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Nothing minor in last major
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Forsyth County News
Something for everyone!

That’s what the PGA Championship offered this year. The myriad storylines were compelling enough to enthrall even non-golf fanatics. If the PGA isn’t careful, it’s going to shake its reputation as the poor cousin of the four majors.

Whistling Straits proved an inspired choice of locale. Hard by Lake Michigan outside Sheboygan, Wis., the links course deserves a permanent place in the championship rotation. It offers breathtaking views rivaling those of Pebble Beach. And it provides ample opportunities for the players to break par; witness the winning scores of 11-under.

But it also provides danger at every turn, on every shot. Hundreds of bunkers, thick rough, cliffs, creeks, wind and the Big Lake itself penalize shots poorly executed or conceived. As a result, during the course of Sunday’s final round, at least a dozen players had a shot at winning the tournament. As late as the final hour, a six-man playoff seemed plausible.

One contender seemed intent on turning back the clock. Steve Elkington, 47 years young, ranked 300th in the world and without a tour win since 1999, suddenly found himself on the 16th green, standing over an eagle putt for the tournament lead.

Elkington won his only major 15 years ago. He forever endeared himself to us by defeating the dour Scotsman, Colin Montgomery, in a playoff to win the 1995 PGA at Riviera. Now, with a chance to reclaim the Wanamaker Trophy, he ran his putt just by the hole.

“I hit a real good putt that looked like it went through the hole,” he told Peter Stone. “That was agony, to be honest with you. Painful.”

But not as painful as his next shot. Tied for the lead, Elk took dead aim at the flag on the par-3 17th hole. He was wide by about four feet, but the ball rolled through the green and down the diabolical railroad tie embankment. He bogeyed there, and three-putted 18 for another bogey to end his run.

At least he felt young again. “I don’t think of myself as an old guy,” he told the Australian Associated Press. “I still play good,” he added, channeling Bobby Cox.

The same couldn’t be said for Nick Whatney on Sunday. The 29-year-old cruised through the first three rounds unscathed, 13-under par and three shots clear of the field.

He blew the entire lead on Sunday’s first hole. After his opening double-bogey, he played the next five holes even par. Then came his tee shot on the seventh, the camera click during his backswing, and the foul ball that wound up in Lake Michigan. Whatney wound up shooting a fat 81.

“I knew it would be a challenge out there,” Whatney told Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times. “It didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked.”

No, it turned out just like Dustin Johnson’s final round in this year’s US Open. Johnson also began the final round three shots clear of the field, and buried himself with an 82. Incredibly, Johnson topped that hideous result on Sunday.

After an eventful round of four birdies and three bogeys, Johnson rolled in a birdie putt on the 17th hole to take a one-stroke lead in the tournament. On 18, after going from rough to rough, he needed only to make a five-foot putt to win the tournament. He pulled it.

Then a tournament official pulled out the rule book. It seems that the rough Johnson drove into was actually a sand trap. So, when Johnson laid his club on the ground before his second shot, he incurred a two-stroke penalty.

“It never once crossed my mind that I was in a sand trap,” Johnson said after his debacle. “I guess the only worse thing that could have happened is if I made the putt on the last hole.”

Two did survive into the three-hole playoff: Bubba Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia, and Martin Kaymer, who plays out of Duseldorf, Germany.

The players traded birdies on the first two holes, and both drove into the right rough on the final hole. Playing first, Watson went for the green. The disastrous result left his ball in a creek, and his total one too many.

“You know, I wasn’t on anybody’s radar,” Watson told Larry Dorman of the New York Times. “I just played solid. I just put my head down and tried to play as good of golf as I could.”

Left with his head up was Kaymer, who, at 25 and ranked 13th in the world, is part of the next wave of hot young golfers.

How young is he? As he told Steve DiMeglio of the USA Today, “It’s cool to see my name next to Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and all those guys. It will take me a while to realize what happened.”

Here’s what happened: Martin Kaymer just did something Arnold Palmer never did. He won the PGA Championship.