Tiger not the only one hoping for a breakthrough
AP Sports Writer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – Golf’s past 16 major championships have gone to 16 different players – not one of them named Tiger Woods.
Luke Donald has come up empty too. So have Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker.
Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott were denied in agonizing fashion. Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open in 2011. This year, he missed the cut.
Which player needs to win this week’s PGA Championship the most? Take your pick.
“If I was to pick up a major, I think the popularity, and the fact that I would be a little bit better known would certainly increase,” said Donald, who is ranked No. 1 in the world but is 0-for-35 as a pro in majors. “In terms of preparation, I feel like I’ve tried everything. In the end it just comes down to being able to perform during that week.”
Whether you have 14 major titles like Woods or none like Donald, the PGA Championship is the last chance of the year to win one. That may not add a sense of urgency for everyone, but it does bring some extra drama, especially with so many top players eager for a breakthrough.
Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, and his pursuit of the record 18 professional majors won by Jack Nicklaus has stalled.
“I figure it’s going to take a career. It’s going to take a long time,” Woods said. “Jack didn’t finish his until he was 46, so if you go by that timetable, I’ve got 10 more years. Four more majors is a lot. I’ve got plenty of time.”
Woods won by five strokes at Bay Hill, came from behind to win at the Memorial, and made a late rally to win at Congressional in the AT&T National. So it’s been a good year for him.
Donald, meanwhile, finished tied for fifth at this year’s British Open. That was an encouraging sign after he missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
“Coming off the U.S. Open, I was very disappointed how I kind of handled the situation mentally. I didn’t come in hitting the ball that great, and maybe that added to some of the anxiety,” Donald said.
Donald described the British Open as a bit of a breakthrough.
“There’s always a way to be mentally on top – have that control of how I want to feel come Thursday,” he said.
Westwood has seven top-three finishes in majors, the most of anybody who hasn’t won one since the Masters began in 1934. Now 39, it’s hard to say how many more good chances he’ll have. The same is true for the 45-year-old Stricker, who is also still trying to win a major for the first time.
McIlroy was 22 when he won last year’s U.S. Open, and his potential seemed almost unlimited. His best finish in a major in 2012? Tied for 40th at the Masters.
A victory at Kiawah Island this week would be a sign that his ascent is back on track.
For Scott, this tournament is a chance to bounce back from a nightmarish finish at the British Open, when he gave away a four-shot lead by bogeying the last four holes. What would have been his first major title slipped away in stunning fashion.
Johnson hasn’t won a major either, and his near-miss at the PGA Championship two years ago was also a stomach turner. He missed out on a playoff at Whistling Straits because he grounded his club on a patch of sand to the right of the 18th fairway, unaware that it was part of a bunker.
Johnson won’t have to worry about that this year. There are no official bunkers on the 7,676-yard Ocean Course, although there is plenty of sand. The PGA of America has declared everything “through the green,” meaning all sand will be called “sandy areas” instead of bunkers. Players can ground their clubs and take practice swings.
This is a bit of a home-course advantage for Johnson, who was born in Columbia.
“It’s always fun to play in front of your hometown fans,” he said. “I like the golf course. It sets up well for me. It’s fairly long, the fairways are generous. If you miss the fairways, you get in some trouble, but they’re fairly wide.”
Johnson says there’s no extra pressure because it’s the last major of the year.
Woods, of course, used to say that it couldn’t be a great year without a major. If he wins this week, he would return to No. 1 in the world for the first time since Oct. 31, 2010.
“I think I’ve progressed this year over my last couple years, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve done, being healthy and being able to play and practice properly,” Woods said. “This is the way I can hit a golf ball. This is the way I can play. It’s nice to be able to do the things that I know I can do.”