi money, specifically “PIF” (the Saudi Public Investment Fund), and the unsavory specter of Prince Salmon bin Abdulaziz, who is Chairman of PIF. When asked how he could support an endeavor connected to such people, Phil stated “while he was aware of the Kingdom’s horrible record on human rights and other crimes attributed to the prince,” he was supporting the new league for the “leverage’ it could provide for players when negotiating with the PGA Tour—specifically as applied to “Media Rights” (referring to the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” in that regard). There is no question that Phil likes to speak his mind, and he will sometimes rub people the wrong way. We may also be unhappy with the choices he makes regarding his golf career. But before we pass judgement, let’s remember that actions are far more indicative of an individual’s character than words. Over the past thirty-odd years, Phil Mickelson has built a legacy of warmth, generosity, and professionalism, both on and off the golf course.

Phil the Thrill

And yes, Phil is not perfect. He is a flawed human being, just like the rest of us. Everyone has heard about his affinity for games of chance, but that aspect of Phil’s personality is precisely what makes him so much fun to watch on the golf course. His critics question his sincerity, because he takes so much time signing autographs, chatting up the fans, and being such a nice guy in public, while behind the scenes he likes to break a few chops. With six major championships and fifty-seven professional wins, Phil is among the greatest players in the history of golf —he doesn’t need to curry favor with anybody. He makes the effort to connect with fans because he has genuine empathy for people, and appreciates that a few minutes of his time can mean so much to every-day folks, including the wide-eyed twelve-year-old who just watched him create a bit of magic. And make no mistake, it takes a lot of effort. The demands placed on star athletes is staggering, and there are few who make so much time for the public, or embrace it with the warmth of Phil Mickelson.

Conrad Doblar

There are many stories of Phil’s financial generosity, but let’s remember just a few. After losing the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot, Phil took the time to personally thank each volunteer and member of the club staff, distributing gratuities that totaled many thousands of dollars. It’s not so much the money, but the fact that he made such a heartfelt effort to show his appreciation, even while absorbing yet another crushing loss at the one championship that had eluded him. The previous year Phil won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, and was described by Doug Steffen, the former Director of Golf at Baltusrol, as “one of the most generous men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.” Win or lose, Phil is always Phil—and you really have to love him. In 2004 Phil and his wife, Amy, created “Birdies for the Brave,” a charitable initiative that has raised millions for wounded veterans. In 2001 tragedy struck the family of retired NFL player Conrad Dobler when his wife, Joy, suffered trauma that left her a quadriplegic, straining the family’s finances to the breaking point. Phil heard about it, and although he never met the Doblers personally, offered to help by paying the entirety of their daughter Holli’s college education. As Joy Dobler sees it, “If there’s anything missing in his life, it’s a set of wings. He’s an angel.”     

We should also keep in mind that while Tiger has enjoyed the bulk of the credit for increasing golf’s popularity in recent years, Phil has done more than his share. When he won the PGA Championship in 2021, Sunday viewership was 6.5 million, a 27% increase from the prior year. And before Phil made his entrance on Tour, total purses were in the neighborhood of a million dollars, while today they exceed seven million. Perhaps the players who are so quick to jump all over Phil right now should reflect on that.     

So yes, Phil made may have spoken out of turn. And he is not perfect. But I, for one, intend to give him some slack—he deserves it.

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2020 PGA Championship and The Wyndham Preview

Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro NC (Donald Ross)
Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro NC (Donald Ross)

