Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PGA Championship -- Who is going to win if not Tiger? As usual, I haven’t a clue

HAVEN, WISCONSIN—Yup, that’s where I am right now. Haven is an unincorporated village near Kohler which is somewhere close to Sheboygan which is, I don’t know about 90 miles from Milwaukee, which is 80 miles from Chicago.

You get the idea. At least there’s a radio station up here that carries the Brewers so I could listen to a few innings of Bob Uecker last night while driving in. Did you know they’re having C.C. Sabathia bobble-head night in Milwaukee this weekend? Seriously. He pitched there for what, 15 minutes? (Okay, he did get them into the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, I’ll grant you that).

Anyway, I don’t want to say it has been raining here at beautiful Whistling Straits (they say it’s beautiful but right now I can’t see six feet in front of me when outdoors so it is hard to say) but I think I saw a guy rounding up animals by twos a few minutes ago. Last week they had seven inches of rain here. Today they must have had at least two more. Good luck to the PGA of America keeping the players from firing directly at flags tomorrow and Friday because even if the weather does dry up as predicted the greens are going to be softer than one of John Thompson’s non-conference schedules in the good old days at Georgetown.

(Wow, I’m on a roll today, huh?).

It may have to do with being in the middle-of-nowhere in the middle of a monsoon. It may also have to do with Herb Kohler, who owns Whistling Straits telling me at The Masters when I talked about what a hike it was going to be to get to the golf course every day that, “we’ve got a couple of great places to stay practically on sight. Get in touch with my staff, they’ll take care of you.”

So I did. I got a very nice note back from the first person I wrote to saying, “Oh yes, Mr. Kohler told me all about this. Write to (this person) and she’ll take care of you.” So I did. I got a note back cheerfully listing the media hotels in Milwaukee. Since I’m a little slow to pick up on a blow-off, I wrote back one more time saying I was trying to AVOID the commute from Milwaukee. “Oh yes, the hotels here are lovely,” I was told. “They’re booked. You might try the Sleep Inn in Sheboygan.”

I compromised: I’m in Oshkosh because if I’m going to have to drive an hour and 15 minutes each way each day I’m going to at least get Marriott points out of it—dammit! I DID get lucky though and find a really nice YMCA there just a few minutes from my hotel. You know you’re in Wisconsin when you walk into the local Y and the first sign you see directs you to the ice rink.

The pool was nice (though warm) but the weird thing was no one was very friendly. Aren’t people in Wisconsin supposed to be friendly? When I lived in Indiana for six months years ago it was literally an adjustment for me—New Yorker that I am—to people being as friendly as they were. Not at the Oshkosh YMCA. When I walked out I said to the woman at the front desk, “thanks very much.” Her response was, “yeah.” And she was BETTER than most people in the place.

So, I called my friend David Maraniss, born and bred in Wisconsin, a graduate of UW and someone who lives out here almost half the year. What’s up with that? I asked.

“Oh it’s Oshkosh,” he said. “The people there aren’t friendly.”

“Why not?”

“No idea.”

So, my first mystery of the week. I got completely soaked getting from the parking lot to the media tent—I mean SOAKED—AND I left my phone in the car. At least I THINK I left my phone in the car. I could go back for it but that will kill a good 20 minutes that I don’t have.

As I say to my children, “hardest life ever lived.”

Oh, the golf tournament. Tiger Woods has hired a new swing coach—sort of—a guy named Sean Foley who has worked successfully with Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair. This is clearly a tryout; Woods is going to see if Foley can help him before committing to him but this has been (my guess) in the works for a while. Remember, Tiger didn’t admit he had hired Hank Haney until about a year after he hired him. If he wins this week and thanks Foley in his acceptance speech, I would think Mahan and O’Hair might want to start looking for a new coach.

Now, you might think I’ve lost it writing the words, ‘if he wins this week.’ Certainly based on last week, missing the cut is a better bet than winning. But I don’t think you ever count the great ones out. I still remember Pete Sampras sitting on a chair on court two at Wimbledon in 2002 after losing in the second round while everyone talked about the end of his career.

Ten weeks later he won the U.S. Open.

That was different. Pete was 32, and WAS near the end. Woods’ situation is completely different but I really think he hit rock bottom last week. When things get so bad that you’re laughing at yourself that’s usually when they start to get better. I think Tiger will play a lot better here. Good enough to win? I don’t know, but as I said, I never count the truly great athletes out.

