PGA Championship – 2010 review, page 10
By Mike Blum
Atlanta Athletic Club will be hard pressed to come up with a finish to match that of the2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
In an event known for its memorable finishes, last year’s PGA Championship was oneof the most intriguing in the tournament’s 90-plus-year history. It featured healthy dosesof drama, disappointment and heroism, with a late cloud of controversy threatening toovershadow what will still go down as one of the most interesting major championshipsin recent memory.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer finally secured the coveted Wanamaker Trophy after 72grueling holes and another three required when he and former Georgia Bulldog BubbaWatson both finished with 11-under 277 totals on the bunker-strewn Pete Dye layout,which wound up playing a critical role in the tournament’s unfortunate conclusion.
The Kaymer-Watson playoff could have included a third participant, but Dustin Johnsonran afoul of Dye’s excessive bunkering on the course, which led to a much-discussedrules violation on the 72nd hole of regulation.
Johnson was one stroke ahead of Kaymer and Watson as he played the demanding par-4 18th at Whistling Straits, with his two main challengers both having completed theirrounds.
After an errant drive on the finishing hole, Johnson’s ball came to rest in one of Dye’smany extraneous bunkers on the Wisconsin course. Like many of the bunkers, the oneJohnson found with his tee shot was well outside the gallery hopes and had been trampledby spectators, some of whom were standing in it as Johnson launched his approach shot.
Johnson, who was unaware that the sandy patch of footprint-laden ground with no visibledefinition was at one time an actual bunker, bogeyed the hole to drop into a tie withKaymer and Watson. But his 5 on the scorecard was changed to a 7, as he was penalizedtwo strokes for grounding his club in the alleged bunker.
“I’m not stupid. I know the rules,” Johnson said after the penalty knocked him out of theplayoff and into a tie for 5th place. “I know you can’t ground your club in a bunker.”
Johnson had a putt for par on the 18th green that could have won him the tournament(without the penalty), and it turned out to be a fortunate result for the PGA when he failedto make the putt.
“I guess the only worse thing that could have happened is if I made that putt on the lasthole,” said Johnson, who would have had his apparent victory taken away from him inthat case, instead of just being denied a spot in the playoff.
With Johnson out, the playoff was down to two, and Kaymer and Watson put on a three-hole show that helped the tournament overcome what many felt was an undeserved fatesuffered by Johnson.
Watson quickly took the lead when he almost drove the par-4 10th and chipped close for abirdie. Kaymer answered with a clutch birdie on the long, par-3 17th, sending them to the18th all even.
Watson attempted a heroic recovery from the Whistling Straits rough, but his approachsplashed down into a small pond guarding the green. Kaymer laid up and placed his 3rdshot about 12 feet from the hole, with Watson hitting his 4th into a greenside bunker.Watson’s sand shot hit the flag stick, ending his slim hopes of pulling out the victory.
It would have been an appropriate result if Watson’s bunker shot had plopped into thehole, considering the wild swings that marked the final round.
As many as a dozen players were positioned on the front nine to seriously challenge fora major title, and seven of them were still in the hunt as the championship was nearing aconclusion.
The final round began with Nick Watney leading Johnson and Rory McIlroy bythree strokes, with Kaymer among a trio of players four back. Major champions ZachJohnson, Jim Furyk and Steve Elkington were five off the lead, with Watson trailingby six.
When Watney double-bogeyed the first hole and Johnson birdied, the 3-shot lead wasquickly erased. Watney still had a share of the lead with a surging Kaymer after six holes,but a triple bogey at the 7th started him on a disastrous 9-hole stretch he played in 9-over.
Kaymer maintained at least a share of first place almost the entire final round, withWatson and Johnson pulling even late in the round before making bogey on the followinghole. McIlroy, 21, and the 47-year-old Elkington both briefly held a share of the leadafter back-nine birdies, but like Watson and Johnson, a succeeding bogey doomed theirtitle hopes.
Unlike a lot of major championships, most of the main contenders were either movingforward or holding their position on the final nine, with Watson and Dustin Johnson bothproducing some superb golf down the stretch. Considering his collapse with the lead thefinal day in the U.S. Open eight weeks earlier, Johnson’s late showing was particularlycommendable, making his ill-fated encounter with a patch of ground bearing littleresemblance to an actual bunker even more distressing.
Kaymer, meanwhile, steadfastly stayed at the top, with just one bogey on the day toblemish his scorecard. A clutch par save at the 18th got him into the clubhouse in a tiewith Watson, with Johnson claiming the lead with birdies at 16 and 17 before his much-scrutinized travails at the 18th.
“I was just trying to avoid big numbers or stupid mistakes,” Kaymer said of his approachto the final round. “I always wanted to give myself chances for birdie and the worst I dois par. That was my goal.
“I was never really expecting to win here on Sunday. I knew that I had a chance, butmajors, they are a little bit different than normal golf tournaments that we play week toweek.”
Kaymer shot a final round 70 to finish with an 11-under 277 total. Watson matched his11-under score, taking the lead with birdies at 13, 15 and 16 before a bogey at the 17th.He had the low final round among the contenders, closing with a 68.
McIlroy and Zach Johnson tied for 3rd at 278. A birdie at 14 tied McIlroy for the lead, buthe bogeyed the next hole and parred in from there for a 72. Johnson never quiet caught upto the leaders, recording a birdie at the par-5 16th to get to 10-under.
Dustin Johnson, Elkington and Jason Dufner tied for 6th at 9-under 279. Birdies at 13,16 and 17 gave Johnson the lead with one hole to play, but after the penalty strokes, hewound up with a triple bogey at the 18th and a 73 for the day.
A birdie at the 16th gave Elkington a share of the lead, but bogeys at 17 and 18denied him a chance for a second PGA Championship, 15 years after he beat ColinMontgomerie in a playoff at Riviera.
Several other players were in contention early in the final round before falling back, withWatney the most glaring example. After scores of 69-68-66 he was 13-under after 54holes and three in front of the field. He needed birdies on two of the last three holes toshoot 81, tying for 18th at 284.
Jason Day, the runner-up in both the Masters and U.S. Open this year, was only one shotout of the lead before a double bogey at the 9th. Three late bogeys left him tied for 10th at281 after a final round 74.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the sudden collapse by former U.S. Open championFuryk, who moved within a shot of the lead with back-to-back birdies at 6 and 7. ButFuryk played the next four holes in 5-over and wound up with a 77, dropping all the wayout of the top 20.
Going in the opposite direction was 2005 PGA champion Phil Mickelson, who shot thelow round of the day. Despite a bogey at the final hole, Mickelson carded a 67 to tie for 12th at 282.