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ST. LOUIS — It produces a hodgepodge of winners. That’s the stigma associated with the PGA Championship. Compared to other majors’ ignominies—like the weather predicating who captures the claret jug or USGA officials unnecessarily intervening at the U.S. Open—the PGA’s alleged stain is relatively innocuous. But that belief is real, and Golf Digest’s own Brian Wacker set off a firestorm for reflecting that sentiment in a recent column, one that drew blowback from some past champions.
But is it fair? Or more importantly, correct? We know there are a host of names engraved on the Wanamaker Trophy that won’t sniff the Hall of Fame, yet every tournament boasts such a roll call. Which got us thinking: Which major—year in, year out—produces the “best” and “worst” winners?
For our investigation we used OWGR data from 2000 to 2017, giving each major 18 submissions for 72 winners total. Why 2000? That year Titleist’s Pro V1 and Nike’s solid-core Tour Accuracy golf balls were introduced, which from an equipment perspective is viewed as the parcel in how the game was played, and how it is today. Plus, manually charting this test became time-consuming, and 18 and 72 seemed apropos golf numbers.
Mentioned above, we pulled a player’s Official World Golf Ranking the week before their major triumph, giving us a snapshot of their stature in the game pre-victory. OWGR does have its critics, but it’s the best barometer available to illustrate this idea of a player’s standing.
So what does that equation reveal? This century, the Open Championship produces the “worst” winner, with an average OWGR rank of 42.55. The Masters has the highest average OWGR winner at 15.77, followed by the U.S. Open with a 21.83 mark and the PGA at 33.22.
That the Masters is decidedly lower than its major brethren is not a surprise. Only 85 to 90 players tee it up at Augusta National, a limited field compared to the competitions at the other three majors. The green jackets want to ensure a “name” entity join their ranks, and—judging by these numbers—that endeavor’s been a success.
However, there are outliers, so what happens if we subtract the highest OWGR winner from each tournament? Call this the Ben Curtis Corollary, because without his Cinderella story in the mix, the Open Championship jumps the PGA, 21.94 to 25.23. (The Masters remains the lowest at 12.65, the U.S. Open trailing at 18.41.)
There is another part to this equation. Chiefly, how often does a championship cater to the best in the world? Amazingly, the PGA Championship comes out on top, with nine of its last 18 winners—Tiger Woods three times, Rory McIlroy twice, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Jason Day—ranking inside the top five in the world. That’s three more than the Masters and the British, and four better than the U.S. Open.
Moreover, only five times has the PGA Championship winner been ranked outside the top 30 this century. That’s equal to the U.S. Open, with six British Open victors outside the top 30 (the Masters has just two such instances: Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera).
Mentioned above, the OWGR data provides only a glimpse before a player’s win, failing to showcase what followed. For example, Justin Thomas enters Bellerive as the defending PGA champion, ranked No. 2 in the world. A ranking markedly better than his No. 14 standing the week before his Quail Hollow triumph. Conversely, every major battles this issue, which somewhat negates its wrath.
Still, the OWGR numbers give us an idea of the merit of each event’s winner. And, at least this century, the PGA more than meets the standards of a major champion.
Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Published 8:15 a.m. ET July 17, 2018
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — As a skinny lad back in the day, Tiger Woods got his first taste of links golf at venerable Carnoustie. Not on the course, mind you, but on the practice round.
A student at the time at Stanford University, Woods quickly got an education in how to play the ball under the wind and on the ground of the ancient links. He was an amateur playing in the 1995 Scottish Open, but he was a kid at heart who fell in love with this style of golf on that first day at Carnoustie.
“It was one of the cooler things, just staying on the range and hitting the ball at the 100-meter sign. I was hitting 9-irons and 4-irons and 5-irons and just having a blast trying to hit that sign,” a smiling Woods said Tuesday at Carnoustie ahead of Thursday’s start of the 147th British Open.
“I remember my dad on the range with me saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100-(meter) sign?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best,’” Woods said.
It was a two-hour tutorial before he finally headed to the course, and on the second hole used his putter 120 yards from the hole.
“That was one of the cooler moments,” Woods said.
Since then, he’s had some big moments in the Open, winning at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005 and at Hoylake in 2006. He’s back at Carnoustie for his third Open — he finished in a tie for seventh in 1999 and in a tie for 12th in 2007 — and his inner child has once again emerged.
“I’ve always loved playing links golf,” Woods said. “It’s my favorite type of golf. I enjoy this type of golf because it is creative and you have to use your mind. We’re not going to get the most perfect bounces. A certain shot that is hit where you think is a wonderful shot down the middle of the fairway could bounce some weird way. That’s just part of it.
“That’s the fun challenge of it.”
A warm and dry summer has turned Carnoustie brown and firm, with plenty of fire in the fairways and manageable wispy rough. It just adds to the challenge Woods relishes as he tries to win for the first time since 2013.
