Palmer at the 1965 Masters.
James Drake/SI
Friday, August 14, 2009

CHASKA, Minn.(AP) Tim Herron was all dressed up with nowhere to play.

Herron is the only PGA Tour player who lives in Minnesota, growing up 15 minutes away in Wayzata and moving back home to raise his family of three, including twin sons. But he had a bad year at the wrong time and was not eligible for the PGA Championship, nor did he receive an exemption from the PGA of America.

``I thought with my record (four PGA Tour victories), I deserved a spot,'' Herron said. ``It was a little disappointing.''

Even more disappointing was Thursday. Because of two injuries (Trevor Immelman and Paul Casey) and three alternates who withdrew, Herron was the first alternate.

In the morning, while his caddie hung around the starting areas to check on anyone who might withdraw, Herron stayed in the car, not wanting to bring any attention to himself among thousands of fans who recognize him easily in these parts.

He finally went to the range, did a few interviews, and waited.

John Daly walked by on his way to the tee, his last realistic hope of playing. Herron headed back to his car, and then a long day got a little worse. He couldn't find his keys, and the car was locked.

As he fished through his pockets and golf bag, a fan recognized him.

``Hey, Lumpy! How'd you play?'' the fan said with great enthusiasm.

``I didn't,'' Herron replied.

Then he turned to a reporter and said quietly, ``This is getting old.''

Herron's brother-in-law found the keys and he was on his way home. Herron said he would hang out with his family this week. Would he even bother watching the PGA Championship?

``No,'' he said. ``I don't like watching golf on TV.''

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BOOM-BOOM'S BACK: Fred Couples stood over his tee shot on the 18th hole, then quietly backed away, as if nothing was wrong.

Just the opposite.

He felt a spasm in his lower back that hurt much worse than Couples let on. He took two deep breaths, walked to the back of the tee, then returned to his shot, pursed his lips and found the fairway.

``That was a little bit of a jolt,'' he said.

His back has been an issue the last 15 years, and it's not behaving at the moment. Couples hasn't played in six weeks, since a tie for 11th at the AT&T National. He tried to play the Canadian Open, but it hurt so much that he had to withdraw - then wait two days before he could fly home.

``I'm tired,'' Couples said. ``I haven't walked since Tiger's tournament. I'm OK. I wouldn't be here if not for this. They gave me an exemption. I couldn't miss this one. And I need to be here for the Presidents Cup stuff.''

Couples is the U.S. captain, and 10 players will qualify after this week.

He wound up with a 74 and might be in jeopardy of missing the cut for the third straight time in the PGA Championship. The hardest part for Couples was bending over to read putts.

``If I'm 6 or 7 over, I'm not going to be reading many putts,'' he said. ``If I'm 1 or 2 over, I'm going have to try a little bit.''

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THE OTHER GUY: Rich Beem loves being introduced as a PGA champion, although that sounded pretty paltry in the company he kept Thursday - Padraig Harrington with his three majors, Tiger Woods with his 14.

What was it like playing with such rock stars?

``Just a couple of guys having a nice, quiet three-ball out there, with 30,000 people screaming their heads off,'' he said. ``It was a blast.''

Told last week he was playing with Woods and Harrington, Beem replied in a text message, ``I thought they were playing with me.''

Over the next several days, he wasn't sure if that would help or hurt. He only knew he'd better bring his best game.

Beem three-putted the opening hole and admitted to some nerves. But he rallied just fine, and all three players were 2 under early on their back nine until Woods and Harrington pulled away, and Beem didn't. He wound up with a 71, not a bad effort.

``Playing with those two guys ... you know they're going to play well,'' he said. ``Usually when guys play well around you, they kind of drag you with them.''

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PRIZE MONEY: The PGA Championship chose not to increase the prize money for the first time since 1994.

The purse will be $7.5 million, with $1.35 million going to the winner.

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CLUB PROS: At least for one round, Scott Hebert, Michael Miles and Keith Dicciana showed they can hold their own.

They are among 20 club pros who earned spots in the PGA Championship through the PGA Professional National Championship. All of them shot 72 in the opening round.

``It was good,'' Dicciana said. ``A few three-putts and missed a couple of good opportunities, but all in all, shooting even in the first round in his thing, I'll take it.''

Dicciana played in the opening group with D.J. Trahan and Briny Baird. If he were not at Hazeltine, he would be giving lessons at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, N.Y.

``This is definitely more fun,'' he said.

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BIG NUMBERS: Adam Scott thought he had turned the corner with his tie for fourth in the Scottish Open.

Apparently not.

He missed the cut in the British Open, finished at the bottom of the pack at Firestone, then opened the PGA Championship with a 42 on the front nine. It only got worse from there. Scott birdied the last hole for an 82.

Other tour players who failed to break 80 were Nick Dougherty and Michael Campbell at 80, and Will MacKenzie with an 84.

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OLYMPIC LOOKAHEAD: With golf moving one step closer to being part of the Olympics in 2016, Fred Couples was asked to rank the most important golf tournaments that year.

``Augusta, the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship,'' he began, naming the four majors.

Then he went with the Ryder Cup - which will be held at Hazeltine in 2016 - and the Olympics.

``That's a pretty good list,'' he said.

And then he changed his mind.

``I'd put the Olympics after The Players Championship,'' he said. ``I can't put it any higher than that.''

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DIVOTS: Hazeltine didn't play all of its 7,674 yards, and it might not for the week. Among the tees moved forward were at No. 12, which played was 501 yards (up 17 yards), and No. 13, the par 3 that was 218 yards instead of 248. ... Paul Casey was headed home to Arizona on Thursday after he pulled out with an injury to his rib muscle. He said he would have tests to make sure it is a muscle strain and not something worse. His replacement, Tim Petrovic, shot 76. ... The scoring average was 74.25 for the first round. Seven years ago, when Hazeltine was about 350 yards shorter, the opening average was 75.263.

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