by Aaron "1-iron" Garry - 08/16/2005
Phil Mickelson needed a Monday finish, but nevertheless captured his second major championship victory with the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Mickelson held off Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn with a dynamite flop shot at 18 that sealed the victory. With his second major under his belt, "1-iron" believes Mickelson just became much more then a legitimate threat to Tiger Woods and his run at Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors. Nobody would disagree that we've treated Phil as the "happy-go-lucky" guy up until this point, even though he put his mark on Augusta in 2004, and continues to dominate in lesser Tour events. However, "1-iron" firmly believes that Phil can begin to enjoy the types of successes we've seen from Tiger in year's past. He's got Carte Blanche to air it out at the majors next year with absolutely no pressure heaped on him, and that's a dangerous specimen for Mickelson.
A quick check of the "1-iron's" picks for the PGA Championship -
1. Vijay Singh: T10
2. Michael Campbell: T6
3. Tiger Woods: T4
4. Phil Mickelson: Winner.
5. Chris Dimarco: Cut. Ugh.
6. Tim Clark: T17
"1-iron" has gotten hundreds of emails from readers this week thanking him for the picks. Apparently any combination of the Top 6 was a winner in the office pool style games that were conducted last week.
A couple side notes:
"1-iron" enjoyed watching this unfold, however the Monday morning finish was the most hideous event to be heaped onto the golf world since the President's Cup was initiated. How many times did I need to see that the "Guiding Light would not be seen" on CBS while the Championship concluded? Does CBS think it enjoyed a ratings boon from the Male 18-49 crowd at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning? Guess again. Someone at the PGA Championship needs to be re-assigned to selling lemonade instead of crafting tee times.
Tiger Woods. I would've handed him his 19th major on a silver platter and just skipped the eight in between if he had backed his way into this one. The guy is the most competitive guy on the face of the earth right now. Bar none. That display on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Baltusrol was proof positive. We will never see anything like this again.
Thomas Bjorn. Another friend of this column. While the rest of the world will be consoling TB, the "1-iron" is applauding his toughness. Two months ago in a similar situation, 95 wouldn't have been out of the question on Sunday for TB. Who can forget the Smurfit European Open when TB took an 4 shot lead into the final round, only to fire 86 with an 11 at the Par 4 17th hole? Monday, TB held tough and sealed a T2 with a final round 72.
Rules Violations. A story brewed on Friday after Tiger Woods made the cut that Steve Williams, Woods' long-time caddy, may have stepped on his player's golf ball while searching for it following a wayward drive by Woods on the 18th hole. If Williams indeed did that, it's a violation of USGA Rule 18-2a, and Woods should've been penalized one shot. "1-iron" believes that if the videotape proves inconclusive, then it's a moot discussion. Move on.
That rules question does bring up an incident from "1-iron's" own golfing past. Rule 16-1 states that any other damage to the putting green must not be repaired if it might assist the player in his subsequent play of the hole. In the 1992 Kansas City Junior Match Play at Loch Lloyd Country Club, "1-iron" was zipping through his first round victory when he was called in to mediate a potential rules violation that had occurred within his playing group. Apparently Competitor A had tapped down a spike mark in his line and was being called out on it by Competitor B. After a heated discussion ensued, and a rules official arrived on the scene like a frantic EMT - the decision was made that Competitor A had in fact tapped down said spike mark. In stroke play, this would be a one-shot penalty, but in match play, Competitor A was about to endure a much more dangerous fate - the dreaded loss of hole. Competitor A went on to lose the match, and probably still drowns his misery through Guinness Draught.
The point of this story is two-fold. First, rules violations can always be subject to expert gamesmanship, as Competitor B provided in the above example. Second, we need to continue to respect and uphold the rules that the USGA sets forth, even though they may delve into minutiae. Tiger Woods has to play by them, and so does the "1-iron" - they are the ties that bind.
18 shots -- WGC-NEC Invitational Odds and Picks
6 Who Will:
1. Tiger Woods (2.5/1): Four wins, three seconds, two thirds, with 14 Top 25's - not to mention he cannot be happy about what happened at Baltusrol this past week. He's won three times at Firestone, and he figures to have the tires firmly on the road this weekend.
2. Retief Goosen (14/1): The most consistent of the bunch right now. He's playing well week in-week out. Sixth on the money list, and winner of the International. Seven top 10's and coming off a T6 at the PGA. The only impediment will be the Grey Goose this week.
3. Kenneth Ferrie (400/1): Huh? It's pronounced Furr-ee, not Fairy. Sits 23rd on the European Order of Merit, and is looking for a big coming out party this week in Akron. Won the Smurfit European Open when Thomas Bjorn couldn't hit it in the ocean from the beach. Sweet validation would be a burst onto the national stage.
