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Glory’s Last Plot

It is always meet and right when a major championship comes to an Oak.
Oakland Hills. The Monster. Oakmont. The Beast. Oak Hill. Where the U.S. Ryder Cup
team infamously melted down in 1995 and where the U.S. Amateur pitted Sergio García and Matt Kuchar in a memorable 1998 quarterfinal.
Maybe a major championship will one day come to Bandon Dunes on a course de- signed by … Tom Doak. Meanwhile, the designer of choice this week at Oak Hill where the PGA will stage the last major of the year is the late and venerable Donald Ross.
And there is much at stake.
Let’s start with Player of the Year. Masters winner Adam Scott, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Open Championship conqueror Phil Mickelson can lay legitimate claim to the 2013 POY with a victory at Oak Hill. So can world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who has won five times this season, including a victory at the Players, a demi-major, and a dominant showing at Firestone.
Woods, who has gone missing more often than not on the weekends at too many recent majors, will also be looking to excise the monkey on his back that has grown into a 400-ton gorilla now that he hasn’t won a major championship in more than five years.
Notching his 15th major at Oak Hill will make Woods’ entire off-season taste better and it will guarantee his status as a favorite for the 2014 Masters eight months from now.
To that end, on Tuesday of last week Woods showed up on a reconnaissance mission at Oak Hill with his traveling team — caddie Joe LaCava and skier/girlfriend/field researcher Lindsey Vonn.
The PGA of America’s braintrust, the close-cropped, buttoned-down bunch that runs the PGA Championship, used to brand their major, “Glory’s Last Shot.” But despite having what is arguably the strongest field of the four majors, it is, in the minds of certain experts, the least coveted.
The Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship never needed marketing tags.
They are, as Woods might say, what they are.
But a major is still a major.
Woods has won four PGA Championships. Jack Nicklaus, still four career majors ahead of Woods, won five PGAs. Neither Arnold Palmer nor Tom Watson, just to name two luminaries, ever won a PGA, a fact that will always leave a gaping hole in their golf CVs.
Rookie of the Year might be at stake, too. Supernova Jordan Spieth, currently the leading candidate, passed up a lucrative spot in the field at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone in order to be fresh for Oak Hill.
Father of the Year in golf has already, by acclamation, gone to Hunter Mahan. Mahan played in the final group Sunday at both the U.S. Open and the Open Champion- ship. Then he withdrew from the Canadian
Open late last month after 36 holes, despite leading by two shots, to be with his wife in Dallas for the birth of their first child.
Mahan also withdrew from WGC-Bridgestone. But his ball-striking skills and length off the tee place him on a short list of favorites at longish Oak Hill.
Kuchar, ranked No. 6 in the world and the most consistent player on the PGA Tour with seven top-10s in 17 starts, also be- longs on that elite list of favorites along with Woods, Mickelson and Scott.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who braved the elements and the traffic at Kiawah last August, remains lost in space. Back-on-form Brandt Snedeker, who stood in for Mahan in the winner’s circle at the Canadian Open, cannot be ignored.
Majorless Lee Westwood? Color him increasingly desperate even though he insists he isn’t.
Don’t rule out a long shot. If a Rich Beem can outlast the PGA field like he did at Hazeltine in 2002 and Shaun Micheel can do the same —at Oak Hill — in 2003, maybe there’s hope for, say, a surging Hideki Mat- suyama of Japan, who has quietly risen to No. 33 in the Official World Golf Ranking.


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