Aug
16
2011
PGA Championship Leftovers, Photo Edition
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

The daunting 18th hole, also dubbed "worst hole in golf" by some of the players, but Keegan and the Duff conquered it. Meanwhile, the rest of the field will have to seek therapy to recover from the mental trauma and nightmares!

My customary post-major (and WGC) hangover is kicking in right on schedule! Good news is those thrilling contrived PLAYOFFS start next week. Oh, can you feel the magic of the obscene $10 million prize to the winner?? Almost, right? Bad news is the Masters isn’t for another seven- to-eight months!

Well, I’ve found the best way to get over withdrawals is to take a look back through pictures and some closing words. Here we go!


Rookie no more! Keegan Bradley rallied to overcome a five-shot deficit after a triple-bogey on 15 and birdied the next two, while Jason Dufner bogeyed three of the last four. The 25-year-old from Vermont/Massachusetts showed true tenacity and guts to capture the 2011 PGA Championship and made a few notes in the history books as a result — Keegan is only the third player in history to win in his first-career major start (other two are Francis Ouimet, 1918 US Open and Ben Curtis, 2003 Open Championship). Perhaps more notably, he’s the first to win a major championship wielding a belly putter (causing panic and disdain from golf purists around the world).

Keegan extends the first-time major champion streak to seven — Graeme McDowell (2010 U.S. Open Championship); Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open Championship); Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA Championship); Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters); Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open Championship); and Darren Clarke (2011 Open Championship). The new mark of seven straight first-timers is now the longest in history.

He also ended the American drought at the majors, with International players triumphing in the last six. F**k yeah, America!

If you’d like to know more about Keegan, I can summarize everything in one post (if there’s a demand) or check out the archives on the dozens of stories (with the “Keegan Bradley” tag) I’ve written on him already here since I’ve covered him starting with his first-ever PGA Tour tourney at the Sony Open. I guess I have an eye for talent??

Oh, you had to feel for Jason Dufner just a bit. He actually seems like a pretty cool dude if you break through that initial layer. The guy might be the most dull player to watch, reacting to the good shots and the bad exactly the same — not much of anything.

Despite having zero charisma on the golf course, it made him charismatic in a strange way, you know what I mean? He handled the tough loss with class and grace.

“First off, hats off to Keegan coming in there in the last three holes in regulation,” said Dufner in his post-loss presser. “Played great playoff holes and it’s probably not the finish I was looking forward to, but if you told me I would play those holes even par for the week, I probably would have taken at the beginning.”

“I’m disappointed now, but there’s a lot of good things to take from this week. You know, I’ve got the rest of the Playoffs this week, this year, and I believe this gets me into all of the majors next year so that’s a good opportunity to try to win more majors.

“I’m not a history buff as far as golf goes. I know the media tries to define careers on certain players, you did this, and you didn’t do this; I’m not into that. I just play golf. I love playing golf. I love the competition. And I want to be as good as I can be. If that’s 20th in the world with no majors, or first in the world with ten majors, or never to win a Tour event, I’ll be fine with it.

“You know, coming from where I came from, to be in this position, it’s a dream come true. I could never have imagined playing in major championships, playing with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods; that’s a milestone to me itself. I’m not going to let this define my career. I have a lot of things ahead of me, I’m young, not as young as Keegan is, but I have a lot of time to play golf and hopefully I’ll have more time to win majors and use what happened today as a positive.”

Well played, Duff. We love your waggles!

Another heartbreaker and still the Best American Without a Major. I was rooting for Steve Stricker as hard as anyone, but since he had the “most experience” of all the guys in contention (an argument which I don’t think has much merit), he was also a favorite. And I think he knew that, which may have not been the best for him psychologically.

Stricker, who tied a major championship scoring record in the first round with a 63, posted a disappointing three-over 73 on Sunday and dropped to a tie for 12th. On the bright side, this was the fifth consecutive major where Stricker has finished in the top 20. He and Lee Westwood should have a few beers together.

I guess it was just one of ‘em frustrating days for David Toms, who won the ’01 PGA Championship when it was last held at Atlanta Athletic Club. Though he fired a respectable three-under 67 in the final round, it wasn’t enough to catch Keegan and the Duff. He had an excellent weekend, firing 65-67 to play the last 36 holes at eight-under and finish five-under for the championship, tied for fourth.

So that’s what Anders Hansen looks like! Just kidding — CBS showed him hitting a few shots on his way to a final-round four-under 66 on Sunday, so I can pick him out of a line-up now. At the beginning of the day, I had a weird feeling that Hansen was going to come out of nowhere and win because no one had paid him any attention and sometimes it’s an advantage to fly under the radar. It would have also caused a huge panic in the press room with scribes (at least the Americans) trying to figure out what the heck to write. He placed third and hardly anyone noticed.

Great effort by Swede Robert Karlsson to move up the leaderboard on Sunday. Though he probably wishes he hadn’t bogeyed the final three holes, he still shot three-under 67, five-under for the championship and a tie for fourth. Ouch, so those three shots made all the difference — otherwise he would have been in that playoff with Bradley and Dufner. Ah well, can’t harp on the woulda, shoulda, couldas.

I wouldn’t have minded a Karlsson victory. When he eagled the 12th, quite of few of us turned to look at SI’s John Garrity because he’s been picking Karlsson to win at every major for at least the last 10 years. It’s such a crap shoot that Garrity just started choosing the same guy each time. He wrote a really interesting profile on Karlsson in ’02. The guy has quite the story. — it’s worth taking a gander.

Finally, that’s me walking along 18th fairway in regulation, while sending updates for the WSJ.com live-blog to my editor and paying attention to the action-packed final few holes (I was following Keegan/Verplank). Yep, I’m a multi-tasking pro! Oh, and that look on my face is one of “what-the-heck-is-going-on-this-is-incredible-keep-it-together-Wei.”

Thanks for a great week AAC, the PGA and my host family, the Birdsongs.

Congrats again, Keegan — you’ve worked hard and it’s been fun to watch your progress from the Sony Open to this point. It’s amazing what seven months of experience and dedication can amount to and completely change your life.

Wait, it’s already August?! How on earth did that happen? I guess time travels fast while you’re on the tour! But it’ll be a slow, long eight months ’til the Masters, especially for those who aren’t so young anymore and still searching for that elusive first major.

And here’s my anthem (at least one of them), which I think works for this year’s PGA…in a way…

(Photos by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com)