4. Lee Westwood (60/1): The baby faced Englishman with the syrupy drawl should be fine this week at Firestone. Coming off a T17 at Baltusrol, Westy's got four Top 25's in America this year, and three Top 10's in Europe. He's due for a win.
5. Phil Mickelson (11/1): Philly-Mick barrels into Akron as the 2005 PGA Champion. My only question with Lefty this week is his durability after an emotionally draining week at Baltusrol. Barring unforeseen withdrawals, he'll be ok, but I don't see an outright win this week. Four wins this year - you don't bet against that.
6. Vijay Singh (7/1): The Big Fijian had a shot at Baltusrol, but faltered when the Guiding Light went off the air. Maybe it was the abbreviated Monday finish, but Singh put himself in position to win the PGA, only to be a non-factor on Monday. This week, he described some players on tour as "fakes" - a veiled reference towards Mickelson in the eyes of many. However, Phil holds the Wanamaker, and Vijay is left holding that mallet putter. He'll be in contention this week, but bet the marbles on Woods to clean up.
6 Who Can:
7. Jim Furyk (25/1): "Gumby's" had a nice year, and made some nice money. But by his standards, he's been a colossal disappointment in the four majors. He does have nine Top 10's and won the Western, plus his last two finishes at Firestone have been T22 in 2004, and T6 in 2003. He's a nice bet this week.
8. David Toms (25/1): Mr. Middle Finger returns to Ohio for the first time since the incident with his bird at the Memorial back in May. He's playing pretty well, and figures to be in the mix after his T10 at Baltusrol. He's cleaned up one of the WGC events already this year with his win at the Accenture Match Play, and he's got nine Top 10's on the resume.
9. Graeme McDowell (150/1): I gotta say I'm a bit disappointed with Graeme this year. He has two Top 10's at Pebble and Bay Hill against good fields, but his performance in the majors has not been what we thought it would be. He tied for 11th at the British but missed the cut at the PGA, so it's anyone's guess this week. Nonetheless, he's a fixture on the world stage now, and will be treated as such by the "1-iron" T43 last year at Firestone.
10. Peter Lonard (125/1): I had a couple units on him at Baltusrol and he choked like bird in heat. "PL" has the tools, as he showed with his win at MCI, but it's time to see it on a more consistent basis. "1-iron" thinks he's a great sleeper this week. T32 in 2004 at Firestone, and 37th in 2003.
11. Stewart Cink (40/1): The defending champion at Firestone, Cink has quietly played pretty well this year, but hasn't found the winner circle yet. His T28 at Baltusrol included a Saturday 66, so we like that. However, this field is too stellar, and if the big guy decides to mentally check out this week - he doesn't have a prayer.
12. Angel Cabrera (50/1): T4 last year at Firestone, and comes in needing to make a splash for 2005 in the US. Currently sits fourth on the European Tour Order of Merit, and won the BMW Championship back in May. He's streaky, but should be good to go in Akron.
6 Who Won't:
13. Darren Clarke (40/1): The 2003 Champion returns to make a run at the 2005 edition. He's had a nice year, but had an ugly, ugly outing at Baltusrol firing 73-77 to miss the cut by a mile. I can't in good conscious pick him this week.
14. Chris Dimarco (50/1): Another guy I refuse to select in the "6 Who Will" based on his performance at Baltusrol. Not only that, but his performance at Castle Pines the week prior was equally as brutal. Two weeks - Two missed cuts for "The Claw." We all love him, but Mick, Singh, Woods, Garcia, etc don't miss cuts at majors. He's got a ways to go.
15. Ben Crane (100/1): What a year for this great guy. He's one of the nicest on Tour and "1-iron" commends him for fighting through the adversity this year. It's odd that no announcer has made mention of his farmer's tan this year however. All they seem to focus on is the slow play. Oh well. Won at Milwaukee, and finished T2 at the Booz Allen. This is the best field he's seen all year, so we'll see if he steps it up.
16. Brent Geiberger (400/1): Poor guy is having a rough go of it lately. The 2004 Greater Greensboro Open Champ is playing with a couple minor injuries that are affecting him in a major way. He hasn't seen the weekend in eight weeks (seven MC's and a WD), sadly it's probably going to be nine in a row this week.
17. David Howell (150/1): The 2004 European Ryder Cupper has a nice pedigree over in Europe, but he has not been playing well as of late. He sits eighth on the Euro Order of Merit, but his last two starts have been Missed Cuts at Pinehurst and Baltusrol. Firestone's field isn't going to let up much.
18. Stephen Dodd (350/1): No.r 10 on the Euro Order of Merit and two-time winner this year (Volvo China Open, and Nissan Irish Open), Dodd has been very competitive this year.....aside from his two starts against a field with the quality of the one Firestone is about to provide. He missed the cut at St. Andrews and Baltusrol and doesn't appear to be a threat this week.
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All odds are approximate. Check Bodog for updated odds.