'Anything' can happen on PGA's final four

Keegan Bradley takes a drop after hitting into the water on the 15th hole during the final round of...

Keegan Bradley takes a drop after hitting into the water on the 15th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga., Aug. 14, 2011. (MATT SULLIVAN/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

JOHNS CREEK, GA. - The 93rd PGA Championship will go down as a tournament in which the phrase “drop zone,” was used more times than during a Navy SEALS operation.

There was a lot of debate about how fair the Atlanta Athletic Club was, particularly the closing four holes that went by nicknames like “The Green Mile” and “Southern Discomfort.”

It wasn’t a good week to be a Jones, Rees or Dow.

Rees Jones, known as “The Open Doctor,” did the redesign of the ACC for this year and his work here was savaged by the likes of Phil Mickelson. Lefty blamed the decline in golf participation on Jones’ modern design vision, which makes golf too hard in his opinion.

Are the courses fair?

I don’t know, I’m not playing them.

Are they fun to watch?

Absolutely.

The fact is, the guys playing golf today are so good that the only way to make the game interesting, to bring bogeys or the “others” into play, is to make it stupid hard.

I know how great golf architecture should be about layers and angles and options, but every now and then there’s nothing wrong with the only option being a relatively straight shot with little margin for error in major championship play.

As the PGA Tour likes to say, “These guys are good.”

Prove it.

The U.S. Open, which used to have guys with grass stains on their knuckles and blood coming out of their eyeballs, once had more wrecks than the Firecracker 400. Now, with it’s “graduated” rough and kinder, gentler philosophy, the USGA as abdicated its position as chief aggravator of the pros.

The PGA turned the screws with its setup this week. You think a showdown between Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley would have been as compelling without the difficulty of those closing holes and how they affected the outcome?

The predictions all week were the tournament would come down to the last four holes and that’s the way it turned out.

Bradley, the kid from Vermont who tied for the lead with a kick-in eagle on 12, had to go to the drop zone on the par-3 15th after he sent his second shot across the green, like a single up the middle, and into the pond. He went to the DZ, wedged to about five feet and missed the putt, making a triple.

Back on the tee, Dufner, the leader with a four-shot buffer who looked like he had the pulse -- if not the physique -- of a biathlon competitor, watched Bradley's carnage. Dufner then stepped up and and pushed a shot into the water, his first miss of the day. He went to the DZ, wedged up and made about a 10-footer for bogey.

When he walked off the 17th, after a three-putt there and a bogey on 16, his lead was gone.

Put just about anybody not named Jean Van de Velde on the tee of the 15th hole on any course with a four-shot lead and they're pretty much a lock to win.

Dufner had been the only guy in the tournament to play those last four holes under par in the first three rounds, three-under, actually. He played them three-over Sunday and had to go back out there for a playoff with Bradley after Bradley followed up his triple with birdies on the next two holes, all the more impressive given their butt-tightening properties.

When asked about the difficulty of the finish, David Toms, who won the 2001 PGA Championship here by laying up and saving his par on the last hole, said: “The 18th hole, anything can happen there.”

He could have said it about any of the last four holes, which at least co-starred with Dufner and Bradley Sunday.

We like “anything.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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