Home Sports Temperatures rising as US PGA Championship action begins in Tulsa

Temperatures rising as US PGA Championship action begins in Tulsa

Temperatures rising as US PGA Championship action begins in Tulsa

IF you think the majors come thick and fast these days, with the next three grand slam shoot-outs shoehorned into a nine-week spell, then spare a thought for the global campaigners of the swinging 60s.

When Jack Nicklaus won his first US PGA Championship in Dallas back in 1963, he achieved it just seven days after finishing third in The Open at Lytham.

“I went from a 55-degree temperature to a 110-degree temperature,” he recalled of that fraught transatlantic turnaround. “I couldn’t pick the trophy up. I had to take a towel. I mean you could’ve cooked your breakfast on the trophy sitting out there it was so hot.”

Things have certainly been heating up in the world of golf recently too. In fact, the mere mention of Greg Norman and his contentious Saudi-backed renegade series raises the temperatures to such an extent, it just about sparks an emergency UN Climate Change Conference.

It’s difficult to avoid the various elephants plonked in the clubhouse – Saudi Arabia, Norman, the absence of defending champion Phil Mickelson – but the 104th staging of the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills will offer some respite from the general tumult as we all look forward to an event of lustre, history and prestige. This week is all about golf that genuinely matters, not some ruthless cash-grab that would make the Great Train Robbery look civilised.

There’s still plenty of dosh involved, of course. The winner will walk away with over $2m. The paying punters on site have some eye-opening dollar signs to mull over too. It’s $18 for a can of Michelob Ultra beer. “$18 for a freakin’ beer?,” spluttered the 2017 US PGA champion Justin Thomas. Even Greg Norman would gasp at the price.

A month or so on from his victory at The Masters, Scottie Scheffler, the world No1, has breezed into Tulsa with the kind of confident strut that should’ve been accompanied by a rendition of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. At least, that’s how Brooks Koepka imagined Scheffler would appear. “When you’re No.1 in the world, you’ve kind of got that swagger,” suggested the double US PGA champion Koepka, who first reach the top of the global pecking order in 2018.

As for Scheffler himself? Well, the calm, collected 25-year-old is not the gallus type. Asked if he felt like he had more stature now that he has joined the pantheon of major winners, Scheffler gave a nonchalant shrug. “No, Tiger’s here so nobody really remembers that I’m here,” he said with a smile of the all-consuming presence of a certain Mr Woods.

Having teed-off 2022 seeking a first PGA Tour win, Scheffler is now hunting down a fifth victory of an extraordinary campaign. For all his successes, it continues to be business as usual for the canny New Jersey man.

“I don’t feel any different,” he added of his lofty status. “I don’t get any extra shots this week. You know, it’s nice to have the ranking (as No 1), it’s a tremendous honour but at the end of the day when I show up at a tournament, I don’t have any advantages over the field. We all start at even par.”

Scheffler will be one of many to watch over the next four days. Plenty of eyes too are being fixed on the resurgent Jordan Spieth, who is aiming to complete the career grand slam. It’s a distinguished, exclusive club occupied only by Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen but Spieth looks in fine fettle as he makes his latest bid for membership.

The 28-year-old Texan missed the cut at The Masters for the first time in nine appearances at one of his happy hunting grounds. “It was the worst feeling as a golfer that I can remember,” he said of that chastening experience.

The following week, though, he soothed those particular wounds with a thrilling win in the RBC Heritage before being pipped to the AT&T Byron Nelson title in his own backyard last weekend. In his sixth attempt to complete that career grand slam, Spieth has arrived with plenty of purpose.

After the historic heroics of Mickelson a year ago, when he became the game’s oldest major champion at the age of 50 and life for Lefty seemed simpler, this US PGA has lots to live up to. Major championships, though, tend to rise to the occasion.


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