Heck, even A-Rod finally hit his 600th home run.

(There I go again).

Who is going to win if not Tiger? As usual, I haven’t a clue. For the record, I did NOT pick either Graeme McDowell or Louis Oosthuizen at the U.S. Open or The British Open but neither did anyone else. I’d LOVE to see Rory McIlroy win because I like everything about his game and his attitude. Steve Stricker winning in Wisconsin would be almost too good a story to hope for.

Speaking of Stricker—if I’ve told this before forgive me—years ago, in describing his parents to me he said, “they’re the classic Midwesterners, really friendly. Sort of the anti-New Yorkers.”

I need to go talk to him about Oshkosh.


Taha said...


Absolutely true about people in Oshkosh. I've lived in Appleton for two years and we noticed the difference in Oshkosh people right away. Green Bay may have been more convenient place to stay instead of Oshkosh.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Oshkosh does not represent the rest of the state. Generally Wisconsities are a very friendly and genuine people.

John Rivett said...

Hello Jon,

(notice no "Junior")

I live in Port Washington, WI a Milwaukee suburb about 30 miles south of Sheboygan, please don't let these bad experiences ruin your opinion of all of us here in S.E. Wisconsin. I am a big fan of yours and would welcome you anytime. I'm surprised Kohler didn't cough up a room at the American Club, your not exactly Jimmy Olsen from the "Home Shopper".. I hope you can glean at least something positive from your time here.

Steve in Reno said...

And getting back to the topic from the other day, the NY Times is reporting ( that Krzyzewski said of Isiah Thomas being a consultant for the Knicks, "If you're going to coach in college, just coach in college." The article doesn't seem to hint that he's joking, although the quote came "after putting his national team of N.B.A. players through a workout." He also was quoted talking about perceived recruiting advantages and how he wouldn't want to "be perceived to have an advantage over another college coach." The article does not say whether he ever mentions to recruits the three NBA coaches on his staff for the national team. Way to be self-aware, Coach...

Gordon said...


My scorecard says that with pissing of the people of Wisconsin you now have only have 43 or so more to go. And you've taken care of DC. Although your getting soft as this is not quite up the the New Jersey- New Brunswick- Rutgers standard you set previously. But cheer up even the great ones go into a slump.

Would love to to see Steve Stricker win.

If Cory Pavin has any guts he'll leave Eldrick off the Ryder Cup team. Tigers record is horribe, he doesn't care about the team and ohhh yea we won last time in Kentucky without him.

Gunnar said...

I like Ian Poulter and Steve Stricker this week. Hunter Mahan and Ernie Els are tough to keep out of the mix, too.

Some fireworks in the press center with Pavin and Jim Gray, would love to hear more about it.

Mike said...


Heard you on 980 last night talking about the USGA passing on Whistling Straits as a venue for the US Open. Can you explain to us how the USGA and the PGA go about choosing venues for their respective championships?

Anonymous said...

Whistling Straits is now off my "gotta play" list and they should change their logo from the Norse God Blowing wind to a Clown's Mouth.

The R&A, USGA and PGA need to write a Cruel and Unusual clause into the rules.

Dustin Johnson got jobbed today.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what any golf purist says, that was total crap. MLB umpires have nothing on these guys. Heck, the announcers had no idea. David Feherty sounded like he wanted to go on a rampage that would have been a fire-able offense. I wish he would have.

If you can't clearly define a bunker, then there should be leeway.

bisonaudit said...

I can't believe that no one on the commentary team seemed to know what was going on. It was the #1 item on the pre tournament media briefing. It happened to Allenby last time. Their fancy computer graphic even showed the ball in a bunker.

I thought it was pretty obvious watching on TV that he was at least very near the edge of a bunker. It was the first thought I had when he missed so far right. "I wonder if there are bunkers up there?"

Personaly I don't care for the big bombers being able to hit it 20 yards off line with total disregard for the consequences. Often in the gallery areas the get a better lie than if they'd have missed the fairway by 2 yards.

I like all the bunkers in crazy places. The farther you hit it off line the bigger the penalty should be. There are no trees and the gallery eliminates the rough so the bunkers strikes me as a novel yet effective solution.