Originally created 08/11/05

Tiger-less predictions aren't very realistic

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - First, a disclaimer.

None of the predictions that follow are anything this golf observer truly believes. This exercise in alternative thinking is intended for entertainment purposes only. Please, no wagering.

What I actually believe is that in this space on Monday morning will be yet another commentary on the ramifications of Tiger Woods' 11th major victory and third of 2005. His reestablished dominance of the sport will be exhaustively rehashed over the next eight months until the majors season refreshes itself in April at Augusta National Golf Club.

However ... and here's where the fictional thinking begins ... it is possible that Woods could be tripped up by a case of food poisoning or a misstep in some rough-shrouded gopher hole that could open the door for someone outside of the Big One to win the PGA Championship that begins today at Baltusrol Country Club.

So, in the unlikely event that Woods does not post the lowest score by Sunday evening (that score, by the way, will be 15-under par), here's a list of outcomes that might fill the void. For those who prefer their journalism in the form of lists, these are presented in descending order from the least absurd to the most outrageous.

1. Vijay Singh. The closest thing Woods has to competition this year can repeat by putting reasonably well on these large and relatively flat greens. The best golfer ever over the age of 40 still has at least two more major victories in him - and he doesn't care whether you like that or not.

2. Sergio Garcia. The greatest player younger than Tiger can take his name off the majorless short list on a course that should suit him well.

The Spaniard can also end a European drought at the PGA Championship that extends back 75 years to Bobby Jones' Grand Slam season when Tommy Armour, a native Scot, took advantage of Jones' amateur status by winning the pros-only match-play event.

3. Kenny Perry. If the golf gods had any heart, this would be the champion. Perry is too good not to have a major victory to his credit and he's one of the most genuinely decent and unpretentious golfers in the world. He also leads the field in the combination of driving distance and accuracy, which should bode well here.

4. Retief Goosen. Four PGA winners in the past 10 years have also won The International - including Singh and Rich Beem back-to-back in 1998 and 2002 respectively. With a game built for majors, Goosen would easily fit that fraternity.

5. Sean O'Hair. If Disney had any say, the Wanamaker Trophy would be the glass slipper on a true Cinderella season. The rookie O'Hair is fast becoming the finest young American force on tour and the back story of his overbearing father and his sweatshop adolescent existence is made for a Hollywood script.

6. Justin Leonard. Personally, let's hope this doesn't happen because Leonard is what Perry isn't. But Leonard could have won two of the past three PGAs and he's got his groove back, if you will.

7. Colin Montgomerie. How can you not root for the pouty Scot who resurfaced as a factor at St. Andrews in July? He deserves a major and his accuracy will give him a chance at Baltusrol despite his sore hand. His putter is another story.

8. Charles Howell. The only way to remove the dreaded "underachiever" label from his name is to win something instead of coming close like he did again last week at The International. He's never missed a cut in a PGA - something he can no longer say about the other majors - but he's also never been in the thick of contention on Sunday either.

9. Phil Mickelson. Who am I kidding? Old Phil has no chance. That window is closed.

10. John Daly. This is the dream scenario. Daly, playing decently of late, replicates his 1991 PGA magic and with his victory vaults him onto Jack Nicklaus' Presidents Cup team.

End of dream. Deep down inside everyone knows that this is Tiger's year and he'll win to honor his ailing father with a oh-so-close-to-Grand Slam finish.

Nobody else has the total package to instill such confidence - the length to conquer 650-yard par 5s, the strength to cope with the lush rough, the touch to get up-and-down from anywhere around the greens and the clutch putting to close the deal.

Of course, the last time Woods was this close to a sure thing for a seasonal triple, the PGA coughed up Rich Beem.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

Champions list

Here is a look at the past 10 PGA Championship winners:

2004Vijay SinghWhistling StraitsKohler, Wis.

2003Shaun MicheelOak Hill Country ClubRochester, N.Y.

2002Rich BeemHazeltine National G.C.Chaska, Minn.

2001David TomsAtlanta Athletic ClubAtlanta

2000Tiger WoodsValhallaLouisville, Ky.

1999Tiger WoodsMedinah Country ClubMedinah, Ill.

1998Vijay SinghSahaleeRedmond, Wash.

1997Davis Love IIIWinged FootMamaroneck, N.Y.

1996Mark BrooksValhalla G.C.Louisville, Ky.

1995Steve ElkingtonRiviera C.C.Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Source: www.pgatour.com


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