C.W.A.I.G — A recap of the PGA Championship, a 59 and a big scramble

For those of you who are familiar with this column, you may have already figured out the initials above. Frequently, I write “TWIG” columns which stand for This Week in Golf. Since I have spent the last few weeks pouring over an alphabetical list of golf terminology, you did not get my take on the last major of the season.

Thus the initials at the top of the page. This column will take a look at the PGA Championship, which took place a couple weeks ago. Now that you are up to speed, let’s recap the action from Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

If you were tuned in Sunday, you likely noticed that the gallery had chosen its favorite. In fact when the tournament concluded and Brooks Koepka won his second major of the year and his third in his last six attempts (he missed this year’s Masters with an injury), the crowd was unusually subdued. Why? I’ll try to explain.

Let’s start with Koepka himself. A strapping young man, he bombs the ball off the tee with an accuracy that any golfer would love to have. He is left with wedges into the greens. He putts very well — often from short distances given his length off the tee – and does all this with a very calm demeanor.

I might add that it would be a tough decision if I had to choose which of his admirable qualities I would prefer. Would I want long straight drives, or the ability to not let the game frustrate me? OK, I would take the drives, but it would be nice to remain calm in the face of adversity. Then again, I might not get so upset if I was driving the ball like Koepka!

Brooks Koepka has flown under the radar. He is not flashy or demonstrative on the course and thus — despite his success in majors — goes largely unnoticed among golf fans. That may be part of the story at Bellerive, but not the main reason. That would have everything to do with the guy who finished second.

The runner up was a golfer by the name of Eldrick Woods. When Adam Scott, playing in the last group with Koepka, bogeyed the last hole, Tiger Woods ended up in second place alone, two shots behind the winner. There was no question who the gallery wanted to win.

Tiger Woods has always been a polarizing figure in golf. Many people loved him for all the great golf he gave us over the years. Not everyone though. Many detested him for dominating golf tournaments. He was too good. He was Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Jeff Gordon in their prime. Love them or hate them. There was little middle ground.

So Tiger had his off-the-course problems, which turned some supporters away and actually may have made his detractors smile. Again, no middle ground. Then he had his back problems, which made people feel sympathy for the man. The fact that he is now golfing again with a fused back makes his story all the more intriguing.

Many people want to see him win again. They want to see him return to something close to his old form, where he hit shot after shot that made us shake our heads in amazement. I see a pattern.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. stopped winning and then won the Daytona 500, perhaps the most fan-approving win in NASCAR history. Jeff Gordon stopped winning and then won a Grandfather Clock at Martinsville while the crowd went wild.

The fans in St. Louis wanted to be part of history. They could tell people they were there when Tiger won again. Anything short of at Tiger victory was deflating. Sorry Brooks, nothing against you, but you ruined their day!

Stewart Cink finished fourth and he knows better than anyone what Koepka was going through. In 2009 Cink captured the Claret Jug at the British Open, normally a joyous moment. A part of Stewart Cink probably wanted to apologize for beating aging legend Tom Watson, a multiple winner of the Open, who was playing in perhaps his last one.

The crowd favorite that day was not Stewart Cink!

Brooks Koepka will get his due eventually. You can’t, however, fault the fans for their reaction. They simply wanted to be able to say: I was at Daytona… I was at Martinsville… I was at Bellerive…

Last week Brandt Snedeker opened his post major tournament by shooting the magic number of 59. This 11 under score included a bogey! The big lead held up and Snedeker won the event.

I’m not so sure this is that big a deal. I’ve shot 59 before. Who hasn’t? Of course, I had to finish the last five or so holes to get my final score!

Finally, I would like to mention an upcoming golf outing that is very dear to my heart. The Teresa Kessler Scholarship Big Cup scramble will take place at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 at the Fostoria Country Club.

Teresa was a student of mine and one of the most incredible people I have ever met. She was a friend to everyone, young and old alike. She would be humbled and proud of this outing, knowing that it is intended to help young people go to college.

If you have never played golf using the oversized golf cups, it is a lot of fun. The target is so large that you will think you can drain any putt from any spot on the green. You won’t, of course, but you likely will make a much bigger percentage than normal.

So if you love the game check out this golf outing. You would be supporting a good cause and honoring the memory of a great person who left us way too soon.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist.

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