Compiled by PHILIP REID
Glory's last shot: USPGA goes from strength to strength
THE question is often asked as to which of the four Majors is the most prized and, conversely, which of them is the weakest. In the past, the USPGA was so often the poor relation that, for a time, there were even strong arguments that The Players championship – the unofficial fifth Major – was in a way even more prestigious in the eyes of the players.
Not so any more, it must be said. The PGA of America has done a mighty fine job in remodelling what is known in marketing speak as ‘Glory’s Last Shot’, in that it is the final Major of the season and, more often than not, nowadays features the strongest field in terms of the number of players from the top 100 of the official world rankings.
If the British Open is the oldest of all the Majors and the US Open, of the American ones, has the richest history, whilst the US Masters – the relative new kid on the block – has earned a special place in the sport as the only one which returns year-in and year-out to the same course (Augusta National), what the USPGA has done to add muscle to its championship is to ensure it has the strongest and most international field of them all and that it is played on very strong golf courses.
What’s more, the USPGA is the only all-professional field of the four Majors.
Up to 1957, the PGA was played as a matchplay championship but, it can be argued, it has grown in status since it joined the British Open, US Open and US Masters as a strokeplay tournament which it did in 1958 when Dow Finsterwald won for the first time under the new format.
The field for this week’s championship at Kiawah Island looks set to break records in terms of its depth: currently, all 108 of the top players off the official world rankings are in the field for the Ocean course.
The record was set in 2002 and equalled in 2011 when 98 of the top-100 participated.
The strength and depth of its field and the move to stronger courses in recent years has allowed the PGA to consolidate its position as a worthy Major, and enabled it to shoulder off the unwanted attentions of the Players.
In the eyes of many, it may be ranked as the fourth of the four Majors, but try telling that to the likes of YE Yang, Martin Kaymer and Keegan Bradley who, in the past three years, secured maiden Major titles in the championship.
Or to Arnold Palmer. In the course of his great career, the PGA remained the only Major which he failed to win and, so, deprived him of a career Grand Slam.
Rough justice: Mark ball position before identifying it
Q A ball is half buried in the rough. Having announced his intention in advance to his opponent, marker or fellow-competitor, the player, for the purpose of identifying the ball, touches the ball and rotates it. By so doing he identifies the ball as his ball. Is there a penalty?
A Yes, the player incurs a one-stroke penalty for touching the ball other than as provided for in the Rules (Rule 18-2a). Under Rules 12-2 and 20-1, a ball may be lifted (or touched and rotated) for identification purposes after its position has been marked. If the player had marked the position of the ball before rotating it, there would have been no penalty, assuming the rotating did not result in the ball being cleaned beyond the extent necessary to identify it.
Short route to success: Shrewd Stockton honoured
RORY McIlroy’s short game guru Dave Stockton will receive the 2012 PGA Distinguished Services Award at a special ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, tomorrow evening. Stockton – the son of a golf professional – followed his father into the sport and captured the 1970 and 1976 USPGA championships where he relied on his superb putting and short game skills to become a multiple Major champion.
In recent years, Stockton – who served as US Ryder Cup captain when the match was staged at Kiawah Island in 1991 – has earned a reputation as one of the foremost short game teachers in the sport. The award also recognises Stockton’s contribution to numerous charities, including events benefiting cancer research, funding college scholarships and supporting drives to improve literacy.