The PGA Championship: Slam For Sunday

Posted by: mike August 2nd, 2017

by Steve Trivett

 

Jordan Spieth set the world of professional golf on its ear - and rightfully so - by winning the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

But outside of the way he won – and that was indeed spectacular – all the now 24-year-old Texan really did was set the table for the 2017 PGA Championship that will start in 11 days at Quail Hollow.

For should he win there, he’ll do something that only five other players have ever done – he’ll complete the career professional Grand Slam.

But he’s not the only active player just one major championship away from that achievement.

Do the names Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy ring a bell?

Let’s think about that for a minute.

Only Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have a career professional Grand Slam to their credit.

Twelve other players – including Spieth, Mickelson and McIlroy  – have three of the four legs, and three of those players, Jim Barnes, Tommy Armour and Walter Hagen, all come with a bit of an asterisk, because their careers were already on the downhill side when the first Masters was played in 1934.PGA Championship

Here’s the fun part.

While Spieth, Mickelson and McIlroy are missing just one major championship jewel, they are all missing a different one.

Spieth needs a PGA Championship.

McIlroy need a Masters title.

Mickelson is still without a U.S. Open crown – despite finishing second in the tournament six times over his career.

But none of them are alone when it comes time to name some of the greatest players of all time who are also missing just one of those three events from having completed their own career Grand Slam.

Neither Arnold Palmer nor Tom Watson won a PGA Championship.

Sam Snead never won a U.S. Open.

Lee Trevino never won at Augusta National – and he’ll tell you to this day it was his own fault because at the height of his playing prowess he boycotted the Masters for some reasons that were personal and others that had to with his left-to-right and low trajectory ball flight.

And all of that brings us to this:

The PGA was more important the years when Palmer and Watson were looking for victories.

The Open was a bigger deal when Snead and Mickelson were in the hunt.

And no printer’s ink or television verbiage was wasted on those occasions when Trevino did show up at Augusta National.

And that’s going to happen again when Spieth tees it up at the PGA, McIlroy plays the Masters and Mickelson, now in his mid-40s, makes a sundown run at the U.S. Open title he has let slip through his fingers more than a couple of times.

Yes, the major championships are the four most important weeks of the year in professional golf.

Especially now at the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship where there is going to be a player in the field that is that already a special win away from achieving an even more special career Grand Slam.

Spieth is probably going to be the favorite at Quail Hollow, but if you apply logic instead of emotion, he doesn’t deserve that.

Instead, that role should go to McIlroy, who has won there twice during the playing of the Wells Fargo Championship.

McIlroy will be a pick of many at the Masters, but he’s really never gotten over – he’s been in the top five just once - the meltdown he had at the 2011 Masters when he went to the back nine on Sunday with the title securely in his grasp.

And Phil?

The U.S. Open will return to Shinnecock Hills in 2018 – the same venue where Lefty had a second-place finish in 2004 behind winner Retief Goosen. There on Sunday, the South African made every putt he stood over on sun-baked greens while Mickelson couldn’t buy a putt from outside the leather.

Interesting?

Very interesting.

Fun?

You bet.

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Steve is a long time veteran golf writer. He's already on the far side of 70 - which explains how Steve Trivett started covering the PGA Tour in 1963. He's an award-winning journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, The late great Rocky Mountain News and The Villages Daily Sun. He once carried a single-digit handicap, but his ball striking finally reached the depth of his putting prowess.