OpinionTuesday, August 5, 2014
McIlroy triumphs, Tiger and Johnson sidelined
The run-up to the PGA Championship, final major of the season, was a swath of bleak news. First the surprise announcement that golf’s oldest weekly magazine, Golf World, had decided with immediate effect to cease production of its print edition.
Then it was Dustin Johnson’s shocking announcement, stating he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the PGA Tour, citing a need to seek “professional help for personal challenges.” Johnson was fifth in the Ryder Cup standings and a lock for the team to play Europe end-September in Scotland.
Then Sunday, during the final round of the World Golf Championships event at Firestone Country Club, Ohio, Tiger Woods reinjured his back and withdrew from the event after nine holes. Woods immediately returned from Ohio to his Florida home for medical evaluation but at this time it seems improbable he’ll start at Valhalla, thus ending any chance of making the FedEx Cup playoffs or joining the Ryder Cup team as a Captain’s Pick.
Woods had to win the PGA Championship to make the playoffs, while Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson has previously said he’d certainly consider him, but to do so the former world number one would have to be healthy and in-form. The US team will be announced next week, the top-nine in the Points Standings following the PGA Championship earning automatic berths, Watson picking the other three.
As many readers already know, Johnson’s personal announcement was followed up by a Golf.com report which headlined that the power-player had been suspended for using cocaine, an assertion quickly denied by the PGA Tour, which issued the following statement: “With regard to media reports that Dustin Johnson has been suspended by the PGA Tour, this is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour.”
Fortunately the weekend, in particular Sunday afternoon, produced two sparkling on-the-course storylines, a pair of fascinating duels, one at the WGC Firestone and the other in Minnesota.
In Ohio Sergio Garcia went head- to-head with Rory McIlroy, with the recently crowned Open champion coming out two strokes ahead, after an opening birdie blitz that caught then passed Saturday leader Garcia, who couldn’t find the same magical touch he had Friday when he carded a course-record tying 61. Recalling that Sergio was always one of the longer hitters on-tour, to watch McIlroy blast his tee-ball sometime thirty or forty yards past the Spanish star was reminiscent of how, in his heyday, Jack Nicklaus dominated his opposition from the tee.
At the 3M Championship Kenny Perry led Bernard Langer by three on Saturday but a brilliant 63 by the foremost Champions Tour player meant Perry had to birdie the final par-five to win. He did so the most extraordinary manner, blasting a 5-wood completely over the bleachers but able to make a victorious up-and-down after a free drop 20 yards from the green. Perry will play the PGA Championship at Valhalla by special invitation.