AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Robert Allenby checked in Monday at the PGA Championship, opened his blue locker at Hazeltine National and was surprised to see that someone had written on the inside panel with a felt pen.
It wasn’t the words that jarred him, it was who wrote it.
“Jim, thanks for the locker use,” the note said. It was signed by Payne Stewart.
“This must have been his locker when he won here in ’91,” Allenby said. “It was pretty cool.”
So cool, in fact, that Allenby took a picture of it with his cell phone.
Stewart won his first U.S. Open in 1991, taking advantage of two late bogeys by Scott Simpson to get into an 18-hole playoff. Stewart made only one birdie in the playoff, again rallying behind Simpson’s mistakes.
The next time a major returned to Hazeltine, in 2002 for the PGA Championship, Stewart already was gone.
He won another U.S. Open in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2, then died that October when his private plane from Florida to Dallas flew uncontrolled across the country until it ran out of fuel and crashed in South Dakota.
NO LUMPY: The only PGA Tour player who lives in Minnesota will not be at the PGA Championship.
Tim Herron, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour in the midst of one of his worst seasons, did not qualify for what amounts to his only hometown event. This is only the fourth major Hazeltine has hosted, the first one played when Lil’ Lumpy was 4 months old in 1970.
Herron has only three finishes in the top 20 this year, the last two in his previous starts. He did not qualify through the money-based PGA points list, although he was the sixth alternate on Monday.
The PGA of America offered 35 special invitations to the 156-man field, mainly from the world ranking. It promotes this major as having the strongest field and tries to get everyone from the top 100. Herron is at No. 222.
The PGA did give spots to Darren Clarke, who was the highest-ranked player outside the top 100 and still a popular figure; former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, who grew up in Minnesota; Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin; and European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.
Why no Lumpy?
“Performance,” said Joe Steranka, the chief executive of the PGA.
He declined to say if the PGA had considered a spot for Herron, saying only that the association decided a decade ago to concentrate on picking quality courses and having the strongest field possible. He said the majority of its field comes from the PGA points list, which is money earned on the PGA Tour over the last year.
TIGER’S DOMAIN: Tiger Woods won for a record seventh time at Firestone, although the debate rages on which course feels like home. Firestone or Torrey Pines?
Woods became the first player to win a PGA Tour event seven times on the same course. Sam Snead won the Greensboro Open eight times, although that alternated between different courses.
Someone asked Woods if he had ever won more on a single course, even as a kid. He couldn’t think of one until another reporter pointed out that he won the Buick Invitational six times, plus the U.S. Open last summer at Torrey Pines.
That would be seven victories at PGA Tour-sanctioned events, one being a major. Woods didn’t stop there, though.
“Junior World,” he said. “Ha! Eight.”
He won the Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines in 1991 at age 15.
PRESIDENTIAL FEELING: Robert Allenby has renewed optimism since changing his putting style, and the results paid off in more than a runner-up finish at the Bridgestone Invitational.
He moved up to No. 8 in the Presidents Cup standings for the International team, which is based on the world ranking. Behind him is Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini at No. 10, and another decent week at the PGA Championship should sew up his first Presidents Cup appearance since the tie in South Africa in 2003.
“That was one of my goals, to play well these two weeks to guarantee myself a spot in the top 10,” Allenby said. “I didn’t want to have to rely on being a pick.”
Missing from the International team is Adam Scott, who is having a difficult season and has fallen to No. 13.
“I need a good week,” Scott said. “A really good week.”