Seven weeks ago Tiger Woods limped off stage left after an epic performance at the U.S. Open. It’s been anarchy ever since.
Kenny Perry has won twice yet skipped the British Open, where Greg Norman — Greg Norman — held the 54-hole lead. Anthony (The Next Tiger?) Kim aptly won Tiger’s own event, the AT&T National, but then shot a very un-Tiger-like Sunday 75 to blow his chances at the Canadian Open. Vijay Singh won at Firestone despite putting like a 10-handicapper. And Phil continues to say he’s close, even if he looks like he’s kind of far away.
It’s hard to know what to expect, and it seems that everybody, including some guy they call the “Little Unit” (see Chez Reavie, Canadian Open) has a chance to win. In most sports, that’s called parity. In golf, it’s boring. It’s like watching network TV in the summer — sure, there are a couple of good shows, but if you tune out for a few weeks you’re not likely to miss anything. That is why the PGA Championship arrives just in time, a tournament that might just reset Planet Golf on its axis.
Say what you want about the season’s final major — and Lord knows its detractors have — but over the last four years no major has done a better job of identifying the world’s best player (credit the PGA’s tough-but-not-tyrannical course setups). Woods won the last two PGAs. Phil Mickelson won in 2005, a victory that preceded his second Masters title in 2006 and what should have been his first U.S. Open title and coronation as the world’s No. 1 player. Vijay Singh won in ’04 during the 32-week stretch when he was — you guessed it — Numero Uno.
In that same period, no other major has so consistently pushed the cream to the top — not the Masters (Zach Who? Trevor did what?), not the U.S. Open (tell me you picked Ogilvy or Cabrera in your office pool), and not the British Open, where this year Padraig Harrington surprised everybody by successfully defending with a sore wrist.
So bring on the PGA and the best player not named Tiger. Golf needs him.