SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — When I left my hotel at 5 this morning, the air was so warm and humid, it felt like I was taking a shower, and the fog was thicker than pea soup. I knew then that the PGA Championship’s opening day had Fog Delay stamped all over it.
But that’s not all that was stamped on it. Here are some highlights and lowlights:
Today’s Lotto winners was… TNT. Guess which network televising the first round enjoyed a special guest appearance from Tiger Woods? No one could’ve been happier about the three-hour-plus fog delay. Tiger was scheduled to play in the morning and finish early, but instead he was the featured player for the broadcast, which started at 1 p.m. Eastern. Even better, Tiger birdied three of the first four holes and sent a jolt of electricity through the championship. Thursday’s fog backup means Tiger’s second round probably won’t get finished Friday night, but TNT will get a double dose of Phil Mickelson on Friday. In short, it’s a win-win-win deal for TNT.
Location, location, location… Every time TNT shows a player putting with Lake Michigan in the background, how many tee times get booked at Whistling Straits? The truth is, the Straits looks as good as Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines from the ground and from the blimp. Give it another 10 years, another PGA Championship and a Ryder Cup, and the Straits is going to work its way into the top 10 of those top 100 golf course lists. Hey, I wrote before the inaugural 2004 PGA here that if you wanted to play the Straits, you should do it before the PGA gave it global TV exposure. Now it’s even more true.
Let’s not dance, shall we?… Every time I see early leader Bubba Watson get into contention, I can’t shake that vision of him begging his way into a guest shot on the Ellen DeGeneres show with a series of filmed stunts. If his dream was to get on stage with Conan O’Brien or Jon Stewart or Kenny Mayne or Alex Trebek, I’d probably take him more seriously.
Bubba moment of the day … Watson, the man who last week at the Bridgestone Invitational said his only goal was to make the cut and was then informed that there was no cut, was asked a question about Pete Dye. Watson asked, “Is this a Pete Dye course?” Uh, yeah.
Always have a backup plan… It’s a little-known fact that the first alternate to play in this year’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which pairs the year’s four major championship winners, is currently Tiger Woods. He would be offered a spot in the field if one of the three major winners from this year (Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen) wins the PGA Championship. Maybe Jim Gray could ask Tiger whether he’d agree to play in the Grand Slam if that happens.
The waiting game… Think it’s easy waiting around for the fog to lift? It’s not. “I had never gotten up at 5:30 for a 12 o’clock tee time before,” joked Charles Howell III. “That was great. I had breakfast three times.”
Maybe Al Gore wasn’t full of it… Believe in global warming or not, but it was unquestionably sizzling hot and humid Thursday afternoon at the Straits. Young Aussie Jason Day, who shot 69, battled the heat and a lingering sinus infection. How bad was it? “I ate maybe six or seven Cliff bars and drank maybe 10 bottles of water,” Day said.
Most interesting man in the world… Or at least the most interesting name on Thursday’s leaderboard was Francesco Molinari of Italy, who shot 68. He and his brother, Edoardo, are rising young stars on the European tour. Francesco, 27, won the ’06 Italian Open and has had five top-10 finishes this year in Europe. It’s worth noting that he quietly tied for 10th in last year’s PGA. Mark him down on your list of serious contenders.