PGA Championship Wrap-Up

Last week saw a riveting finish to the PGA Tour’s first major of the year. Collin Morikawa fired off a blistering final round 64 to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in winning the PGA Championship at the tender age of 23. Morikawa was calm and collected throughout with a sold round tee to green, while displaying a silky-smooth putting stroke–but two magnificent shots carried the day. On the difficult 14th hole, facing a delicate uphill chip from a tight lie with little green to work with, where getting it up and down to save par under major championship pressure was no easy task—he chipped in for birdie. And then on the reachable par four sixteenth hole, where many in the field were laying back with irons or hitting 3 wood to leave a short chip, he pulled out his driver and drove the green, shaping a gorgeous fade to about eight feet—and then drilled the putt for eagle. With his two-shot victory over Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, Morikawa moved all the way up to number 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, closing in on Justin Thomas, who retained his number 1 spot (for now). And with all of the excitement surrounding Morikawa’s huge win, John Rahm’s move to number 1 in the world rankings went almost unnoticed.  Brooks Koepka, the pre-tournament favorite and reigning PGA Champion, faded early on Sunday and finished well back with a final round 74. Koepka stirred up a bit of controversy on Saturday with a comment he made about 3rd round leader Dustin Johnson. When asked if he thought he could catch him and make it three in a row, Koepka pointed out that Johnson only had one major title under his belt, and said “I like my chances.” The comment raised more than a few eyebrows, and brought on a response from Rory McIlroy who said “…sort of hard to knock a guy that’s got 21 wins on the PGA tour, which is three times what Brooks has.” Tiger’s performance was largely uninspiring, and his trusted putter seemed to let him down on every hole, finishing well back at 1 under par (T37). With the level of talent on the PGA Tour right now, Woods will have to raise his game a couple of notches to compete as we head into the FedEx playoffs. And Morikawa wasn’t the only youngster opening eyes at the PGA either, as Scottie Scheffler (Age 24, T4 at -10), Matthew Wolff (Age 21, T4 at -10) and long hitting Cameron Champ (Age 25, T10 at -8) all made a strong run at the championship. When you add so many fresh young faces to an already star-studded field, the next few months is guaranteed to be exciting.

The Wyndham Championship

The Field

The week following a major often doesn’t include a particularly deep field, but with so much talent on the tour right now, in a truncated season, the Wyndham will include plenty of big names, with Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and PGA runner-up Paul Casey all teeing it up. It will be interesting to see how Koepka rebounds from his disappointing finish at the PGA, particularly in light of the remarks he made about Dustin Johnson. Don’t be surprised if Brooks puts the hammer down with big a week at the Wyndham; and keep in mind that Paul Casey went out of his way to say that his wonderful play on Sunday at the PGA was helped by the class Koepka displayed while struggling with his own game in that final round.

The Event

First played in 1938 as the Greater Greensboro Open, The Wyndham Championship is one of the oldest events on the PGA tour. Currently held at the venerable Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC, Sam Snead won the championship an astounding eight times. In addition to Snead, champions include legendary players such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Raymond Floyd, Julius Boros, and Seve Ballesteros. J. T. Poston is the reigning champion, and he will be in the field this week to defend his title.

The Course

Sedgefield Country Club, founded in 1925, is an original Donald Ross design that was updated over the years by notable architects including Gene Hamm and Willard Byrd. In 2007 the course was lengthened to accommodate current equipment, and restored to the original Ross layout by Kris Spence, acclaimed for classic course restorations including Memphis Country Club (Donald Ross), Forsyth Country Club (Tillinghast/Ross), and Mimosa Hills Golf Club (Donald Ross).

Find detailed course information here.

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2020 Tour Update-PGA Championship Preview

TPC Harding Park, San Francisco CA
TPC Harding Park, San Francisco CA

3M Open

The 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, closed out July with tour journeyman Michael Thompson winning at 19 under par, two shots ahead of runner up, Andrew Long. The win was Thomson’s second tour victory, the first one at the Honda all the way back in 2013. The 2020 season has been difficult for Thomson, making the cut in only 8 of 17 events, but a top 10 at the Heritage in June was a sign that his game was starting to come around. Proving that hard work and fortitude can pay off, Thomson secured a two-year tour exemption along with entry into this week’s PGA Championship at Harding Park and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. In an emotional interview following the final round, Thomson credited his wife, Rachel, for keeping his confidence up and believing in him when things got tough, saying “My wife has been a rock for me.”

WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational

August opened up with the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and saw Justin Thomas mount a dramatic come from behind charge to victory with the legendary ‘Bones’ Mackey on his bag. Everyone expected the hard as nails Brooks Koepka to come away with the win, but the pressure Thomas applied seemed to shake a normally unflappable Koepka and he ended with a double bogey six on the last hole, finishing runner-up. This victory gave Thomas a 713-point lead in the FedEx Cup standings over Webb Simpson, currently in the second spot.

Tiger Woods

After a rocky showing at the Memorial Tournament, questions have again started to bubble up with regard to Tiger’s back. Before starting the Memorial, Tiger put the kibosh on speculation about the condition of his back when he said that his delayed return to tournament play was strictly due to an abundance of caution concerning COVID-19. While Tiger didn’t appear to be in obvious pain at any point in the tournament, his swing didn’t have the fluid freedom we saw at the end of 2019, and a pair of 76’s only add fuel to the rumor mill. Tiger says that he just needed to knock off some rust, and we’ll get to see for sure when he continues his pursuit of Jack’s major championship record this week at Harding Park. Stay tuned.

2020 PGA Championship

The Field

As with all major championships, The PGA Championship will include a tremendous field of top-ranked players, each hoping to bring home the Wannamaker Trophy, awarded to the winner by the PGA of America. In addition to Tiger, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson will all be teeing it up this week. The player to watch is most certainly the reigning two-time PGA Champion, Brooks Koepka. Koepka gained momentum at the FedEx, in spite of the hiccup on the final hole. After poor finishes at the Workday, Memorial, and 3M, Koepka turned up his game with a blistering 62 in the opening round, and recorded solid rounds of 68 and 69 over the weekend. With his explosive display at the FedEx, Justin Thomas (also a former PGA Champion) is another player to watch closely this week. Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantley, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, and Patrick Reed have all been playing well of late, and each would dearly love to add the Wannamaker to his trophy case. And don’t be surprised if Dustin Johnson suddenly jumps in the mix and walks away with his second major victory. Of course, The PGA has been known to deliver the unexpected, suddenly launching an unknown name into the spotlight (John Daly, Rich Beem, Y.E. Yang, Shaun Micheel, Jeff Sluman, and Wayne Grady come to mind). One thing is for sure, this is going to be a great week for watching golf.

The Course

TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California will be hosting a professional major championship for the first time in its venerated history. Harding Park was originally designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, opening in 1925. A municipal course, owned by the San Francisco Department of Parks & Recreation, Harding Park hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1937 and in 1956, and the Lucky International Open on the PGA Tour until 1969. Due to budget cuts, Harding Park’s condition had begun to decline and the tour was ultimately forced to end their relationship. For the next thirty years, Harding Park was largely forgotten, with the most humiliating moment coming when it was used as a parking lot for the 1998 U.S. Open that was played at The Olympic Club. 2002 brought about a revival, however, when Arnold Palmer Golf Management was brought in to operate the park. Former USGA President Sandy Tatum played a key role by enlisting the assistance of Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour, with PGA Tour course architect Chris Gray tasked with returning Harding Park to Watson’s vision—and he did a masterful job. 2005 proved to be another groundbreaking year for Harding Park, as it hosted its first World Golf Championship event (The American Express Championship). Ten years later, the course hosted the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship. Both World Golf events at Harding were thrilling nail-bitters, with Tiger Woods narrowly defeating fan-favorite John Daly in a playoff at the American Express, and Rory McIlroy defeating the hard-charging Gary Woodland at the Cadillac Matchplay. Harding Park also hosted the 2009 Presidents Cup, and is scheduled to host the 2025 Presidents Cup. In 2010, Harding Park became a member of the TPC network, and is now operated by PGA Tour Golf Course Properties. Joining Bethpage, Torrey Pines and Chambers Bay among municipal courses that have hosted a major championship is yet another fitting tribute to Harding Park, and a testament to how far the game has come in making great courses available to everyone.

Get detailed course information at GolfDay.

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