Since he first stepped onto the grounds on Sunday, Woods has been putting together the blueprint he’ll use to attack the course. He put a TaylorMade prototype 2-iron bent to 17 degrees in his bag because of the firm conditions. He and caddie Joe LaCava are still working on strategy off each tee, especially when Woods is hitting his 3-iron 335 yards as he did twice on Sunday.
While he’s still figuring out the pace of the greens, which are slightly slower than the normal speeds seen on the PGA Tour, Woods is confident in the mallet putter he first put into his bag in his last start, a tie for fourth in the Quicken Loans National three weeks ago.
Welcome to #TheOpen
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 16, 2018
“I have putted a little bit better,” Woods said. “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career. It’s one of the reasons why I think I really like the fact that this putter has grooves in it so it does roll initially a little bit faster and a little bit more true. And it is a little bit hotter.”
Woods is making his 12th start of the year and has been in the hunt late on Sunday in five of the tournaments. He said he’s improved from start to start.
“My feels are much better than they were at the beginning of the year, and I feel like I have a better understanding of my game and my body and my swing, much more so than I did at Augusta,” Woods said. “That’s just going to come with a little bit more experience, and I think that I’ve made a few adjustments.
“I’ve changed putters. I’ve tweaked my swing a little bit since the West Coast swing. And everything’s gotten just a little bit better. I’ve put myself up there in contention a couple times.
“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?”
We will be building new target greens on our range next week. This is a big project and will require us to close the range until Friday.
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Jarrod Weldon fired a three under par 70 for a net total of 67 to win the NCGA Weekend Net Tour event hosted at Dragonfly this last Saturday.
Full Results – https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/1266972
Come have a bite or a drink after your round on our new high-top tables in the Wings Grill at Dragonfly Golf Club.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Though John Smoltz may have felt very much alone on the wind-whipped, sun-baked Broadmoor course, he wasn’t.
The pitching Hall of Famer spent Day 1 at the US Senior Open in much the same position as the rest of the field — gouging out of ankle-high rough, then scrambling to put himself in position for par putts on tricky, mountain greens that left player after player shaking his head.
“I’m just being honest,” Smoltz said after a round of 15-over 85 that left him tied for 150th place. “I don’t have enough game for this course yet.”
He wasn’t alone.
The ultimate test for the seniors produced only eight below-par scores Thursday, and not a single player — not even leader Jerry Kelly — finished 18 holes without a bogey on his card.
Kelly gave it a run, though.
After saving par from the rough on the 559-yard, par-4 17th — he was holding his right elbow after digging out the approach — Kelly was one 4-foot putt away from going bogey-free. But when that slid a fraction to the right at the cup, his flawless day was history.
Kelly still shot 4-under 66, which was good enough for a two-shot lead over Miguel Angel Jimenez, Kevin Sutherland, Deane Pappas and Rocco Mediate.
“I was pretty disappointed with that three-putt on the last hole,” Kelly said. “But it gave me a lot today. I played very well, but it gave me some shots, too.”
Mediate found himself in the mix again for a national championship 10 years after his epic, 19-hole playoff loss to Tiger Woods at the US Open at Torrey Pines. Whether it’s the regular Open or the seniors, Mediate insists the tough USGA setups suit him, even though he missed the cut the last two years in this event.
“It looks like a US Open golf course,” Mediate said about the Broadmoor. “It is a US Open golf course. It will show you quickly that it is, if you hit it in the wrong place. That’s what I love most about the setup.”
Also lurking was defending champion Kenny Perry, whose 71 included only a single birdie.
“Here, the greens, they’ve got you on edge,” said Perry, whose title last year gave him entry into the US Open earlier this month. “I feel like I’m at Shinnecock again.”
Smoltz, whose day job is broadcasting baseball games for Fox, walked onto the Broadmoor for the first time this week. He hired a local caddie, Colin Prater, who was a Division II All-American at Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Almost immediately, though, the pitcher-turned-golfer received a crash course in the difference between casual rounds of golf and the sport at its most difficult.
“I never expected to get that many bad lies,” he said. “Nothing I could do about it. And I had a lot of tough shots that I have not practiced and that I am not used to hitting.”
A few times during the round, Smoltz had to stop, take off his shoes and tape up his toes, which were raw and aching. Lesson: Don’t break in new golf shoes at the US Open.
“It was fun to have him out here,” said Bob Ford, who was in the threesome with Smoltz. “But I didn’t expect him to break 80. I know how good he is. But this is just another world. It’s not his world.”
Smoltz’s first turn through this world will end after Friday’s round.
Kelly — he set himself up to be in a good spot heading into the weekend.
“I hit three bad shots, and I shot 85,” Smoltz said. “It just tells you, from an amateur standpoint, and for people sitting at home, how great these players are.”