1. Martin Kaymer. Drives it straight, precise iron player, super short game, a calculating tactician and he made the putt of the year on the 72nd hole — what’s not to love? Throw in his dedication and work ethic and it’s easy to see him having a career like Bernhard Langer, only with more grins.
2. Monty. Sure, he finished DFL at the PGA, but eight spots were solidified for his Ryder Cup adversaries: four will be rookies, as Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar played their way into the last two automatic spots. Combined wins for Kuchar and Overton over the last five years: one. At Turning Stone.
3. Dustin Johnson. Lost in the epic 72nd hole blunder is that D.J. made must-have birdies on 13, 16 and 17 to take the lead and prove that he really isn’t haunted by U.S. Open demons. His swing coach Butch Harmon tells me that Johnson is working much harder post-Pebble. If he keeps it up, look out.
4. Bubba. His swing held up admirably on Sunday, his short-game was terrific and I love his passion for the Ryder Cup. It’s gonna be a blast to watch him in Wales.
5. Elk. You knew that sooner or later Steve Elkington’s putter would let him down, but it was fun to watch this sweet-swinging warrior make one more spirited run in a big-time event. And he’s got the best karate-kick this side of Ralph Macchio.
1. Bubba. He played great for 20 holes but on the final playoff hole hit one of the most ill-advised shots in recent memory: with tons of dry land down the right side he fired a 6-iron out of the rough, into the wind, at a sucker flag placed on a tiny peninsula on the extreme left of the green, which was fronted by a creek. Of course the shot came up short, handing the tourney to Kaymer. If Watson had caught a flyer, as he said he was expecting, there’s no way he would have held the green anyway, and long was dead, too. I asked Kaymer about it afterward, and he said had he been hitting first he would have played to the front-right of the green, taking all the trouble out of play and leaving a pretty simple two-putt or up-and-down. Basic, right?
2. D.J. Lost in all the hubbub is that he had a short putt to win the PGA Championship — or so he thought — and couldn’t shake it into the hole. And, yes, it’s absurd to have bunkers outside the ropes that fans can trample through, and the walking rules official, marshals and his own caddie failed Johnson, but ultimately it is the player’s responsibility to follow the rules, simple as that.
3. Rory McIlroy. OK, we know the boy wonder is good enough to contend, but he had a golden opportunity to win his first major and couldn’t seize it. Inconsistent putting has always been the only question mark in McIlroy’s game and it was exposed on Sunday, as he repeatedly blew opportunities on the greens. Most glaring was a yippy four-footer he gagged on the 15th hole, dropping out of the lead for good.
4. Whistling Straits. All the flaws of this monument to artifice and excess were revealed on Sunday. If the best players in the world can’t birdie a hole, then it can’t be very good. The bevy of contenders combined to make exactly one birdie on 17 and 18, the latter of which might be the worst finishing hole in golf. And it’s fitting the tournament was tainted by the contrived faux-bunkers which serve no purpose other than to look good on TV. On the to-do list before ’15: 1) blow up 18 and start over, 2) fill in, oh, 400 or so useless bunkers, 3) create some safe, smooth walkways for fans, as dozens were injured on the extreme terrain.
5. Tiger/Phil/Ernie/Vijay/Padraig/Retief/Jim F. Check the leaderboard, boys. Your era is quickly coming to an end.