Aug
20
2012
2012 PGA Championship Hangover
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

Those are tears of ecstasy, folks!

Miss me? Apologies for abandoning my duties to provide thrilling golf news updates, but I needed a week to recover from The Kiawah Logistical Nightmare, along with the mosquito bites, shuttle-itis, and excessive golf writer bitterness (careful: it’s contagious!).

Oh, just kidding. I actually had PGA-itis. Okay, I’m kidding again. Kind of. I had some stuff I had to deal with (sleep being one of them), but I’m back now and almost ready for The Barclays at Bethpage Black!

Hooray.

Most of this stuff is SO last week, but too bad. Deal with it! <<evil dictator laugh>> No, really, you’ll appreciate it…

*****

As much as I think Kiawah Island isn’t equipped to hold a(nother) major championship, I was very, very luck that I witnessed Rory McIlroy’s back nine in person, along with the incredible birdie putt on the 72nd hole, his reaction, and the exchange that needed no words between Rory and his dad Gerry McIlroy, while Carl Pettersson and Bo Van Pelt finished up.

In the second video below, you’ll see Rory looking around in the crowd. He was trying to find his dad (whom I think he found when he initially walked up if I remember correctly). The gallery — even inside the ropes — had grown immensely before he dropped the putt. He had a tougher time finding his dad since Gerry was quietly standing where he had been. (Naturally, a bunch of tall people decided to stand right in front of us and blocked our view!)

When I saw Rory trying to get his dad’s attention, I nudged Gerry and I can’t recall what I said. I’m sure it was something like, “Look, Rory…”

Again, no words needed between father and son. Just smiles and Rory making “OMG” or “What the heck” type of gestures. (Too bad telecast didn’t show those.)

 

 

I hadn’t seen the replay of the final putt until, well, about 10 minutes ago. Goosebumps all over again!

First, here’s what appears to be a fan taking a video with his iPhone of Rory’s putt. I enjoyed this version because you really got a sense of the atmosphere and the crowd reaction (if you’re at work, turn down the volume or put on headphones).

Next, here’s the longer CBS version with Jim Nantz crooning over Rory’s milestone victory.

*****

Update: Almost forgot to include comments from Rory’s caddie J.P. Fitzgerald.

“Today was different than Congressional because (Ian) Poulter got within one or two (strokes). I think I saw Poulter get to eight-under and Rory knew it, too. Rory had a putt for par on 9 and he made it. When you’ve got 10 and 11 coming up, a tough stretch, he responded, obviously. I mean, the way he birdied 12–then I knew it was over.

“He’s 23. He’s obviously improving all the time. I thought this was a very special performance. Congressional was different. When he was on the range on Sunday there, I said, this guy can win by 12. He was just playing that good. There was no way he was losing. Today was different. You certainly didn’t go at it with that attitude.”

I was most impressed with Rory’s putting on Sunday.

“Yes, he did, he was great,” said J.P., emphatically, when I brought up Rory making all those 6-8 footers. “It was just feel. This morning his pace wasn’t great the first few holes. Then we said, look, they’re a bit slower now, give them a little bit more.

“You get confident. Everything goes out from under you when you’re under pressure, instinct takes over. I obviously don’t know how it feels, but it obviously feels great to a player when you knock those putts in for pars. Then obviously you’re trying to keep it out of the water. You just don’t need to make a double.

“To me, I think (the putt) he made on 9 was crucial. Just to me, I don’t know how he feels. I just saw with Poulter making the move, and (I thought it was important to) get out in 3-under (on the front nine).”

*****

Alright, so what was the deal with Tiger Woods’ post-round comments? He was too relaxed on Saturday? Trying to have fun? He certainly didn’t look like that way to me! Weird. That’s not Tiger Woods. Would you imagine in a million years that Tiger would say he was just trying to enjoy himself? Um, no.

Personally, I think he was messing with us (the evil media and critics). SI’s Michael Bamberger had a great take. And I agree with Vijay: Tiger is trying too hard. He’s pressing.

