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Posted by Dave on Sunday, August 14, 2011

No cell phones on the golf course

I decided today that I was going to practice a little bit, so I taped the PGA Championship.  Obviously this is always dangerous.  You have to start every conversation off with "Don't say anything about the tournament...", as well as do your best to screen text messages and, in my case, turn off the alerts on the '93rd PGA' iPhone app. 

Later on, my mother calls.  Naturally, I answer the phone by saying "Don't say anything about the PGA."  She answers, "Oh, yeah.  I heard there was a playoff or something..."

Apparently I wasn't clear enough.

At this point in my viewing of the coverage, Dufner was three shots ahead, having just hit his tee ball on 16.  Keegan Bradley had just made triple-bogey on the par 3 15th, but followed it up nicely with a birdie at the next hole.  Immediately, I knew what would happen over the next 45 or so minutes.  Dufner, who had just uncharacteristically bogeyed the 15th, would somehow screw up his excellent position in the fairway and make bogey at the 16th, and follow it up with another on one of the final two holes.  Bradley would most likely stick it close on 17 for a second birdie in a row (a birdie at 18 just seemed too unlikely and dramatic to actually happen).  It played out a little differently with Bradley's awesome putt at 17, but I think I was pretty close.

There are two points to make here.  One is that golf (and sports in general) should probably be watched live.  I can't really lay too much blame on my mother here.  If you watch sports on delay in this day and age, with all the different modes of immediate communication that exist, you're kind of asking for it.  But the suspense, the action, the fact that you can NEVER assume anything when watching golf, is what makes it one of my favorite sports to watch.  While the US Open and the Open Championship weren't too overly exciting this year, I think that the Masters and the PGA were two of the more exciting majors I've seen in my lifetime.  I'm a sucker for first time winners, young guns, and great stories.  The first and last majors of 2011 were jam packed with all of it. 

Seeing the relatively unknown Charl Schwartzel chip in on the first hole and hole out from the fairway on the third at the Masters was pretty special.  Following it up by birdieing the last four holes to win the tournament is unheard of.  Literally.  I'm relatively sure that no one has ever done that at Augusta before (I'm not in the mood to check facts right now, so let me know if I'm wrong). 

Seeing Keegan Bradley pull out some amazing golf over his final 6 holes (including playoff) was pretty special today.  I think I like seeing first time winners because I like seeing how excited they get.  It kind of makes me think about what I would do if I won a major (not gonna lie, I would most likely break down completely).  When Tiger won the 2007 PGA Championship at Medinah, Jason and I were just off the green at the 72nd hole when he rolled in the final putt.  I remember being a little bit disgusted with his reaction.  I felt like he was thinking "Well, there's number 13.  Five more to go.  Now, where did I park?" (Note: I also HATED Martin Kaymer's reaction after winning last years PGA.  But then again, he IS a cyborg.)

On to point number two:

Why not Scott Verplank?

The veteran had just holed out a bunker shot on the 16th for birdie and was tied with Bradley at 7 under par - three shots back.  Sure, he didn't play the hole very well and was lucky to sneak away with his 3, but this game is so much about momentum and little breaks like that.  Why did it not even enter my mind that the playoff would include the 47-year-old Texan?  You could make the argument that he was on a better run than Bradley.  You would be RIGHT.  He hadn't made a bogey since the 11th hole, which he promptly followed up with an eagle at 12.

Was I just not paying attention?  Was I wrapped up in the idea of a 25-year-old winning a major?  Was CBS not showing him enough?  We all know they have a tendency to play favorites... 

I think that when it comes down to it, it is WAY easier for a guy like Keegan Bradley to win a major than it is for Scott Verplank.  I don't care who you are, if you've been trying like hell to win one of these things, grinding away on tour for over two decades, it's going to enter your mind.  "Is this my chance?  After all this time, is it really going to happen?"  Splash.  "Nope." 

Bradly has no bad memories.  Nothing to remind him of why he shouldn't be doing what he's doing.  Sure, he hasn't had enough time on tour to build experience.  But he hasn't had enough time on tour to realize that he's only human, either.  The kid's on top of the world.  He's a rookie on the PGA Tour.  He won the Byron Nelson already.  "Who's gonna stop me?  Verplank?  No.  Dufner?  No way.  Those dudes are old...  I'm killing it out here."

"Let's go win a major."


Congratulations to Keegan Bradley.  A young American with personality and talent to boot.  Hopefully he sticks around and keeps winning.  We need more like him.  Glad to see an American flag in the winner's circle again.  Been too long. 

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