It’s a truism that bothers a lot of people, but Tiger Woods is always the man to watch. And it's no different in the 94th PGA Championship. Not for reasons of yesteryear — when Tiger would dominate with near-flawless play — but because he’s such a mystery these days. One day, he shows flashes of ball-striking genius, then struggles with the putter. Next day, he hits it all over the map but scrambles brilliantly. In other words, he’s like two dozen other great players in this year’s PGA field. The only thing is, he’s the only 14-time major champ teeing it up at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, so he has sort of earned our attention, right? Well, he's tied for the lead after two rounds.
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On the eve of the 2011 PGA Championship, GolfWeek's Jim McCabe points out, barely anyone outside Vermont had heard of Keegan Bradley (pictured). He was a PGA Tour rookie with promise and dreams — until he finished birdie-birdie-par to catch Jason Dufner, then won a playoff to join Ben Curtis and Francis Ouimet as the only players to win the first major in which they played. Bradley now is at the 94th PGA, at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, not only seeking to defend his title but also looking for his second straight win this year. He's coming off a dramatic win in the WGC Bridgestone Open on Sunday and opened with 68-77. Pressure seems to motivate this young man.
In a year in which Mickelson dazzled with a closing 64 while paired with Tiger Woods to win at Pebble Beach and then got into position to win the Masters, the incomparable left-hander has left folks scratching their heads. In his past four tour starts, Mickelson has a WD, two MCs and a T-65 (US Open). There was no cut at the Bridgestone, so he got four days to try to sort things out before heading to the PGA Championship, a major he has won once and had eight top-10 finishes. So it’s not as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Phil opened with 73-71, but be patient, have faith, then sit and watch, because no one shifts from reverse into fourth gear as quickly and improbably as he does.
This isn’t the first serious competition played at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. And we’re not referencing the 1991 Ryder Cup. We’re talking about the 1997 World Cup, where Harrington and Paul McGinley led Ireland to the coveted team title. It would be another 10 years before Harrington won a major, but he then won two more quickly. Though his game has been on a roller coaster in recent years, neither his passion nor commitment has. He has shown glimmers of his former self this season, especially in the big events, where he’s gone T-8 (Masters), T-4 (US Open), and T-39 (Open Championship). He opened with 70-76.