*****

In case you missed it, another contribution: I made to Golf.com. Which was fun because it was probably something I would have done, anyway.

Besides each page having to reload for each picture (out of my control), what else would you like to see? Any suggestions for coverage at the Ryder Cup? As longtime readers know, I like to try and bring people inside the ropes and I’d love to do more of that over at Golf.com.

*****

OK, this is old news, but I wanted to clarify why I wasn’t fond of The Ocean Course and called it an “abomination” on Twitter — maybe a little harsh, but I was err.. extra frustrated last Friday and feistier than usual. First of all, golf course architecture is subjective. It’s art and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Clearly, I’m not a huge Pete Dye fan –no one better in the biz at making a course aesthetically pleasing for TV and sickening for your game.

I’m more of a purist. When I asked swing instructor Pete Cowen in Akron about The Ocean Course, he had the perfect description in my mind: “Whistling Straits but flat.” Obviously, it’s not quite the same, but if you were to put it in a short phrase, that sums it up.

I didn’t like some of the angles and all the eye candy. Or the run-offs. I couldn’t stand people calling it a “links” course. That was really what got to me.

A) It looks like a links course, but it doesn’t play like one, which to me, is stupid, especially when the wind gets up as we saw in the second round.

I chased down Carl Pettersson after his presser on Friday: “It looks like a links course, but it doesn’t play like one because of the paspalum grass doesn’t allow the ball to bounce and roll much. It’s got a very links-y feel, but with that type of grass, you don’t get much run on the drives and it doesn’t bounce and roll everywhere. It plays pretty soft. When you do a bump-and-run, you really have to hit it firm. The first bounce really does check up.”

I have no problem with the course being hard, but there’s a difference between hard and fair, and hard and stupid. The PGA moved up the tees ever so slightly on the par-3 No. 17 on Friday, but I didn’t like that hole. Speaking of which, same goes for the par-3 No. 14. The 17th was pretty and all with the ocean view, but is there really a need for a 240-yard hole with water all along the right and the front of the green and a “sandy area” on the left. Add in the wind (depending on direction but usually a cross wind) and it’s just dumb. I saw shorter hitters plopping tee balls in the water with 5-woods! I’m going to stop before I get irked again.

B) I tweeted that Tiger Woods summed up in his post-round interview why the golf course was an abomination. Many tweeps asked what I was talking about. First of all, sorry if I gave the impression that Tiger called it an abomination (though I would have quoted if he had–so thought it was clear it was my description, but anyway…). He actually did a really good job explaining things and I wanted to post it right away, but didn’t have time (because I was too busy in-transit all week, ha).

Here’s what he said on TV:

“I just grinded.  I just grinded my way around this golf course.  It was a day in which  it would be great if we could utilize the ground and run the ball up, but that’s gone.  Paspalum fairways and with this much rain, that’s no longer in the equation.

And then it would be nice to bump-and-run it around the greens, too, to keep it out of the wind but we can’t do that either because it’s just too sticky.  It’s a golf course in which it’s seaside, linksy-type, but you’ve got to throw the ball up in the air.  With this wind and the way it’s blowing and the way it’s moving the golf ball, it’s tough.”

Then he went into more detail in his post-round presser:

Now, as far as — yeah, we’ve played in wind like this and we’ve played links golf, but it’s no big deal because you can bump the ball on the ground.  You can throw it 30 yards short of the green and let it roll on the green.

Here, you just can’t do it.  You’ve got to throw the ball in the air.  That’s what makes it difficult is that it’s a linksy‑type of feel, in which you can’t use the ground at all.  Paspalum, as well as the rain, it just negates all of that.

And then when you get around the greens, some of these shots would be nice to be able to bump it but you can’t do, that either, because it’s too sticky.  You might be able to play some kind of driving one ‑hop‑stop shot but even then you’re taking a chance.

