2011 PGA Championship – the analysisOctober, 2011
Reflections from the Atlanta Athletic Club on the surprise-packed final Major of the season
1 Par: a modern obsession
THE concept of par was only invented 50 years ago, as a way of presenting the relative positions of the players at the Masters when rounds were in progression. Until then, your position was simply how many shots you’d taken.
Now, because there is a perception that Majors need to be difficult, when setting up courses the various governing bodies (the Masters excepted) seemingly can’t wait to turn a par 5 or two back into par 4s.
So this year we had Congressional at par 71, with Sandwich and Atlanta par 70.
It doesn’t make any difference – the players are trying to shoot the lowest score and a 72 is a 72 whether you call it two over par or five under.
Or at least it shouldn’t. In fact the 18th at Atlanta really did confuse the players who seemed to feel obliged to attack the green in two even if they were in sand off the tee. The result was a hole whose stroke average over the course of the week was higher than that of the 12th, some 50 yards longer and a par 5.
2 Credit Dufner in the play-off
THE closing four-hole stretch at the Atlanta Athletic Club was described as the toughest this side of Carnoustie. (Although let’s not confuse it as being in the same class as the legendary Scottish links as a course).
There is, though, a parallel.
You would think that being level par for a three-hole play-off between two men without a Major to their name might have got the job done. Poor Jason Dufner – par, bogey, birdie was still a shot adrift of Keegan Bradley.
Now let’s rewind to the 2007 Open, which also featured a long-time leader who stumbled and ended up in a play-off against a man who had suffered a late blow-out he thought had cost him the chance of winning.
Sergio Garcia went bogey, par, par, par (and hit the pin on the second hole) and still lost by one to Padraig Harrington, who salvaged a one-putt double bogey from two visits to the Barry Burn on the last hole in regulation.
Dufner will be remembered as the man who threw away a four-shot lead with four holes – but, like Garcia four years ago, deserves much credit for the numbers he produced in the play-off.
It was noticeable in the last round that Westwood hit several indifferent approaches with short irons. 3 A Long putter wins a Major
IT might just be a trend, but to many these are depressing times and not just because Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a Major using a long putter.
They used to be the reserve of gnarled veterans who had lost their nerve over the short ones through years and years of putting under pressure.
Typically these putters allowed them to compete for longer. We think of Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie and Tom Kite.
Now we are seeing young players coming out on tour with bellys (especially) and broom handles. Bradley, the winner, is a PGA Tour rookie. Also prominent at Atlanta were Adam Scott (broom) and Brendan Steele (belly).
4 Leaders’ curse
IN the last 18 months we have seen final-round meltdowns when leading from Johnson (Pebble Beach), Watney (Whistling Straits), McIlroy (Augusta) and now Dufner. The big difference being that Dufner’s came so late.
With four holes to play he led by four (and eventual winner Bradley by five). It wasn’t enough – and but for a very brave 15-footer for a bogey on the 15th, he might not even have made it into a play-off.
Which just goes to show how well Oosthuizen (Open, St Andrews) and McIlroy (US Open, Congressional) handled affairs.
Dufner will surely reflect that his long wait on the 15th tee proved fatal, shaking him from what seemed a dreamy, relaxed state of mind. The cause of the delay? That would be Bradley shooting himself out of contention with a triple-bogey six and handing Dufner the tournament.
Except that’s not quite how it worked out. How quickly that seemingly impregnable lead evaporated. Within 45 minutes, Dufner was heading for the 18th needing a par to make the play-off.
5 Lee’s putting
LEE WESTWOOD stormed away from the Open having missed the cut despite hitting as many greens over the first two days as anyone in the field. The World No 2 spent the weeks in between Sandwich and the PGA working with Dave Stockton on his putting mechanics, Ping on trying different models and Bob Rotella on his mental approach.
He turned up at Atlanta with a completely new style of putter and described his ball-striking the previous week as the best he had ever produced.
By Sunday, the latest putter had been binned and an old one returned, not that it made much difference as the Englishman continued to play arguably the best golf from tee to green and the worst on them – at least among the contenders.
It was noticeable in the last round that Westwood hit several indifferent approaches with short irons. You did wonder how much better they might have been had confidence in his putting been even a little higher.