Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 PGA Championship

When I arrived at Valhalla on Sunday night I told the audience of PGA 
Championship Committee Chairs that this week's PGA would be the greatest week of professional golf in 2014 and nothing has happened to defuse that point.

This week the PGA of America established a new PGA Championship ticket sales record. We expect 45,000 spectators each day from Thursday through Sunday when the tournament takes place. Valhalla, which was renovated in 2011, is in perfect condition. It's a big championship venue and many are saying that it is the best presentation of a major in recent years. 

Tuesday night was the annual Champions Dinner hosted by defending champ, Jason Dufner and his wife, Amanda. Many are saying that it was the best Champions Dinner in years because of Dufner's speech and the humbleness that he showed throughout the evening. He grew up in modest surroundings. His dad was an assistant manager of a grocery store.

"My grandfather played golf and belonged to a country club. I loved playing with him when I was a kid because the course was nice and I could ride in a golf cart," recalled Dufner. "My dad didn't have a lot of money and when we played together it was always at a beat down 9-hole course where I had to carry my clubs."

Dufner continued, "When I was younger I always liked playing with my grandfather better because of the course and the cart. But, now if I had one round of golf left to play it would be with my dad (now deceased) on that beat down 9-hole course."

Dufner is battling a neck injury and if he does play well enough to make the Ryder Cup team on points this week, he will shut it down through theFedEx Cup playoffs. The most notable injury of the week belongs to Tiger Woods.

In the most heralded practice round entrance of all-time, Woods showed up at Valhalla shortly after Noon on Wednesday. The world had been waiting for word on whether or not he would be in the field. The Golf Channel televised nearly every minute of the 2 p.m. round which Woods was joined by Steve Stricker, Davis Love III and Harris English. 

Around 12:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy exited the clubhouse and headed to his Mercedes courtesy vehicle. There were 25-30 reporters and photographers standing near Rory's parking spot. The media herd was guarding Tiger's spot in the past champions parking lot. McIlroy was carrying the Claret Jug, the hoist from the Open Championship, and not one reporter or photographer acknowledged this special moment. Talk about the Number One player in the world flying under 
the radar......

At the same time Tom Watson was starting his Ryder Cup press conference. During that time he announced Stricker as the third Vice Captain to join his Ryder Cup staff. Stricker is suffering from a hip ailment and it was a smart move by Watson to name a contemporary vice captain to join Andy North and Raymond Floyd.

On Thursday morning,  Matt Kuchar who has a guaranteed spot on the Ryder Cup team withdrew from the competition due to a back injury. This further raises questions about the U.S. Ryder Cup team which has many health issues. The Europeans, on the other hand, are in top form with McIlroy, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia playing as well as anybody in the world.

Another great storyline to this PGA is Kenny Perry playing in what could be the final major of his career in his home state of Kentucky. It was my privilege to offer Kenny the special exemption from the PGA back in May. I had the chance to play here at Valhalla with Kenny back in June and we had a great time. He won the Champions Tour event last week in Minnesota and comes here as a sentimental favorite. 

Finally, on Wednesday night the PGA of America presented President Bill Clinton with our Distinguished Service Award. It was a special night to honor a man who has made golf a major part of his life. the Clinton Foundation has raised $88 billion dollars for people worldwide. 

Clinton has resurrected the Humana Challenge, the former Bob Hope Classic, and his impact with humanitarian deeds through golf is incredible. What a thrill it was for me to present him with the DSA. 

Lots of drama and many intriguing plots here at Valhalla.

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