Commentary

Danger lurks everywhere Sunday at PGA

Originally Published: August 13, 2011
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- You look at the PGA Championship leaderboard and doze off. You're making a mistake, my friend.

Ten actual reasons to watch the final round. And no, I am not on retainer by Jim Nantz.

1--18 Holes of Hell
Notice how almost nobody walks off the Atlanta Athletic Club Highland Course with a smile on his face? Instead, they usually look like they need a fresh application of Preparation H.

Somehow the PGA Championship became the U.S. Open, and the U.S. Open became the Lifetime Network.

The AAC has John Cena muscles and makes grown tour pros weep. Nothing wrong with that. Compared to this place, the U.S. Open's Congressional Country Club was the par-3 course at Augusta National.

[+] EnlargeAdam Scott
David Cannon/Getty ImagesThe heat at Atlanta Athletic Club overpowers you and has golfers completely sweating through their shirts ... before they even get off the driving range.

Phil Mickelson hates what course doctor Rees Jones did to this place. It's as penal as Leavenworth. And the four closing holes are going to produce lots of pond splashes, hyperventilation, crooked numbers and late lead changes.

2 -- It's Equator Hot
According to the TELVENT, the official meteorology service of the PGA Championship, Sunday's weather outlook calls for a high of 90 degrees with 8-15-mph winds from the west/northwest.

This is a lie. There is no wind. The branches of the Georgia pines occasionally move, but it isn't because of any cooling breezes. It's because the Atlanta Athletic Club has installed state-of-the-art electronic tree shakers to give the appearance of wind.

And that 90 degrees? That's true -- between 2-3 a.m. The rest of time it feels like you're on the face of the sun.

What do you care. You're going to being sitting on your couch sipping something with ice cubes in it. So revel in the players' discomfort. Count all the sweat-stained, squishy swamp butts. Pick a winner in the wet golf-shirt contest.

It was so hot on Saturday that Phil Mickelson's PR guy said Lefty wasn't talking because he was overheated. And this was after Mickelson spent nearly 30 minutes in the air-conditioned scorer's trailer.

Ian Poulter tweeted: "Think it was warm out there? You bet your ass it was hot. 1 of the hottest ever."

And with the sun, humidity (40 percent chance of thunderstorms before noon) and final-round majors pressure, it will be even hotter on Sunday. Good for you, bad for them.

3 -- Made In America
If you want to wrap yourself in the flag, the top five players and seven of the top 12 on the leaderboard are Americans.

The list: T-1 Brendan Steele, Jason Dufner, 3. Keegan Bradley, 4. Scott Verplank and 5. Steve Stricker, T-6 D.A. Points and T-8 David Toms.

The USA is in a teensy, weensy bit of a majors victories slump. No American has won a Claret Jug, U.S. Open trophy, Wannamaker Trophy or green jacket since Mickelson won the Masters in 2010.

[+] EnlargeScott Verplank
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesAs if playing in the heat and the pressure of major championship, American Scott Verplank also has to deal with Diabetes.

Lurking four strokes out of the lead and poised to ruin a USA storyline is Denmark's Anders Hansen. Hansen has never won a PGA Tour event. He's never finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event. He's missed the cut in five of eight PGA Championships.

Which means he'll win by 4 strokes.

4 -- Lee Westwood
Westwood, also at 1-under, is the current BPTNHWAM -- Best Player To Never Have Won A Major. I root for him because he might be the best golf quote in the business.

Here's an exchange after Saturday's round, when Westy hockey sticked it around on the AAC greens:

Question: "Is there anything different you can try?"

Westwood: "I don't know. Different religion, maybe?"

5 -- No Tiger Woods Coverage
I get lots of e-mails criticizing me for writing often about Tiger Woods. I write about Woods for two reasons: (1) I'm fascinated by facial hair; (2) HE'S FREAKIN' TIGER WOODS!

But Woods didn't make the cut, which means that PGA Championship Sunday is a Tiger-Free Zone. I'm going to miss watching his soon-to-be-former caddie Bryon Bell raking all those bunkers.

6 -- Luke Donald
Donald and majors don't usually get along. But it might be nice if the world's No. 1-ranked player won one of these things pretty soon.

He was 3-under par before he played the par-4, 484-yard 18th hole Saturday. A double bogey later, he had tumbled down the leaderboard (see what I mean about those final four holes?).

Donald, now at 1-under-par, still has an outside chance. But he's going to need to go low and have some of the leaders get asphyxiated by the Sunday pressure. That's not a big stretch.

7 -- The 18th Hole
The par-4 18th is ranked the fifth hardest hole on the course. But on Sunday I guarantee you it will play as the toughest and be the leading cause of golf disasters.

So far it's played anywhere from 491 yards to 484. It has water. It has bunkers. It has TV booths with Nantz and Sir Nick. It has huge spectator stands.

There will be no cheapie birdies on 18. You either hit the shot or you do what Jim Furyk did after dunking it twice in the water: drop to the ground and hold your head in your hands in anguish.

8 -- Phones
The PGA of America allows fans to bring their cell phones onto the course. It's all part of its fan-friendly initiative.

The only rules: You have to make calls in designated areas and you can't use your cell phone camera.

Here's the only problem with those two rules: Nobody is paying attention to them.

Caddies and players have rabbit ears. They can hear nose hairs brush against each other. So just imagine how they feel about the greenside phone calls or the camera clicks of those iPhones.

Again, this is terrible news for the playing professional, but wonderful news for you, the PGA Championship viewer. The more drama, the better.

9 -- Storylines
Scott Verplank is 47 and has diabetes. If he wins (he's two shots off the lead), he'd become the oldest majors winner since Julius Boros won the 1968 PGA Championship.

Adam Scott is five strokes out of first. If he wins, he gets his first major. And his caddie, Steve Williams, ties his former employer in majors victories. Here's guessing he won't say a peep afterward.

10 -- Co-leaders Jason Dufner and Brendan Steele
The word on Dufner is that he has a wonderful sense of humor, but, said a friend, you need dental tools to expose it. But then the former Auburn walk-on came through big time after Saturday's round.

For example, he said that he often gets mistaken for Rory McIlroy (if Rors was a few pounds heavier). And that his goal each year is to make enough money in nine months on tour so he can watch college football the other three months.

I like him already.

This is Steele's first major. What sort of R.E.M. sleep do you think the PGA Tour rookie will get Saturday night?

But if he wins, he'll become only the second player in 90 years to win a major in his first try. Ask Ben Curtis, who did it at the 2003 British Open, how that changed his life.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

MORE COMMENTARY

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter