8 August 2012

USPGA Championship Has Potential To Emerge From London's Shadow

Last August drama unfolded at Atlanta Athletic Club as PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley came back from five shots behind with three holes to play to beat journeyman Jason Dufner in a three hole play-off by one stroke. No one believed that there could be a way back for Bradley after he chipped into the water on route to a triple bogey six at the par 3 15th. Jaws dropped as Dufner then hit his tee shot on the same hole into a similar watery grave as Bradley birdied the 16th. Dufner then bogeyed 16 and 17 while the youngster holed a 50 foot putt for birdie on the penultimate hole prior to winning the play-off. 

This time around the year's last major has slipped so far under the radar that a lot of people seem to be unaware that it is even taking place. The Bridgestone Invitational was played rather unnoticed as the London Olympics got under way but Kiawah Island will be hoping for more attention on this week's golfing show-piece. In four years time The PGA Championship will most likely be moved to a later date to accommodate the Olympic Games' golf tournament. However this year the PGA will have to try and lift the profile of one of the sport's main events as London 2012 takes centre stage. 

This tournament will not come to the fore-front by advertisement or promotion as the Olympics has already moved into the spotlight, and rightly so. The only way for golf to steal a bit of the limelight is for drama to unfold on the Ocean course as a field that includes the world's top 103 players fight it out. In recent years this has been the most open major with a variety of different winners. In the last eight years there have been winners from four different continents and the last three tournaments have been won by players from Asia, Europe and North America. That pattern would suggest that maybe this is the year for an African or Australasian golfer. 

The African players have been in rich form over the last few years with four different winners in the last five years. Ernie Els was the last one to be added to that list when he won The Open Championship last month. Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman have been recent winners of the Masters while Louis Oosthuizen won the Open in 2010. However no African player has come out on top in the US Open or USPGA since Retief Goosen won the last of his majors in the 2004 US Open. 1994 was the last time the continent yielded a champion in the season's final major when Zimbabwean Nick Price won his second title. 

Australasia has not produced a major winner since Geoff Ogilvy came out on top in the 2006 US Open and South America has only ever produced two major victors in the shape of Argentines Angel Cabrera and Roberto de Vicenzo. Traditionally the United States of America have dominated this event and the trophy only left the States three times before 1990. However since then the hosts have failed to win nine times. Last year Bradley ended a run of three foreign winners and the new crop of US golfers will be hoping to continue their winning run this week. 

The big guns will be out in force this week with the likes of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson looking for a maiden major. More experienced major winners Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Els will be after adding to their already large tallies while youngsters like Bradley, Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson will be on the hunt for a second title. This tournament has a tendency for a surprise performer and there are many talented golfers in the field that will secretly be thinking that they can win around the longest course in major history. Unheralded players like Dufner, Troy Matteson, Hunter Mahan and Rafael Cabrera-Bello have all had good years and could make charges. 

It may look as though the PGA Championship will slip to a conclusion relatively unnoticed but there is potential that a great story could arise from the 94th edition of this magnificent competition. Whether it is a first major since 2008 for Tiger, a first major for Westwood or Donald or a surprise victory from one of the world's lesser-known golfers, this could be one of golf's great weeks. 

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