With the help of Ol’ Mother Nature, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, stood its ground and provided the field in the 2012 PGA Championship an extremely difficult test. Resting against the sandy beach and shore of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ocean Course used all of its resources to challenge the participants in the last Major of the year. Other than a calm Thursday morning, the wind whipped over the landscape of Kiawah Island and played havoc with every player’s golf ball. No one was immune and I was extremely happy to see the tough conditions.
I arrived to Kiawah on Sunday afternoon and after waiting out a heavy rainstorm, I played and practiced till dark. The course was in immaculate shape and it was evident from the very first hole that ball striking was going to be the key to the week. Tight fairways, shaved areas around the greens, and deep waste bunkers awaited each and every player. I teed off late on Thursday afternoon and the wind was blowing between 15 and 20 mph. As I mentioned earlier, the morning wave played nearly their entire round in 0-5 mph wind and their scores reflected the mild conditions. I hit the ball extremely well and finished the day at one under par (71)…well back of the morning wave leaders. My putter didn’t show up once again and my two three putts in round one left me less than satisfied. I woke up Friday morning expecting the same “mild conditions” that the other wave experienced but the trees and flags at the course indicated a very different animal. Winds in excess of 25 mph greeted my wave of players as we made our way to the course. My goal for the day was simple…no bogeys. I knew this accomplishment would soar my name up the leaderboard and I set out determined to achieve my goal. I battled the wind and tough conditions until the bitter end. 15 straight holes of bogey-free golf were more than ANY other player in the field. An untimely 3-putt ended my streak and another bogey on the following hole derailed a really good round of golf. The average score for Round 2 of the PGA Championship was almost 79 and believe it or not, there were MORE scores in the 90’s than the 60’s!! My score of Even Par (72) certainly wasn’t bad and it climbed me up the leaderboard but as you can imagine, I walked away disappointed thanks again to my putter. However, all was not lost. I was in contention in only my 2nd Major and just a few shots back of the leader. I have always had a knack for playing the tough golf courses well and this past week was no different. Round 3 found me paired with former Masters Champion Trevor Immelman and in a tie for 7th place. I hit the ball well but once again, my putter let me down. After 10 holes, I was a disappointing 3 over par but it wasn’t because of my ball striking. My putting was dismal and it showed in my score. Heavy rain and lightning forced everyone off the course with instructions to return ready to play at 7:30am. 26 holes awaited me on Championship Sunday and I was determined to make up the ground I lost on Saturday. I came out and once again, I hit the ball well but my putter let me down (didn’t I just say that!). I missed only one green during the completion of my 3rd round but unfortunately my cold putter didn’t erase the bogeys from the previous day. A round of 75 plummeted me to a tie for 25th place heading into the Final Round. Extremely frustrated, I walked up to my locker and searched for answers. Over the last five weeks I have worked tirelessly on my putting but for whatever reason, the ball has refused to go into the hole. I reckon that my Odessey putter of nearly 2 years had officially ran out of gas! I took a chance and grabbed the TaylorMade Spider (Prototype) putter that was built for me on Monday and headed to the putting green. To change putters in the middle of a golf tournament is crazy but to change putters before the final round of a Major is INSANE. I figured that since the putts obviously weren’t falling that it couldn’t get any worse. It was worth the gamble.
The final round of the 2012 PGA Championship found me in a pairing with two Major Championship winners…Jim Furyk (winner of the U.S. Open) and Louis Oostevein (winner of the British Open). I hit the ball well for the 4th consecutive round and THANKFULLY I made a couple of putts along the way. It is almost embarrassing to write but after my 20 foot birdie putt fell on the 16th hole, I can honestly say that it was the FIRST PUTT that I made during the ENTIRE TOURNAMENT OVER 12 FEET! Think about that…69 holes before I made a putt of a decent length! I followed that birdie up with another one (a bomb!) on the long and difficult par 3, 17th hole to keep the momentum going. A nice 5 foot par putt on the 18th hole completed my BOGEY-FREE round of 67 and vaulted me up to a tie for 7th place.
There was good news and bad news with my 2nd Major of the year. The good news is that I hit the ball well for four days, battled hard and stood tall against the tough and windy conditions, didn’t make a bogey in the final round of a Major, and finished in tie for 7th place against a very strong field. The bad news is that I fell ONE LOUSY SHOT short of qualifying for the 2013 MASTERS!! Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…yes that was me throwing up! One shot…seriously…one shot! One putt was all it would have taken…one lousy putt and I would have qualified for MY World Series. Oh well. I battled hard and fell short. I will get to Augusta when I get there. Who knows…this week in Greensboro, North Carolina, may be MY week to win a tournament and qualify for Magnolia Lane…The Masters!