The 2009 PGA Championship: Tiger Woods and Everybody Else

Going into the 2009 PGA Championship, which tees off tomorrow morning at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, there’s only one topic of conversation of everyone’s mind and that would be, dah … Tiger Woods, stupid. ↵

↵As he so often does, Tiger has pretty much owned the golf headlines leading into the year’s last (and least) major, first by out-dueling Paddy Harrington to win the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday (Woods’ second tour victory in two weeks) and then by publicly criticizing a rules official at the Bridgestone and earning himself some public remonstration from the PGA. ↵

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↵Even without recent events, however, Woods was bound to be the story heading towards Hazeltine, because the tournament provides his last chance to win a major in 2009. Should he fail in that venture, this will be his first major-less year since his two-year drought of 2003-2004. Granted, he’s coming off knee surgery, and yet that seems to be no excuse where Tiger is concerned. There have been times this season when he’s looked as dominant and complete a golfer as he’s ever been, and he’s won five times on tour on the year, including his current two-tournament winning streak. What’s more, he’s won in his last tournament played going into each of the year’s four majors. ↵

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↵Then again, he also missed the cut at the British Open, only the second major cut he’s missed in his career (and think about that for a second – 12 years on tour, two major cuts missed). The news is not all good for Mr. Woods, and no doubt, if he comes out of 2009 major-less, the whispers will begin anew that have not been heard in about five years now, whispers that Woods’ personal ownership of the major landscape is ending, and that maybe, just maybe, he won’t crack Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major victories after all. ↵

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↵It would be amazing to have a year in which you win five times on tour deemed a failure in the eyes of the press, but such are the expectations that we have for Tiger, and such also is the world of pro golf, where success is measured first and foremost by the year’s four major championships. ↵

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↵So far this year, long-shots have owned the big ones. Back in July, leading up to the British Open, I wrote a a piece here at TSB about how 2009 had a chance at producing the second weakest historical foursome of all time to win the year’s four majors, second only to the 2003 foursome (Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel), which right now is the uncontested claimant to the top spot due to the fact that as of right now it is the only year in history in which all four major-winners were first-and-only-time major-winners. ↵

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↵With Stewart Cink’s victory at Turnberry, 2009 (to go along with Lucas Glover at the U.S. Open and Angel Cabrera at the Masters) is officially in the running for second place on the ignominious list. It would be quite a feat if it happens, leaving the 2000s with the two weakest years of major-winners in the history of the current four titles. I’m not sure exactly what that would say about the state of golf. You could go either way with the argument. ↵

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↵And it’s an argument that we may well have in a few days, because it certainly isn’t out of the question for the PGA Championship to produce a long-shot, out-of-nowhere titlist. After all, it’s at Hazeltine. Any of you golf freaks happen to recall the last major at Hazeltine? It was the 2002 PGA, won by that here-today-and-gone-today flash in the pan named Rich Beem. Remember that awful little victory hip-swiggle he did after holing out on 18? Oh, the Beemster was not of the dignified stripe. John Daly lite, wasn’t he now? ↵

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↵The hot long-shot at Hazeltine this year is quickly becoming less than a long-shot. I tell you people, odds have been closing on Hunter Mahan the past few days like the fix is in. Last I checked he was in at 28-1. Only people with narrower margins? Tiger, Phil, Paddy and Lee Westwood. Seems like the late money is saying that Hunter is hunting with the big dogs. ↵

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↵As always, I’ll be plunking down a little coin on some PGA longshots. I haven’t made my wagers yet, but as I peruse my racing form here, I see myself wasting a likely sawbuck on Adam Scott at 80-1 (PGA seems like that one major he’s going to win someday), Chad Campbell at 100-1 (I bet on Chad at every major now – it’s like playing my birthday in the pick four), and then, to go real long, how about Cameron Beckman at 250-1? He’s got a couple top-10 finishes this year, and he won a tournament last year. Plus, he just feels like the kind of nobody who shows up one weekend and wins the PGA and then disappears forever a la Beem or Micheel. ↵

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↵Then again, lest you wonder exactly how much of a favorite Tiger is to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this Sunday, you should be aware that Vegas is actually making book on how many strokes he’s going to win by. The longest odds on that prop are on a three-stroke margin, in which a dollar buys you 12. And those, my friends, are shorter odds than those of any other player in the field actually winning the event. If that doesn’t tell you what direction the wind is blowing out there, well, nothing does. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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