CHASKA, Minn. -- There is something to be said about being inside the ropes at a PGA Tour event, but it is another thing entirely when it is a major championship.
There is a certain vibe that only comes with a major. You can hear it in the crowds, you feel it in the air, you can taste it in the concessions. Everything, even in a down economy is bigger, better, faster, stronger.
Take, for example, the cheers. When Tiger does something, even on the other end of the golf course, not only does the crowd on other holes crane to see what is going on, the players do as well. There is also the independent cheering that goes on, the "Atta boy Phil..." or "Go get'em, Paddy..." or the "Thanks for coming, Y.E...." that you hear only at a major.
And "Thanks for coming Y.E...."? It's a major, and if Y.E. is eligible, then he better be thanking the fine citizens of this metropolis for having him here.
At a major, especially one that is staged in a city where there is no other golf event, you get patrons and volunteers and kids and families and so on and so on that are all so into it you can't help but get caught up in it as well.
Even the ropes at a major championship are special. The ones that go on for miles and miles and all around Hazeltine National Golf Club are not just nylon braided ropes; they are green and white nylon braided ropes that have so much power and energy in them that they can stop thousands of stampeding fans from moving out of the deep rough and into the perfectly mown fairway, just by being strung from one metal post to the next.
Even the end of a major championship is big. A victor is crowned and he leaves town with his mammoth trophy and his oversized cardboard check (not really) and he does not come back to your town to defend his title, instead the event moves to somewhere else and that is where he will defend his title. And in the case of the PGA of America, that place in 2010 would be Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis., where they will again put up the ropes and begin the process all over again.
Tiger time: Here is what we know about Tiger Woods; at the PGA Championship he may have played his best worst round of all-time. This will be especially true if at the end of the day on Sunday, Tiger is hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy, for as impressive as Tiger's first-round, 5-under par bogey-free 67 was, his two birdie, one bogey 1-under par 71 was even better because Saturday's round was what kept Woods in the game and shows players what they already know but wouldn't dare to admit. Tiger is better than the rest of them and it's not because he hits the shots they can't or makes the putts they don't, it's because he knows how to turn rounds of 72 into 69 or as he did in round three, turn a round of 75 into 71.
What makes this seemingly ho-hum round of 71 so noteworthy is that this is the first time he is contending in a major championship in a decade on a healthy knee. And while before he was already bandaging swing flaws used to compensate for an injury, this time it was just him, the golf ball and the golf course so when things went a bit off kilter, Tiger reacted on instinct. The instinct that has already logged 14 major championships, the instinct that has already produced miles of highlight material, the instinct that has already posted 70 PGA Tour victories.
There have been those who have taken and wait-and-see attitude towards the future of golf with a healthy Tiger Woods. Would he, could he be the same?
No, I say, he'll be even better than before and this Sunday begins what could be the latest, greatest chapter in the history of professional golf and Tiger Woods.
Rear-view mirror: Those trailing Tiger Woods include South Korea's Y.E. Yang and defending champion Padraig Harrington. Yang thrust himself into the mix with a 5-under par 67 that featured six birdies and a bogey. Harrington got a break from Woods while being paired with Ross Fisher on Saturday. Paddy responded with a 3-under par 69 that mixed in four birdies with only one bogey.
Both rounds demonstrate that there are birdies to be had at Hazeltine but there is also trouble lurking on every hole. Both of these players could have let their respective rounds get away from them, but each of them, respectively, held it together and got it into the house.
But Championship Sunday is another day altogether.
Wanna what? The trophy that is presented to the PGA Champion each year is called the Wanamaker Trophy. It is named after Rodman Wanamaker, who was instrumental in putting together a lunch in 1916 that evolved into the beginning of the PGA of America.
Wanamaker also donated money and prizes for early PGA Championships including the trophy that bears his name.
If you notice, at the awards ceremony immediately following the final round, the PGA Champion usually holds the Wanamaker Trophy aloft by the handles. If it looks like this is no easy task, you're right. The Wanamaker Trophy weighs a stout 27 pounds. For the record, it is also 28 inches high, 10 ½ inches around in diameter and 27 inches across from handle to handle.
And, the winner is.... Until someone takes it from him or something happens to him, Tiger Woods is still the man to beat. His worst round of the week was still under par and with it, he still has the lead.
No player has ever won a major in five consecutive years. As much as Tiger likes winning, he knows that his legacy and golf history will far outlast his presence on this Tour or this planet.
Major Number 15 comes late Sunday afternoon and then the talk turns to can Tiger not only run the table and complete the Modern Grand Slam, but can he pass Jack Nicklaus by next year's PGA Championship, which just so happens to be in the same state where he got his professional start; Wisconsin at Whistling Straits. Now wouldn't that be a capper to a big piece of history?