It’s Saturday morning on the east coast of the USA. In the Atlanta suburbs, a major championship is taking shape in a most peculiar way. Gents who have played well all year, have not done so this week. Say so long to Martin Kaymer, Jason Day, Bo Van Pelt and Cameron Tringale; they won’t play this weekend. Fellows who have struggle a bit during the first two-thirds of the season, are suddenly being rewarded for their perseverance-say Hello to Jim Furyk, John Senden, Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank. All four are in the top five after 36 holes.
The press tent is a revealing place. Competitors might tell you that the PGA Tour is not just three or four, attention-worthy golfers who compete at the top of the leader board, week in and week out:
JASON DUFNER: I would say to them that there’s a lot of good guys out here. That’s one thing that I’ve learned, this is my sixth year out here, there’s tons and tons of guys that can play golf out here. The networks and the media maybe focus on bigger names for a reason. That’s who people want to see. People want to see Tiger Woods, people want to see Phil Mickelson. But there’s other guys that can really, really play golf out here and that are really good that you’ve never heard of. I think — and you’ve seen a lot of first-time winners out here this year, so that’s another factor that kind of supports that. I just think it’s very, very competitive out here. I don’t think the average golf fan realizes how competitive it is to be on the PGA TOUR, keep your card, win tournaments. It’s just not an easy thing, and for guys that you’ve never heard of to do it, that shows you how deep the fields are and how deep the events can be.
Another might let on that certain times of year might as well be coded into their DNA:
KEEGAN BRADLEY: You know, I’ve put some thought to the fact that I’m from New England and I play — I never played in the winter, and I always play my best golf in late summer, early fall. I did it last year on the Nationwide Tour.
Or that the PGA Championship can feel like a mini-tour event:
Bradley, again: You know, I made the turn, and I played the front, which was my back, last, and I’m near the lead, and there’s nobody out there because I’m on the wrong side. I mean, it felt like a Hooters Tour event. It was great.
And you might even learn a bit about golf course architecture, if you listen closely enough.
Phil Mickelson: There’s no options to play the holes different ways. It’s pretty obvious you are going to play it this way, so it doesn’t take experience to know that. You just have to execute. And there’s some guys out there executing and making some birdies, and you can do that out here.
With seasoned competitors (Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia) within sight of the lead, no doubt we’ll see some vertical movement today. Par 5s are playing like 4s, 4s are playing like 5s, so who’s to say exactly who will do what today? Be patient, sign up for the duration and watch the 2011 PGA Championship reveal its plot structure.