The organizers of the PGA Championship need some marketing savvy. I’ve always been underwhelmed by the tourney’s slogan, which CBS loves to trumpet: “Glory’s Last Shot.” It sounds way too much like “Last call” or “Last exit before toll bridge” or “Last chance — order before midnight tonight!” We’re Americans, and we’ve been trained to understand that last is never good.
I don’t have a better slogan, but I’d sooner go with something catchy and easy to say, like “The Impregnable Quadrilateral‘s Fourth Leg.”
Meanwhile, here is my list of nine players who could turn into Detroit tigers at the PGA.
Stuart Appleby. No, your man Apples has never won a major. He’s got all the pieces, though, if he can just be a little less mechanical and trust his feel. He’s driving it well, which is important. The last big event at Oakland Hills, the ’96 U.S. Open, was dominated by big hitters like Steve Jones, Tom Lehman and Davis Love. It’s time for Stu to step up. It’s is a bit of a reach, but I’m picking Appleby.
Phil Mickelson. We were expecting a lot more from Phil in 2008, but one major title would make the whole year go down a lot easier, just like when he won the PGA at Baltusrol in 2005. He drove it better at Firestone last week, well enough to nearly win. The crazy greens at Oakland Hills could be right up Phil’s alley — he loves heroic shots and big-breaking putts. All he has to do is forget that the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills ever happened. Since it will be mentioned in every other question he gets all week, that might prove difficult.
Rocco Mediate. As soon as the two Pittsburgh newspapers stopped sending their golf writers to cover majors this year, Greensburg native Rocco started contending. He pushed Tiger to the brink at Torrey Pines and was surprisingly in the hunt early at the British Open. Why not make it three for three? And if he doesn’t play his way into an automatic spot on the Ryder Cup team, he’ll at least make it easy for captain Paul Azinger to pick him. Who can’t root for a guy named Rocco?
Kenny Perry. He’s the hottest American golfer and has won three times this year, but, amazingly, this will be his first major of the season. Remember that Oakland Hills winner profile I mentioned? Jones and Lehman hit high draws. Perry hits a high draw almost exclusively. Come to think of it, he probably ought to be the favorite. I like his chances.
Woody Austin. Another guy who has never won a major, his nerves make him an unlikely champion. But he dueled with Tiger last year at Southern Hills and is 12 under par in the last two PGAs. Call it trivia, but Oakland Hills was where we first began to notice Woody in the ’96 Open. He shot 67-72 before melting on the weekend with a 72-75 finish. Woody has a history at Oakland Hills. Don’t count him out.
Jim Furyk. It seems like his game is coming around, and it’s still surprising that he hasn’t won a second major since his ’03 U.S. Open. Working the ball and scrambling are useful at Oakland Hills, and those are his specialties.
Lee Westwood. The Englishman has been playing well all summer and coming close. His play at Firestone suggests that he’s on the brink of victory. He’d be a worthy first-time major winner.
Anthony Kim. You could argue that Kim, not Perry, is the hottest American golfer. Although he came up short at the Canadian Open last month, he has two wins this year and major wins in his future.
Mike Weir. The former Masters champ has looked impressive at times this year. Call it a hunch, a premonition or what it is — a guess — but I’ve always liked the way he putts.