My top 10 majors of the past 10 years
This week's PGA Championship is the second major I haven't attended since joining the Golf World staff in 1995. The other was the 2000 U.S. Open, which I missed because of the birth of my first child, a tournament Tiger Woods won by 15 strokes. When I later told Woods about my absence, he shot me a funny look, then suggested a series of Irish twins before my best days were behind me.Majors are like kids in that they all take on different personalities. All are special in their own way, yet some ultimately turn out better than others. If Sunday drama, sexy story lines, quality of play, historical connotations, tournament atmosphere and Monday-morning buzz count for anything, here are my nominees for the 10 best majors of the past 10 years.
Rich Beem's improbable victory capped a week full of electricity, be it via late-afternoon thunderstorms or the positive energy emitted by Hazeltine National's massive galleries. Woods' late rally made it interesting, but this time, a guy who had no business winning went out and did just that. Three strokes behind at the start of the day, Beem mixed early aggression and late caution to play a stellar final round.
The macabre movie on this menu, its gruesome ending will always disguise the notion that this was the fairest and most fascinating bloodbath of the current era. As three of the game's best players faltered on the 72nd hole, forfeiting a victory claimed by Geoff Ogilvy, the USGA's sadistic-but-not-silly scenario had, for once, reared its pretty head. After overcooked setups at Shinnecock and Pinehurst, Winged Foot was served well-done.
A vastly underrated affair won by Jose Maria Olazabal, who edged Greg Norman in a tense-but-friendly duel. It would prove to be Norman's last hurrah, in a sense, another of those tough losses that defined his career, but it also was one of the few times in the past decade that Augusta National played firm and fast. From premium conditions came an ultraworthy champion.
Sergio Garcia's debutante brawl with Woods looked like the start of a delightful rivalry. Still, this false alarm featured plenty of late-Sunday suspense, with Garcia's escape from behind a tree and jaunt up Medinah's 16th fairway becoming a seminal moment. A major with all the trimmings, it ended Tiger's 28-month drought and ignited a run of seven big titles in 11 starts.
Less a tournament than a Hall of Fame induction, it lands on this list because it was only the greatest performance in golf history. I didn't make it to Pebble Beach, but no one else needed to bother besides Woods, who shattered the U.S. Open scoring record despite a third-round triple-bogey. More than any other of his remarkable victories, this triumph created the competitive separation and psychological advantages Tiger still enjoys today.
From the John Daly leaderboard sighting Thursday to the Euro-thriller climax Sunday, rare was the dull moment last month at Carnoustie. A different and interesting cast of characters featured a nice mix of star power and a tragic Cinderella (Andres Romero). After an overdose of bogeys in the year's first two majors, the '07 British provided a welcome respite.
A big-name scuffle with all the ingredients that make this golf's best event. Mark O'Meara's birdie at the buzzer beat Fred Couples and David Duval, capping a mesmerizing stretch of drama lengthier than you'll find in any other sport. Perfect weekend weather didn't hurt. Neither did a brisk Thursday-Friday breeze that weeded out all the choppers.
Even if Payne Stewart hadn't died tragically four months later, this one would rate highly. Play by all contenders throughout the back nine Sunday was exceptional. Stewart holed the winner at 18 to beat Phil Mickelson, but Woods and Vijay Singh lurked for most of a drizzly afternoon. Terrific crowds, a smart course setup -- and the house we rented that week was great, too.
Woods vs. Bob May on the day I officially decided Tiger came from another planet. To call it David & Goliath would be an understatement; May is two feet shorter than Dave ever was. The final holes of regulation and three-hole playoff were outrageous fun, which is why people forget Woods played the first two days with Jack Nicklaus. Laugh at Valhalla -- I know I do -- but it has hosted two good PGAs.
The reason you become a golf writer. Lefty's dazzling stretch run trumped Ernie Els and ended a decade of hard-core Philstration in a 2½-hour fireworks display at the little green ballpark. The joy on Phil's face had a kid-at-Christmas quality, while a devastated Els suffered the first haymaker in a season from which he has yet to recover. Winners and losers are rarely so perilously defined. Thank God we stopped having babies the previous April. John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.
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89TH PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Southern Hills CC, Tulsa, Okla.
Yardage/Par: 7,131 yards; par 70
2007 champion: Tiger Woods
• PGA Championship leaderboard
Round 4 coverage
• Recap: Woods challenged, but wins by two
• Harig: Woods does what it takes to win
• Photo gallery: Tiger Woods, round by round
• Notebook: Austin makes Presidents Cup team
• Sobel: Round 4 blog
Round 3 coverage
• Recap: Tiger leads by three
• Harig: Woods' round was perfectly boring
• Notebook: Woods, Ames set for rematch
• McDaniel: Woods corrects swing flaw
• Sobel: Round 3 blog
• Round 3 photo gallery
• Harig: Garcia has himself to blame for DQ
Round 2 coverage
• Recap: Tiger leads Verplank by two
• Harig: Woods finishes on the record
• Notebook: Wild Daly shoots 73
• Harig: Austin gets into contention
• Round 2 photo gallery
• Sobel: Round 2 blog
• Sobel: PGA ranking, 1-20
• PGA Championship experts' predictions
• SportsNation: Your pick?
• Harig: Garcia still searching for first major
• Hawkins: My top 10 majors since '97
• Strege: Kim has come a long way
• Shackelford: Too close for comfort
• Seven things about Southern Hills
• Harig: Woods focused on final major
• Harig: PGA changes on the horizon?
• Fact or Fiction: Tiger's last shot
• Harig: Cink searches for redemption
• Alternate Shot: Previewing the PGA
• Wojciechowski: Beware of the Tiger
• Harig: Caddies can make all the difference
• Round 4 highlights
• Tiger Woods post-victory news conference
• Round 1 interviews
• Round 1 analysis
• Tiger Woods press conference
• Sobel: Tiger will contend
• Sobel: Cink fits the mold