|91st PGA Championship Preview|
By Jim Brighters, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -It's "Glory's Last Shot."
That's what the PGA Championship has affectionately been dubbed. It's the last major on the schedule, thus the clever moniker.
It's easy to dismiss as a marketing tool used to hype what used to be the season's least interesting major.
The Masters has Augusta's majesty.
The U.S. Open has rough longer and thicker than a lion's mane and a general disdain for par.
The British Open is the birthplace of golf.
The PGA Championship was...there.
This is not to diminish the value of the PGA Championship. I doubt guys like Davis Love III, David Toms, Paul Azinger and Rich Beem would say, no, don't count this major since it lacked the panache of the others.
It is a major and truthfully, has been the toughest tournament for quite some time. The field always boasts at least 97 of the top-100 players in the World Rankings. It's always played at a challenging venue. (Oakland Hills, Baltusrol, Medinah just to name a few in recent years.) Hazeltine National will be no different.
But in 2009, the PGA Championship might be the most important single tournament of the year and it's not because it's "Glory's Last Shot."
It's Tiger's last shot.
Tiger Woods, if you can believe it, has not won a major championship this year. Stunning, even though he's a year removed from having his whole leg repaired, but there's no getting back into it for the world's best.
Woods contended a little come Sunday afternoon at The Masters. In an epic pairing with Phil Mickelson, Woods threw a late rally up there, but couldn't make up all that ground.
He barely contended at the U.S. Open and even, gasp, missed the cut at the British Open.
The last time Woods didn't win a single major in one season was 2004. That year, his only victory came at the Accenture Match Play Championship. Certainly wasn't his best season, but he's won six majors since.
Woods won last year's U.S. Open on one leg. And it went 91 holes. It just seems too unreal to believe that if he can pull off that victory at Torrey Pines, he can't win at least with relatively strong health.
It appears Hazeltine is a good track for Woods to get back on track. In 2002, when the PGA last visited the Minnesota layout, Woods fired a final-round 67 to nearly overcome a five-stroke deficit. In the end, it was Woods' first runner-up in a major.
There's a lot of motivation for Woods here. He played well in winning the Buick Open two weeks ago and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week. When you get that combination of strong play and motivation, other players walk off the course crying in their towels.
It's reasonable to expect more of the same and that would be welcome to some.
It's the PGA of America's last shot.
Angel Cabrera won a playoff for the Masters. Lucas Glover persevered in the face of both Mickelson and a resurgent David Duval to win his first major at the U.S. Open's Monday finish. Stewart Cink crushed the collective hearts of the world in topping Tom Watson at the British Open playoff.
So at the Grand Slam of Golf, run by the PGA of America, we'll have Cabrera, Glover, Cink and question mark. Not quite Kenny Perry, Mickelson, Watson and question mark.
We could use some star power for this Grand Slam. Come on Tiger, Phil, Sergio, Ernie, Vijay. Any big name step up. It's in Bermuda for God's sake. It'll be fun and easy money.
In major championships, we as fans, deserve the best of the best. Not to take away from these three talented players, but this is not going to scare "American Idol" in the ratings. It's a shame, too, since the first three majors were great, except the popular name didn't win.
It's the golf gods' last shot.
While it's one thing to rob Perry of his first major at 48, in favor of one of the most under-appreciated talents of the past five years, the other two majors were cruel teases.
Mickelson, just weeks after his wife Amy is diagnosed with breast cancer, is on top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Open. It's been a bad week thanks to Mother Nature, so it's a Monday and Mickelson is on top.
He's been a runner-up at his nation's championship four times. He's playing for his wife, a staple at Phil's major triumphs, and, more importantly, his major heartbreaks. He's playing in front of the New York faithful, who treat him like an institution, not unlike Joe Namath, Derek Jeter or Rudy Giuliani.
Plus, we have Duval, who's ranked slightly higher than Phyllis Diller, nearly pulling off the unthinkable. Most didn't think he'd contend again, let alone win the U.S. freaking Open.
Now, Glover plays steady down the stretch and wins.
We loved Watson contending at the British Open. He was 59, the most loved American in Scotland. He had the thing won. Sure, on Sunday, guys like Ross Fisher and Lee Westwood appeared to take control, but old (literally) and smiling Tom Watson stood firm.
He had the lead on the 18th tee and hammered one into the short grass. Watson hit one club too many and paid for it. One chip and one horrendous putt later and we are forced to endure the slow demise of the greatest golf story ever.
So, golf gods, you owe us one of these finishes. This time, the great story prevails.
Gods, it's your last shot, get it right.
Seems to be the last shot for almost everyone.