The PGA Championship is Stricker, Wilson's last shot at major in 2012
I suppose if you were going to rank majors, I'd probably put that probably fourth on the list just because ... one, because of its positioning; it's the last one. Two, it does have a different setup feel to it. The PGA of America (isn't) usually trying to create the hardest test possible. In that way it feels a little bit more like a regular Tour event. Obviously a great field, and certainly shouldn't take any shine away from anyone who's won a PGA Championship. – Luke Donald, the world's No. 1 player
Such is life when you're the final major of the golf season – overlooked, underrated, unappreciated.
Over the years the PGA Championship has been knocked for producing relatively uninspiring champions like Wayne Grady, Steve Elkington, Mark Brooks, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel but over the last decade Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods (twice), Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have won it.
And, Harrington's victory in 2008 has started the trend of 16 straight different champions.
If the PGA used to be criticized for its parity and first-time champions, now it falls right in line with the "Big Three."
"It was something that I would love to win," qualified Donald, who happens to be without a major. "I'll be trying my hardest."
Unappreciated as it may be, it is still a major. And, two of Wisconsin's best are coming in under the radar. Perhaps The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina and some combination of Mark Wilson and Steve Stricker will be a perfect match.
Wilson and Stricker began the championship season considered as contenders for The Masters following early season victories. By June, only Stricker seemed like he was playing well enough contend at the U.S. Open. By July, neither were really in the conversation for the British Open.
So what has changed in August?
Stricker looked sharp last week when he finished one shot out of playoff at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to tie for second, perhaps signaling a renewed confidence in his putting stroke. Though he had never seen The Ocean Course prior to his arrival this week, Stricker's game travels when he's playing well – and it seems like he is.
Unfortunately for Wilson, not much has changed with his game of late as he tied for 45th last week after missing the cut at the British Open.
Perhaps the magic of PGA Championship's past that sprinkled Keegan Bradley, Y.E. Yang, David Toms and Davis Love III will find its way onto Wilson's clubs.
"I've played it one time in 2008 down there on vacation. I think I played from tees up and it was still 7,000 yards," he said with a laugh. "It was a very good test with low winds. Everyone is telling me it's very difficult but the PGA of America is very fair though so I don't think we'll see crazy pin placements or tees all the way back on every hole. They'll have a nice variety of holes. It's going to be a good test for the final major."
It's also one of the duo's final opportunities to impress Love, the United States Ryder Cup captain for September's matches against Europe at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.
The second place finish last week moved Stricker up to 10th on the Team USA points list, where the top eight qualify automatically. Love then has four captain's picks, one of which would assuredly be Stricker if he were to not qualify automatically. The veteran has appeared in the last two Ryder Cups and has played on four Presidents Cup teams.
Wilson on the other hand, needs to make an impression to earn Love's consideration as he enters the PGA 23rd on the points list. His third place at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February proved he could take on Europe's best head-to-head, but he does need to turn things around quickly before the captain's picks press conference on Sept. 4.
"Maybe my back's up against the wall, so it'll help," said Wilson, who lives near Medinah in Elmhurst, Ill. "The Americans have played so well. If you look at the list we've got two major champions in Bubba (Watson) and Webb (Simpson) and many multiple winners like the Hunter Mahan's and Zach Johnson's. All the Americans have made it tough to make that team, which is great, which is good for us. Playing in Chicago, and I'll probably never have a chance the rest of my life to play within 20 miles of my house to represent my country. I'm not adding any pressure to it because really what I've always dreamed of is winning golf tournaments, so if I take care of that the Ryder Cup is just icing on the cake."
While the PGA Championship may not rate as the "favorite" of all majors for many touring pro's, this one will hardly be overlooked by Stricker and Wilson.
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