PGA Championship Recap: Having watched all of the televised coverage of the PGA Championship, this year's final major played at storied Oak Hills Country Club in Rochester, New York, I noticed a number of things worth noting.
- Oak Hill is a magnificent golf course. Not just because of its beauty or the fact that it's a Donald Ross design, but because of its ability to reward good golf shots and penalize bad ones appropriately. The point, especially of championship golf at its highest level, is to hit fairways and greens, then make your share of putts to contend. For the most part, that's what happened this week. Even if you're Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, you can't be hitting the ball twenty yards into the rough and expect to be on the leader board come Sunday afternoon. The drives that Jason Dufner and Jim Furyk were hitting during the final round were amazing. And when the greens dried up and became firmer, they were still accepting well hit shots and providing plenty of chances for birdies.
- Tiger Woods is still human. Despite five wins in eight non-majors this year, Tiger still can't seem to put it together in the majors. Of course, I think it's now obvious that Oak Hill simply doesn't suit his game. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it's a par 70. With the exception of Firestone Country Club's South Course, Tiger tends to dominate on par 72 layouts, such as Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, Torrey Pines, Doral and Pebble Beach, where he can overwhelm the par 5's. Not so at Oak Hill, where even the two par fives were not reachable in two. Secondly, the course was set up with tight fairways and high rough, putting a premium on driving accuracy and length. He's still having difficulty getting his driver in the fairway, so even on the holes that Tiger was able to hit the fairway, in many cases he did so with a three wood, five wood or iron, leaving him with lengthy second shots.
- Usually considered the weakest of the majors, I'm finding myself becoming more fond of the PGA Championship. I like the fact that birdies are not a bad thing, unlike at the U.S. Open or even the Masters, where they feel like the players need to be exposed to torture chamber-like conditions in order to become a major champion. Jason Dufner played incredible golf to win, so why is it so bad that a perfectly struck iron ends up two feet from the pin instead of bounding senselessly to the back of the green on rock hard surfaces?
- It makes me proud of the game and grateful to be a golfer and a fan when someone like Jason Dufner prevails. He takes his lumps, like two years ago when he squandered a five shot lead to lose to Keegan Bradley. Yet he's gracious enough in his post-round interview to say how privileged he feels to be able to play tournaments at that level. And then there was Keegan Bradley himself, waiting and cheering behind the 18th green, and then giving Dufner a congratulatory hug. There was a special spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship displayed by Bradley that truly touched me.
- Jim Furyk is really pretty tough. Maybe it's because like Furyk, I have family roots in the Pittsburgh area and I value the blue collar work ethic he displays. Dufner really was pretty flawless on a tough golf course, yet Furyk seemed to keep willing himself into contention. Unlike the 2012 U.S. Open, when he clearly let the title slip away, Furyk didn't lose it, Dufner won it, but he knew he was in a fight.
- Finally, congratulations to Jason Dufner. His unflappable manner and perseverance should be applauded, as at age 36, he was able to win his first major championship. It's an incredible accomplishment, especially when you consider that Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Colin Montgomery and countless others have not managed to pull it off.