Okay. That wasn’t fair. This is no easy task. You need a little more time. Go ahead and pull out a pen and paper or a Word Doc or your iPad or Twitter or whatever. You have five minutes to see how many you can get…go.
So here is your answer in reverse chronological order:
Darren Clarke (2011 Open Championship), Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open), Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters), Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA), Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open Championship), Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open), Phil Mickelson (2010 Masters), Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA), Stewart Cink (2009 Open Championship), Lucas Glover (2009 US Open), Angel Cabrera (2009 Masters), Padraig Harrington (2008 PGA).
If you notice, not one of those names is repeated at any point in that list. The last 12 major winners have all been different. In the scoring spirit of oft-used Cosmo/Better Homes and Gardens/Tiger Beat/Cat Fancy “How Well Do You Know Your Man” Quiz. Here is how you can measure yourself as a golf fan in 2011:
10-12 Correct: You either work for the PGA, are on the PGA Tour, or you actually made the Wikipedia page that lists the PGA major champions.
6-9: Congratulations you are a about as good as it gets for a golf fan. This is the only realistic range that someone who is not professionally involved in golf or sports media in some way can hope for.
2-5: You are the average golf fan. To be honest, you probably didn’t even waste your time trying this little exercise, but this is most likely where you would’ve wound up anyway. Your answers were probably Clarke (because it happened ten minutes ago), McIlroy, Mickelson, and then maybe one or two you remembered for some ransom reason.
1: You are Y.E. Yang.
Golf has fallen into a grey abyss that it has not seen in some time. It’s not just the loss of Tiger, but the lack of a semblance of dominance from anyone. McIlroy did his best to spike the pulse, but his performance is starting to look now more like an anomaly than something to expect (for now).
Going into the final major of the year, tomorrow’s PGA Championship, golf is in a very interesting place. And while every other major has something distinguishing about it, the PGA lacks a little bit of that sizzle. The Masters – the “tradition unlike any other” – has Amen’s Corner and the green jacket and that subtle hint of chauvinism that every traditional golf club should have. The Open Championship – which used to be The British Open – but apparently has changed at some point without anyone in America’s approval – has the linx courses and the pot bunkers and the birthplace of golf. The US Open has the amateurs and the club pros and the great stories of qualifying.
The PGA is consistently the least-exciting of the four, with the only real saving grace is that it’s the last meaningful tournament of the year.
Oh wait, I forgot about The Fed Ex Cup! I’ve been keeping track of the points all year! It’s a dogfight for seventh place right now: Mark Wilson is 15 points ahead of Gary Woodland who is 43 points ahead of Webb Simpson. I can’t wait to see how it shakes out. American golf without Tiger!
Speaking of the striped one, the PGA does have a nice convergence of storylines at the moment – probably the best it could have possibly hoped for. It won’t sniff Jersey Shore ratings (the premiere episode this season got an 8.8 to the Stanley Cup Final Game 7’s 8.7), but it should do better than expected.
Adam Scott is interesting because he has a new long putter and is finally playing well. I think he has a new caddie as well. Tiger has sat out the last two majors and is claiming he is finally “back in shape,” and in an unrelated circumstance also has someone new on the bag. This alone should keep people interested, and if the golf gods choose to give us a gift, Tiger and Adam will be in contention on the weekend and maybe even – I don’t even want to jinx the possibility because I’m so excited. (If you know what I’m talking about by the context clues you are probably as potentially torqued about the idea as I am.)
Unfortunately, Tiger’s game is nowhere near Atlantic Athletic Club-level and Adam Scott usually does his best Anne Frank impression on the weekends of majors.
Tiger played the Bridgestone Invitational last week and finished in 37th at +1. This is a tournament he has won seven of the thirteen times he has been in, once by 11 strokes. His game is not there. Tiger Woods will not win the 2011 PGA Championship. Sorry to everyone out there who is rooting for him (you guys do remember the whole scumbag sex-crazed adulterer thing right?)
So the question now is who will hoist the Wannamaker Trophy on Sunday evening? Well, as the last 12 majors have taught us, the field is about as wide open as you can get.
The favorite is McIlroy, anointed as the next big thing after his US Open tour-de-force this year. He has been playing well lately, especially in the states, but Atlantic Athletic Club’s main defense this week will be its tight fairways, and sitting at 140th in Driving Accuracy, I don’t think Rory has another US Open-like driving performance up his sleeve.
The rest of the bunch shakes down like this:
We start, naturally, with the number one player in the world – Luke Donald. He finished second last week and is statistically dominant in all the right places: 1st in Scoring Average, 1st in Top Tens, 4th in Putting, 38th in Driving Accuracy.
Right behind him is fellow countrymen Lee Westwood, who has finished in the top three in five of his last eight major championships. I’ll be honest, I think the winner comes from one of these two chaps, and my money is going to be on Donald to get his first. However, there are 154 others in the tournament, so we continue.
Phil, Bubba, and Dustin Johnson are too shaky off the tee. Nick Watney can’t be trusted after last year’s final-round 81 at Whistling Straits in this same tournament. Jason Day is probably still a year away. David Toms won it last time at AAC, but he’s too old (that was ten years ago). Martin Kaymer won it last year, but he has been a ghost after that. Rickie Fowler is too bright (not talking about intelligence). We previously mentioned Adam Scott’s affinity for hiding, and you can put Sergio right next to him in that attic.
The only other guy who I can see taking this thing convincingly that would not surprise or shock anyone is Steve Stricker. This may be the 44-year-old’s last shot; but his game and his putting are good enough for him to win.
With the field this wide open and no one being under 10-1, this is an excellent opportunity to take a few fliers on some long-shots and potentially have a big payday. If you are into betting favorites, here are the three I suggest you choose from in making a larger, more confident bet:
Stricker (22-1) – these are still great odds by the way and he is the 9th favorite.
With the way this course is setting up, it’s going to come down to two things: fairways in regulation and putting. This is one reason why Luke Donald’s statistics set up so well. If you simplify it down to Driving Accuracy and Putting, you get my mid-range sleeper with fantastic odds:
Zach Johnson (45-1) – 8th in Driving Accuracy and 8th in Putting
He has the best combination of the two of anyone on tour, he has won a big tournament before, and he is just enough under the radar to make himself – and you – some nice coin.
After that, because this is really a tough tournament to handicap, there are some guys that are getting fantastic odds for the caliber of player they are, regardless of whether they are playing well or how the course sets up for them. Here are your long-range fliers to have some fun with:
KJ Choi (60-1)
YE Yang (80-1)
Fredrik Jacobson (80-1)
Brandt Snedeker (90-1)
Angel Cabrera (110-1)
Brian Gay (200-1) – who is 3rd in Driving Accuracy and 25th in Putting.
Now hopefully Adam and Tiger cross paths at some point so this thing stays interesting. Just in case that doesn’t happen, I will be making a few wagers so my interest can be piqued from Thursday to Sunday in the tour’s final big tournament. Either way, don’t be surprised to see a 13th straight different major winner on Sunday.