It’s just, one, you can’t short‑side yourself out there, you’ve got to leave yourself on the fat side and give yourself some room.  And then some of these bunkers are not bunkers.  They are, you know, like either hard pan or mud.  A shot that Keegan played today on 16 was unbelievable, because it was mud down there.  And that’s what can happen in some of these spots.

I had a spot on 8 today that where my feet were, I had no sand, but where the golf ball was, it was a ton of sand.  Luckily we are able to take practice swings and try to get a feel for it but it’s tough out there.

Q.  Last week when you were here, and again earlier this week, you seemed to suggest you wanted some wind.  Wondering, though, if this is a little bit more than you would have hoped for?  Obviously you want it tough, but this is pretty brutal?

TIGER WOODS:  This is tough.  This is‑‑ as you said, at times, it is a little bit brutal out there because you’re playing so much drift.  Even if you hook it or slice the golf ball, it doesn’t matter.  It’s still drifting back at the end.  And even with these new golf balls that go so much straighter, they are still drifting a lot.

So at least we don’t have to play this golf course with this much wind with balata balls.  That would have been interesting.

I’m sure The Ocean Course is fun to play for kicks and giggles from a reasonable yardage when the wind is down!

*****

One of the highlights of my week was riding the shuttle from Charleston to Kiawah on Thursday and Friday with legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins. He made the rides amusing. My only regret is not breaking out my iPhone and doing an interview with him on the shuttle.

After the shuttle ride on Friday morning, I was chatting with Mr. Jenkins and his son Marty. I mentioned the traffic problem caused by general parking being on the island (where they could charge $20) instead of Charleston and thereabouts. Mr. Jenkins quipped, “No, why are we here in the first place?!?” Good point.

When we parted ways, Mr. Jenkins walked away, saying, “I have to go tweet!”

Well, this is what happened. Start from the bottom.

He took a lunch break and came back with these tweets (again start from the bottom).

I was on the ground laughing. Almost. I was definitely cracking up whenever I read them and getting strange looks from people, but that happens anyway.

Here’s the most important one from Saturday when the massive storm hit that suspended play:

The fans had it worst of all. Honestly, our shuttle wasn’t so bad (for the most part or unless it broke down). I had to take the fan shuttle from general parking to the main entrance just about every day (in addition) because I was doing stuff at the SI at The Majors tent, which was about a quarter-mile or so from the pick-up/drop-off spot. It almost took an hour and we were on the island. I couldn’t help but chat up the fans to ask about their experiences or what it took to get there, etc. There were definitely a fair amount who weren’t impressed with the logistics and lack of shelter from the storm and/or the heat.

Brutal.

Basically, after they drove at least 2.5 hours, they had to park in a muddy lot (Friday was the worst, where buses and cars got stuck), then park and walk 20 minutes to the pick-up spot, wait in line, get on the bus–which is constant stop-and-go–and then finally reach the entrance only to wait in another line. The fans were the biggest heroes at Kiawah Island.

His parting tweets on Sunday.

No comment. All I’ll say is despite everything, there’s not one day that goes by where I’m not grateful for my job. (OK, except for the ones where I have to stop and take a few deep breaths and remember the downsides of being a woman in the biz.)

*****

I enjoyed this exchange of tweets between Luke Donald and ISM head honcho Chubby Chandler. I took screen shots of them right away in case they were deleted. (I just checked and oddly they’ve disappeared–didn’t think they were so harmful…more funny than anything.) The gist: Luke thinks more roads should be built before another major event is held at Kiawah and Chubby just want more restaurants…

Update: After consulting a pro, I realized this was kind of buried, so I moved it to a separate post.

 

******

Many thanks to the Charleston CVB for their hospitality — by far, the best I’d experienced for a tournament. The complimentary food and booze (which in retrospect I should have taken more advantage of) at the media hotel was much appreciated. Plus, don’t know what I would have done without their generosity — probably would have needed to be treated for malnourishment!

Alright, I’m done. Just had to get all that off my chest. Moving on.

(AP Photos/Evan Vucci, Lynn Sladky)