Today is the start of PGA Championship week, golf’s final major of the 2011 season. I am in Atlanta looking forward to my busiest PGA week of the year. I arrived Sunday afternoon and set up camp at the Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) and the Grand Hyatt Atlanta Buckhead. Upon arriving yesterday afternoon, I attending a PGA Officer’s briefing which includes a variety of topics such as ticket sales, course conditions, media points, status of the field of players and a review of our schedules for the week.
Last night I attended a Chairperson Appreciation Reception at the AAC. Today we have a junior golf clinic. Tonight we attend the world premier of the movie Seven Days in Utopia, starring Robert Duvall. The movie is about a guy who decides to become a PGA teaching professional and many of our members were used on the set to authenticate the golf in the movie.
Tuesday will find me attending a Folds of Honor Foundation Board meeting early in the morning. I am privileged to serve on this Board with Maj. Dan Rooney, the founder of Patriot Golf Day which raises money for families of those wounded or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Later tomorrow, I will address 80 women on Get Golf Ready, the program that I have served as national spokesman for. Following that, I attend a Government Relations Luncheon hosted by the Governor of Georgia.
Later Tuesday afternoon we meet with representatives of the Canadian PGA. We follow that with a reception at the AAC hosted by the Georgia PGA. Finally, Tuesday night I will be at the PGA Champions Dinner, which features many of the past winners of this tournament including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, John Daly, Shaun Micheel, Mark Brooks, David Toms, Rich Beem, Doug Ford, Padraig Harrington, Paul Azinger, Y.E. Yang and Martin Kaymer, the defending champion.
My Wednesday starts at 6:30 a.m. with a Rules Committee meeting. Later in the morning I will attend a Board of Directors meeting and then go to AAC for our State of the Association address. I am having lunch with Amy Wilson, wife of two-time winner Mark. Amy is the president of the PGA Tour Wives and we are discussing the cook book that the wives are putting together, which will be rolled out in 2013 when I am President of the PGA.
Wednesday night is the Distinguished Service Award ceremony. This year’s recipient will be Larry Nelson, a three time major champion winning the U.S. Open and two PGA Championships. Nelson also racked up an impressive 9-3-1 Ryder Cup record. He hails from Atlanta and has done many benevolent things for charities around the country. Nelson was a Viet Nam veteran who did not play golf until he was 21 years of age. He broke 100 the first time he played and several months later he broke par!
Thursday morning finds me doing a Sirius/XM Radio interview at 10:30 a.m. at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Round One of the PGA begins. That afternoon I attend the PGA Finance Committee meeting, of which I am co-chairman. Late in the day, I do a stint at 4:30 p.m. with PGA.com and its live streaming web coverage of the PGA Championship.
We cap off the day with a private CBS dinner, which is attended by PGA Officers and the CBS talent. This is a stag affair, no ties allowed and plenty of great stories from the likes of Sean McManus, President of CBS Sports; Jim Nantz, Sir Nick Faldo, Vern Lundquist, Ian Baker-Finch, Gary McCord, Peter Kostis and Lance Barrow, Executive Producer for CBS Sports.
Friday starts at 6:00 a.m. as we head to the Country Club of the South and our PepsiCo Golf Outing. This takes up most of the day and concludes with a reception at the Atlanta Athletic Club that evening.
Saturday is the one day that I will actually have a chance to watch some golf at the course. My only daytime commitment is an interview at 11:00 a.m. for the PGA Championship Highlights video. I will pick a group to follow after that and walk 18 holes as an Observer in the group. Saturday night I attend a dinner for the International Broadcasters.
Sunday will start at 9 a.m. with a rehearsal for the awards ceremony on the 18th green. My big assignment for the week will be announcing the final five groups to the First Tee from 1:50-2:40 p.m. This sounds easy enough, but I will be wired for sound by CBS. This means that I will have ear pieces and will be receiving instructions on when to announce the players to the tee by the CBS control truck. Trust me, the thought of leaving a legacy never to be forgotten with some blooper always crosses your mind when announcing in front of a live TV audience.
Early Sunday evening, I will be positioned on the 18th green for the Wanamaker Trophy presentation. In the past three years, I have literally been a few feet away from some of the greatest history in the PGA Championship as the drama concluded on the final hole.
In 2008, I announced the groups coming into the 18th green at Oakland Hills. I sat quietly about 25 feet from Harrington when he made the winning putt to defeat Sergio Garcia. In 2009, I witnessed Yang’s tremendous 2nd shot at Hazeltine as he dealt Tiger Woods the first significant dent in his armor. Last year, I painfully watched Dustin Johnson receive the ruling that knocked him out of a playoff with Kaymer and Bubba Watson after he grounded his club in a bunker on the final hole. Then I saw the excitement of Germany’s Kaymer holing the winning putt.
My best memory from last year was shaking hands with Watson after he just lost the PGA and hearing him say, “Sure, I wanted to win. But, I am on the Ryder Cup team now.”
Who knows what this week will bring. Americans have not won a major championship since Phil grabbed the green jacket at Augusta in 2010. Winless in the last six majors are the Yanks. This is the first time in a decade and a half that the top four players in the world are non-Americans.
The PGA Championship has produced some surprise American winners such as Micheel, Beem and Brooks. An unheralded Bob May took Tiger to the wire at Valhalla. But, in the past seven years it has been the likes of Woods (2), Mickelson, Harrington, Singh, Kaymer and Yang who have won. No doubt that Yang was a shocker in 2009.
Predicting the winner of a PGA Tour event in 2011 has been an exercise in futility. Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar would be popular American winners. Bubba could win this week. Jason Day, of Australia, is the year’s best player in the majors. Phil and Tiger have become sentimental long shots. The PGA Championship has been labeled “Glory’s Last Shot” and that seems pretty fitting in 2011. I look forward to taking you to Atlanta this week.