The last major golf tournament of the 2009 season began Thursday, August 13 in Chaska, Minnesota at the Hazeltine National Golf Club. At 7,674 yards it is the longest course on the tour. Ninety-eight of 100 of the top ranked players participated on day one.
Padraig Harrington, the defending champion, won two majors in a row last year. He won the British Open as well as the PGA. He was paired with Tiger Woods and Rich Beem on day one. Harrington lost to Woods at the Firestone, the previous tournament, in an exciting down-to-the-wire match. Working on his short game between tournaments seemed to help Harrington’s game as he finished one behind the leader, Woods. Woods had “his best start in a major in a long time,” according to David Faherty, one of TNT’s commentators.
David Toms and Paul Azinger were paired with Phil Mickelson, a perennial favorite. Phil was back playing the previous week after some time off due to family illnesses. Both his wife and mother have breast cancer but are on the road to recovery. He finished seven strokes behind the leader on day one of the PGA. Michelson struggled with both his short putts and his driving. His interaction with the fans makes him well-liked.
There are several other entertaining players who may or may not be on the leader board, but who are enjoyable to watch. Newcomer Alvaro Quiros shot a 69 which put him 2 shots behind the leader. Quiros is a very long hitter with a fluid swing. This, coupled with his dark, good looks, explains his fan following.
Ian Poulter, a talented golfer who hasn’t achieved his potential yet, looks like a young Rod Stewart. His fashion sense makes him a stand out among the more conservatively dressed players. On opening day Poulter wore blue, plaid pants, and a visor, rather than the more popular baseball hat, which emphasizes his spiked hair. He shot a 72 which put him 5 behind the leader.
There are two young golfers who recently joined the tour. From Japan is 17 year old Ryo Ishikawa. He has played well enough to gain attention but shot a 74 on day one. Rory McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, turned twenty in May and has created a stir among golf fans. He shot 71.
Another fashion mogul and popular player is John Daly. He has his own line of clothes and wore purple, paisley pants on opening day. Daly named the pants “paiseltine” after the paisley pattern and the golf course. Disappointing his many fans, Daly withdrew after shooting a 78 the first day. He attributed his withdrawal to back problems. In the last four months Daly lost 80 pounds and, according to the commentators, is existing on 600 calories a day. Perhaps this accounts for his disappointing play.
Tee placement and pin positions will make the course a different challenge every day. It is always exciting to watch the best players in the world get themselves into and out of difficult situations. Although watching on TV offers the greatest variety of views, I couldn’t help but envy the two fellows who watched the players on hole number 10, from their kayaks. All they needed was a beer and a hot dog.