An Irish-themed dinner for the champions

An Irish-themed dinner for the champions

CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — Padraig Harrington prepares for everything, even a dinner he is hosting.

In a tradition that doesn’t get as much attention as that other “Champions Dinner” in April at Augusta National, the defending PGA champion is in charge of the menu and gifts for all PGA champions Tuesday night.

Typical of Harrington, he gave this considerable thought.

“I enjoyed the process, especially because my wife (Caroline) was involved,” Harrington said.

Being from Ireland, he figured it should be an Irish meal. He said the most popular meal would be bacon and cabbage, but there was only one problem with having that for dinner.

“I don’t like it,” Harrington said. “When it comes to Irish food, you’re limited in what you can choose.”

He figured the simple and tasteful answer would be Irish Stew, which at least sounds Irish. After great consideration, and taking into account that the champions should enjoy their meal, the Harringtons settled on the following menu.

The first course was a leek and potato soup, followed by the choice of smoked salmon on soda bread and – brace yourself – warm cabbage salad with bacon and Roquefort.

The main course offered another option: Irish Beef Stew braised in Guinness with Colcannon, and grilled salmon with Irish Champ and seasonal vegetables.

Dessert was easy – Irish whiskey cake, cheesecake with a Bailey’s caramel coulis or Irish pudding.

As for the gift? Harrington wouldn’t say, but chances are it will be something the past champions have never received before.

TEMPER, TEMPER: Tiger Woods has been cursing and slamming clubs after a bad shot ever since he starting winning majors, if not much sooner. Lately, however, he has been criticized by national media outlets, including and The Times of London.

Woods offered no apologies when asked Tuesday if it could enhance his reputation if he cleaned up his act, or at least his language. He also said he was trying to get better.

“It is what it is,” he said. “Unfortunately, I do make mistakes, and I hit bad shots and I say bad things at times,” he said. “I don’t mean to, it just comes out. It’s not something that I try and do. It just happens. Have I been trying to get better at that? Yeah, my entire life. But it happens from time to time, and I’m not the only person that does it.”

The latter was a reference to Woods being shown on TV more than any other player.

WELCOME TO THE MAJORS: Since recovering from injuries that slowed his career more than a decade ago, Scott Verplank has been a regular in the big events. He has played on two Ryder Cup teams, two Presidents Cup teams. And except for the 2000 Masters, he had played in every major this decade.

Until this year.

The PGA Championship will be the first major of the year for the 45-year-old Verplank.

Coping with nagging elbow injuries last year, he finished out of the top 50 (No. 77) on the money list for the first time since 1999. He wasn’t eligible for the Masters, failed to qualify for the U.S. Open and missed out on the U.S. qualifier for the British Open. He routinely got into all the majors for being in the top 50 in the world. He currently is No. 94.

He got into the PGA Championship by finishing among the top 70 on a money list from the last calendar year.

“It took a long time to work your way into these deals,” Verplank said. “It doesn’t take long to fall out.”

The year wasn’t a total loss. He had a hard time at Augusta National with all its length, ditto for Bethpage Black.

“The only one I really missed not being at was the British,” he said. “I hope I get back. That’s the best tournament in the world.”

Verplank wasn’t alone.

Two other players from the 2007 Presidents Cup team – Woody Austin and Nick O’Hern – failed to qualify for the majors this year.

TIGER VS. TIGER: What would happen if Tiger Woods from 2000 played Tiger Woods from 2009 in 18 holes of match play.

“I would win now,” Woods said.

Most consider 2000 to be his benchmark year, winning nine times and three majors. Woods said last year, when he went seven months without losing, that was the best he had ever played.

“I know how to manage my game a hell of a lot better than I did back then,” Woods said. “Just understanding how to get the ball around. I have so many more golf shots now to get me around the golf course. And that’s just experience. That’s nine more years of learning how to play and how to manage my game around a golf course.

“And I’ll probably say the same thing in nine more years, because I have that much more understanding mentally,” he said. “Physically, I don’t know if I’ll be able to hit the ball quite as far. But understanding how to play, that’s just years of experience.”

PAR 5s: Much has been made of the fact that Tiger Woods has won 10 of his 14 majors on par-72 courses, including four at Augusta National and two each at St. Andrews and Medinah (1999, 2006 PGA).

It would lead one to believe that power players like Woods feast on the four par 5s, although St. Andrews only has two par 5s.

Hazeltine might be different.

True, there are four par 5s, but three are longer than 600 yards and might require everyone to lay up short of the green, depending on the wind, the turf and whether the PGA moves up the tees.

“You’re not going to have a third of the field going at any of those par 5s,” Jim Furyk said. “Might be a little bit of an equalizer.”

Rory McIlroy, a 20-year-old player and considered one of the big hitters, agreed.

“Most of the guys make their score on the par 5s, but I don’t think that will be the case this week, just because they are playing so long,” McIlroy said. “Even if you hit a good lay-up, you’re still going in with a wedge, but it’s still pretty hard to make birdie from there.”

DIVOTS: Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, 17, is the youngest player to compete in the PGA Championship. The oldest player in the field at Hazeltine is club pro Chris Starkjohann, who is 53. … Four players at Hazeltine come from Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif. – Paul Goydos, John Mallinger, John Merrick and teaching pro Mike Miles.

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