Stars get final shot at glory in PGA

DOUG FERGUSON

, Last Updated: 2:51 PM ET

Even without a major, Tiger Woods does not consider the year to be a total loss.

The world's No. 1 player returned to competition only six months ago, and that was after sitting out the previous eight months to have his left knee rebuilt. It doesn't seem that long ago because Woods made it look as though he was never gone.

He has won four times this year on the PGA Tour, twice as much as any of his peers. He has returned to his roost in so many categories, whether it's the money list or the FedEx Cup standings, and his scoring average is about a full stroke ahead of the next guy.

"I think just being able to come back and play, and be successful again, has been a tremendous step in the right direction," Woods said. "To win -- and not only win, but be as consistent as I've been the entire year -- that's one of the things I'm probably the most proud of."

MAJOR PIECE MISSING

Even so, there is a major piece missing from his year.

For the sixth time in his career, Woods goes to the PGA Championship with one last shot to make sure his season doesn't end without adding another major title to his collection and taking another step toward Jack Nicklaus' benchmark of 18 majors.

He won the PGA Championship at Medinah in 1999 to end an 0-for-10 drought in the majors. He won the PGA at Southern Hills, picking up his only major of 2007 at the last one.

Now he goes to Hazeltine National, on the outskirts of Minneapolis, where seven years ago Woods birdied his last four holes and finished one shot behind Rich Beem.

The PGA Championship has settled on the slogan of "Glory's Last Shot," with which Woods and so many others can identify.

"It is your last shot to win a major," Woods said. "There's no more majors this year after that one."

This also is the final major of a memorable decade that began with Woods winning three straight majors in one season. The decade concludes on a far different note.

For the first time since the world ranking began in 1986, no one in the top 30 has won a major championship this year.

Angel Cabrera was at No. 69 when he won the Masters in a playoff, giving the Argentine his second major in three years. Lucas Glover was No. 71 when he captured the U.S. Open over five soggy days at Bethpage Black. Stewart Cink checked in at No. 33 when he won the British Open last month in a playoff at Turnberry.

It's hard to say what that means for the PGA Championship.

"All that can be read into that is depth," Cink said. "To say a guy is 15th or 45th ... really, is the difference that big? Or 45th to 100th? That's why you hear so much grousing about the world rankings, because there's such a fine difference."

DOUG FERGUSON IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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MAJOR QUEST

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Tiger Woods is chasing his 15th major title at next week's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. If Woods wins, it will be his first major of 2009 and the fifth PGA title of his career, which would tie him for the most wins ever at the event. Here's a look at the PGA Championship's all-time leading winners:

- Jack Nicklaus (5 wins, 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980).

- Walter Hagen (5 wins, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927).

- Tiger Woods (4 wins, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007)


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