Review of The 90th PGA Championship
Dates: August 7th – 10th, 2008
Venue: Oakland Hills (South) – Bloomfield Township, MI
Who Won? Padraig Harrington
Many golf experts were ready to flash forward to 2009 once word of Tiger’s season ending knee surgery hit a few weeks back. The look ahead to April and Augusta will have to wait, as Padraig Harrington solidified his place in the golf world with a win at last week’s final Major, the PGA Championship.
The victory comes on the heels of Harrington’s win at the British Open, which was a defense of the ’07 Open title, giving Harrington three Major wins in the last two years. Like in ’07, Paddy went toe to toe with Sergio Garcia, again denying the Spaniard’s bid fora first Major title.
The news this week started with the severe conditions that players endured at the South Course of Oakland Hills. The summer heat, coupled with steady winds, dryed the course to the point that many players questioned the setup. Players making the cut needed to manage merely 8-over to do so as the field averaged nearly 75 strokes over the first two days. The weekend was setup to be increasingly brutal, but heavy rains came Saturday, softening the course and sending scores in the red.
No player had a turnaround as dramatic as Harrington’s, however. The eventual champion stood at 5-over heading into the weekend after a second round 74, but came out firing after the delay, putting together back to back 4-under rounds of 66 to move to 3-under total and a two stroke win.
Harrington did not clear the field until late Sunday, as Ben Curtis and Garcia gave the Irishman all he could handle until the end. All three players emerged as the prime contenders with strong third rounds and jockeyed for the lead throughout the final round. The turning point came on the back nine as Harrington knocked down clutch putts while Garcia and Curtis were finding only the lips.
All three players stood tied after a Curtis bogey on 15 that went along with a gutty par save for Harrington ahead at 16. Garcia had found the water at the 16th en route to a bogey on the hole and the race was on. Harrington took the lead at the par-3 17th, landing his tee shot within 15 feet and converting the birdie. Garcia showed some alligator blood by bettering Paddy’s tee effort, knocking his shot to near tap-in range. Garcia’s achilles heel reared it’s head again, as the short putt lipped out, all but ending Sergio’s chances. Ben Curtis could not make a move on the way in and another all world par save on 18 for Harrington sealed the deal. Paddy lifted the trophy at 3-under total, while Curtis and Garcia shared the runner-up spot at 1-under.
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Camilo Villegas put together a nice 67/68 finish to get to 1-over for the event and was a T4 along with Henrik Stenson. Phil Mickelson hung around the first page all week, but never broke par at Oakland Hills and finished at 4-over in a tie for 7th. Sharing 7th with Lefty was Andres Romero, who carded a tournament low round 65 on Saturday after just making the cut at 7-over. J.B. Holmes held the lead going into Saturday and stood second entering the final round, but a final round 81 dropped him to a T29 finish at 10-over. Holmes was not alone in final round struggles as Rocco Mediate carded an 85 on Sunday, dropping him to 72nd. Notables missing the cut were former Major winners Fred Couples and Zach Johnson as well as international stars, Adam Scott and K.J. Choi.
Harrington has been solid all year on the stat sheet and the PGA Championship was no different. Paddy averaged nearly 300 yards off the tee and hit the 7th most fairways amongst the field. While Harrington was about average in terms of greens hit, his second fewest putts total proved to bethe difference among the contenders. Padraig waited to make his move until the back nine in the third round where he had a run of four straight birdies from 13 to 16 and chipped in four birds on the back on Sunday. Harrington now has six top-10’s in 12 Tour starts and moves to 3rd in the world rank with the win.
The PGA Championship serves as a timeline marker in the Tour season, locking up Ryder Cup berths and setting the majority of the spots for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Harrington’s win also sets the invite list for the PGA Grand Slam this October. With Tiger out and Harrington winning two Majors, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen gain entry to the four man field along with Masters winner, Trevor Immelman.
The Wyndam Championship is next on the PGA schedule, with the FedEx Playoffs starting the following week at the Barclays. The top 144 players on the FedEx list gain entry to the Playoff with the top-30 after three eventsadvancing to the playoff final at the TourChampionship. Kenny Perry currently tops the list, with Mickelson, Harrington, Kim and Cink rounding out the top-5. Sergio Garcia moved up to 12th from 20th after the PGA and Ben Curtis benefited the most, moving from 66th to 26th with the runner-up finish.
The eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team are in placeas of this week. Captain Azinger will have Mickelson, Cink, Perry and Furyk ashis top-4 with Anthony Kim, JustinLeonard, Ben Curtis and Boo Weekley rounding out the squad. Curtis, Weekley and Kimwill be making Ryder Cup debuts and noAmerican team member hasa .500 record in Ryder Cup play. Mickelson has the bestrecord at 9-12-4. Azinger now hasa few weeks to add the four captain’s picks to complete the team. Thenext four men on the non-qualified list are Steve Stricker, Woody Austin, D.J. Trahan and Hunter Mahan.
Harrington brings home $1.3 million for the win and moves over $4 million on the year and into 4th on the Money List. Tiger is still tops with $5.75 million in just six events with Mickelson, Perry and Singh in the top-5. Sergio cracks the top-10, and creeps over the $3 million mark in total earnings.
While the Major season has come to an end, the Playoffs are just starting and the Tour Championship is still ahead. There is action this week at the Wyndam, check out the preview.