by Jeff Skinner
Y E Yang’s surprise win over Tiger Woods in The PGA Championship has brought the major season to a dramatic close. Tiger goes winless in the majors for the first time since 2004 and brings down the curtain on what some have nicknamed the “Heartbreak Slam.” There is discussion that this year was a boring, disappointing year for the majors. I must be in the minority because I think it was a great year for the majors. It is true that all the winners were unexpected and there were three first time major winners in this year’s crop. Normally, I like my major winners to have a strong pedigree and be marquee players. All of us have been waiting for years for a true, consistent rival to Mr. Woods. Each year passes and we continue our wait. Not to take anything away from the four champions, this year we were treated to great stories at the majors and those stories centered on the non-winners.
At the Masters we witnessed a head to head battle by Phil and Tiger on Sunday. It wasn’t the final pairing, but for most of the day they were the stars. The made a charge up the leader board as they exchanged birdies and stole the show from Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry. For sixteen holes it appeared as though they would sneak in and steal the green jacket. When they ran out of tricks on the last few holes Perry and Cabrera provided the sparks. Perry blew a two stroke lead with two holes to play and landed in a playoff with Cabrera and Chad Campbell. Cabrera was able to hang on for the win and earn his second major. Afterward, Kenny Perry’s interview made him an instant hero among sports fans everywhere. We got to see an athlete speak openly and honestly at a time when he was emotionally crushed. Many athletes would have hidden from the cameras, but Perry showed character and integrity.
The US Open will be remembered more for the weather than it will for its champion, Lucas Glover, and that is fine with him. The week at Bethpage was marred by torrential rain and a wet Monday finish. Glover, an unassuming and humble golfer from South Carolina was the last man standing at Bethpage as the biggest names in the game couldn’t keep up with him. Tiger’s week was done in by a balky putter. David Duval rose from the ashes to challenge for the lead until the seventeenth hole on Monday. The biggest story in golf at the time was the return of Phil Mickelson. The week for Phil was an emotional one and he was the crowd favorite by far. Unfortunately, his charge was cut short with bogeys on fifteen and seventeen on Monday. Mickelson and Duval and Ricky Barnes all tied for second behind the soft-spoken, low key Glover. His first major win brought him something he never seeks, the spotlight. The world was introduced to Glover, a man of little flash, but much substance.
When Tom Watson worked his links golf magic at Turnberry this year he not only captivated the golf world, he was the biggest story in sports. As he threatened to become the oldest major champion in history, he spoke of the spirit of Turnberry. All during the tournament he spoke of the spirituality and the serenity of Turnberry. Watson and his four days at the Open Championship were magical. He was the biggest story of the year but when he yipped his clinching putt on eighteen the miracle at The Open ended. Stewart Cink had never held the lead at The Open until Watson’s last hole. Cink’s win in the playoff was anticlimactic, but it brought him his first major. Afterward both he and Watson realized the magnitude of their accomplishments. It was a terrific Open.
The PGA was supposed to be a coronation for Tiger Woods and his fifteenth major win, just another rung on the ladder to nineteen majors. The best laid plans…as they say. Tiger had his A-game for two days and it appeared that it was a mere formality that he would win. He was 14 for 14 when leading after 54 holes and he was playing great. On Sunday his B minus game showed up and Y E Yang played the role of spoiler. That’s why they play the game. You never know what can happen on the golf course. Yang showed grit and composure and his first major win will resonate in Asia for years.
So there you have it, all great tournaments with interesting, compelling stories: Cabrera and Perry, Glover and Phil, Cink and Watson, Yang and Woods. This was no boring season of majors. This was no “Heartbreak Slam.” This was great golf with even better stories. Every tournament doesn’t have to be about a superstar. There are plenty of great golfers and wonderful stories out there and we were treated to bunch of them in this major season.