TORONTO - The carnage you were expecting to see in Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship turned into a thoroughbred race with a Clydesdale leading the pack until the inevitable demolition derby got underway where it was expected to start.
As emotionless Jason Dufner stood on the 15th tee watching PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley, 25, scoot a chip across the green and into the drink on the green up ahead, he was about to enjoy a four-shot lead, a comfortable edge even for a guy who had never won on tour.
Yet, nothing can be expected with two guys who have never been in this position, so Dufner followed the script of conventional wisdom, plunking his tee shot to begin a streak of three consecutive bogeys, while Bradley recorded two birdies coming home to send it into a three-hole aggregate playoff which he won.
So, the shutout of Americans at majors is snapped at six tournaments with Keegan’s win, but the streak of consecutive first-time winners continues at seven and don’t be surprised if it extends beyond next year’s Masters.
As correct as they were with their prediction of an explosion on the closing holes, the seasoned among us who puff their chests in dispensing their wisdom of the ages should take note that it was still two unexpected names battling it out in the playoff and that comes as no surprise this year.
It did in 2003 when Mike Weir won the Masters, Ben Curtis won the British Open and Shaun Micheel won the PGA Championship. It wasn’t so much that any of the above won their respective majors but all three in one year? That could legitimately be called an aberration.
What happened this year is an omen of things to come, beginning with Charl Schwartzel’s win at the Masters, where Rory McIlroy blew up in the final round, but dominated the U.S. Open. Darren Clarke’s win at the Open Championship was a nice story, but Keegan showed remarkable poise in a tough spot.
Of those names, it only looks as if Clarke won’t be back, but you never know. The rest have shown that they’re capable of winning again and if you’re looking for first-time winners, seven of the top 10 in last week’s world rankings were still without their first major.
That’s not to say that Tiger Woods can’t turn around his misfortunes or the rest of the traditional names won’t be around, but it does emphasize that we’re now firmly planted in a whole new era in which conventional wisdom will regularly be shot down.
It isn’t making sense, but that’s a good thing.
Jumping the gun
Watching Jason Dufner’s zombie-like walk over the Atlanta Athletic Club, you knew he wasn’t being overly exuberant when he teed up on the first hole only to have Brendan Steele’s name announced. Turns out he was misinformed about the teeing order … In a tournament in which Tiger looked so poor in missing the cut, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but probably does, that Furyk dropped 26 positions on the leaderboard with a five-over score. Furyk tied for 39th at four over for the tournament … Another veteran, Davis Love III, who looked so strong in the first two rounds, finished with a 79, which included as streak of six holes in which he recorded five bogeys and a double bogey between eight and 13 … Luke Donald almost had a Dustin Johnson moment on the 12th hole where he knocked his ball across the green while brushing his line. Luckily, Donald had marked his ball and didn’t move the marker in his faux pas. The world’s No. 1 player birdied that hole, but his chances of winning his first major were sunk with a water ball on the par three 15th, a hole he condemned before the tournament began. Donald finished at three-under, five off the lead … The sixth hole was turned into a drivable par four, but Schwartzel experienced the risk side of risk-reward on such a hole when his ball hit a bank near the green and rolled into a pond on the left. Schwartzel, who was one under on the day at the time, couldn’t get anything going after that.
TV caught an interesting exchange on the fourth tee between Phil Mickelson and his caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay. Mickelson was struggling with club selection in a tricky wind on the 219-yard par three. After all the controversy surrounding Steve Williams’ comments last week and J.P. Fitzgerald’s role in McIlroy hitting from behind a root, Bones obviously has Mickelson’s ear after 20 years together and he changed his club with success, landing the shot nicely and parring the hole. Mickelson birdied the next two holes, but there was to be no front-nine charge similar to his final round at last month’s British Open as Mickelson finished even on the day and for the tournament … The buzz is that the Rules of Golf will allow fans to carry paper towels to stuff in the mouths of people who scream “Get in the hole,” a particular annoying habit at the PGA Championship.