TUCKER’S TOWN, Bermuda (AP) — The major champions usually meet on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, and that much remains true.
It’s everything else about this two-day exhibition that seems to have changed.
For starters, the Grand Slam has moved from Poipu Bay Golf Course in Hawaii to the Mid-Ocean Club in Bermuda, a 52-square-kilometer (20-square-mile) speck of land in the middle of the Atlantic with turquoise water, pink sand and a soft surf. There is a change in venue, but not necessarily the views.
“It seems like a very great place to take some vacations,” U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera said.
Tiger Woods decided to take his holiday away from the golf course, and that might be the biggest change of all. The Grand Slam gets under way on Tuesday with three major champions and one major alternate after Woods, the U.S. PGA champion, decided to skip this event for the first time that he has been eligible.
“I haven’t spent as much time at home as I would have liked,” Woods said at the U.S. Tour Championship, which he won for his fourth victory in five starts that made him the first U.S. tour’s FedEx Cup champion.
It was a huge blow to Bermuda, which had been anticipating a visit from the world’s No. 1 player, and for the PGA of America, which lost a premier player for the second straight year. Phil Mickelson did not play in 2006 after winning the U.S. Masters.
“We’re disappointed Tiger won’t be with us,” U.S. PGA president Brian Whitcomb said. “But we’re proud of our champions we have here. Tiger has always supported golf and the PGA of America. I got a classy letter from him stating that he’s mentally exhausted and just needs a break. I respect that.”
That left a four-man field at the Mid-Ocean Club of Cabrera, U.S. Masters champion Zach Johnson, British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk, the former major champion who led a points-based alternate list.
Furyk was in South Korea over the weekend and not expected to arrive until Monday night. Cabrera lost in the final of the HSBC World Match Play Championship in England and arrived at 2 a.m. Monday, still bleary-eyed when he showed up at the course.
There was plenty of star power in the pro-am, although not necessarily from a major champion.
Two of the most famous residents of Bermuda, actor Michael Douglas and his actress wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, drew the largest gallery, about 200 people who soaked in the sun and an endless horizon of ocean. They played the final six holes with Harrington, who got so much attention that his orange pen was running dry late in the afternoon from signing so many autographs.
All of them were thrilled to be in Bermuda, if not for the hospitality than the reminder of what it took to get here.
Perhaps none were as wide-eyed as Johnson, and it didn’t take long for him to realize he wasn’t in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and this was not a normal golf outing. Each player receives a personal escort to his room, and Johnson was shocked when the door was opened.
“We don’t have a room here. We have a house,” Johnson said. “It’s perks on steroids.”
One perk has gone up this year, with the prize money increased to $1.35 million (950,000). The winner gets $600,000 (421,750), with $200,000 (140,600) for last.
Harrington won the award for earliest arrival, but only because he was beaten in the first round of the World Match Play and decided to come over Saturday night. He went to an English pub that might have felt like being close to home except that it didn’t show rugby or soccer on the television, which he found odd.
“Everything else is probably ahead of expectations,” Harrington said.