The 88th PGA Championship is scheduled to tee off on August 17, 2006 at the Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 Course, outside of Chicago, Illinois. The PGA Championship is known as ‘Glory’s Last Shot’ because it is the last of the four majors to be played every year. Phil Mickelson, winner of the 2005 PGA Championship, is looking to defend his title and to add to the three major wins he currently has. Mickelson is hoping that PGA will stand for ‘Phil Gets Another’ major victory this year. The PGA Championship was last held at the Medinah Country Club back in 1999. In the 1999 tournament at Medinah, Tiger Woods
was crowned the champion. Tiger, coming off his recent major victory at the British Open in July, is hoping to win back-to-back major tournaments. Tiger hopes that PGA will stand for ‘Passing Greatness Again’, because a win will move him past Walter Hagen and into solo second place behind Jack Nicklaus for total major wins. Tiger Woods and Walter Hagen are currently tied with eleven major victories each. Jack Nicklaus holds the most major championship titles with a total of eighteen.
The Medinah golf course has undergone some changes since the PGA Championship was last played there in 1999. At the ’99 tournament, Tiger narrowly edged Sergio Garcia to win by one stroke. Since then, the golf course has been lengthened to 7,561 yards. This will set a record for being the longest golf course ever used for a major championship. In addition to lengthening the course, 300 trees were removed, which will eliminate some of the blind shots that existed in 1999. Significant changes were made to the 17th and 18th holes, which could add some excitement down the stretch of the tournament. On the 17th hole, the tee was moved back and the green was moved closer to a pond. This could lead to some approach shots getting wet on number 17. As for the 18th hole, the green has been elevated, which will make the approach shot much more difficult. Coming down the stretch, accuracy will be the key to victory.
In addition to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, several other contenders also have a good chance to win the PGA Championship. Sergio Garcia, who finished second to Tiger at Medinah in 1999, is considered by many to be the best player never to win a major. Sergio, who is ranked ninth in the world, has the talent to win a major and has performed well on this golf course in the past. However, Sergio has struggled in the final rounds of past major championships, most recently at the British Open in July. He will need to overcome that if he plans to be in contention on Sunday afternoon at the PGA Championship.
Chris DiMarco is another player who has not won a major, but has the talent to get it done. DiMarco, unlike Garcia, has played his best golf when it has mattered most. DiMarco has dueled against Tiger Woods in two major tournaments and given him a run for his money. At the 2005 Masters, DiMarco was clutch down the stretch, pushing Tiger to the limit before eventually losing in a playoff. Most recently, at the British Open, DiMarco played a heroic back nine on Sunday, but again finished second to Tiger Woods. DiMarco has also proven that he can make putts under pressure. At the 2005 Presidents Cup, DiMarco rolled in a dramatic fifteen-foot putt to clinch the victory for the United States.
Previous major winners Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, and Jim Furyk are always contenders and should not be counted out. In addition, there is always the possibility of an underdog emerging, just as Rich Beem did in 2002 and Shaun Micheel did in 2003 to win PGA Championships. The beauty of golf is that anything can happen and sometimes does. A relative unknown can play the best golf of his life and walk away with a victory. As always, at this last major of the year, players will be shooting for their last chance at glory. I hope that there is some drama in store for us at Medinah. For more information on this year’s PGA Championship, you can go to www.pga.com/pgachampionship/2006/.