The question would be absurd to anyone except Jordan Spieth, who could only laugh. He dominated golf headlines this summer after winning the Masters and U.S. Open and then missing out on a playoff at the British Open by one shot.
So, what does it feel like to not win a major?
“It stinks,” Spieth said. “I’ve decided to change golf bags. Put a new golf bag in play.”
“No, it just wore out,” he added. “But that’s what I’m going with.”
The PGA Championship remains somewhat unpredictable. There was an 11-year stretch starting in 1988 in which 10 players won a major for the first time at the PGA. Eight of the last 11 winners are multiple major champions.
So what to expect when the final major of the year at Whistling Straits?
THE AMERICAN SLAM: The bid for a Grand Slam ended at St. Andrews for Spieth, but now he has a chance at the consolation prize: The American Slam. No one has ever won the three American majors in one season. Tiger Woods came close in 2002 when he closed with four straight birdies at Hazeltine and finished one shot behind Rich Beem.
Woods in 2000 and Ben Hogan in 1953 are the only players to win three majors in the same year. That included a British Open for both of them.
REDEMPTION FOR DJ: Dustin Johnson has had at least a share of the lead in four of the 12 rounds at major championships this year, just not on Sunday. He three-putted the final hole at Chambers Bay to finish one behind Spieth at the U.S. Open. He had the 36-hole lead at St. Andrews until a 75-75 finish.
But redemption goes beyond this year. The last time the PGA Championship was at Whistling Straits in 2010, Johnson had a one-shot lead going to the final hole when he grounded his club in sand without realizing it was a bunker. He thought his bogey at least got him into a playoff until the PGA of America pointed out his mistake. Johnson was assessed a two-shot penalty and tied for fifth.
BUNKER MENTALITY: Golf Digest once set out to count all the bunkers at Whistling Straits. The number is said to be just over 1,000, and it can’t really be confirmed because it doesn’t take much to add a few more. Regardless of the number, the bunkers get more attention than the views of Lake Michigan.
PGA of America championship director Kerry Haigh said the same rules will apply — all sand will be considered a bunker, even if fans are standing or walking through parts of them, even if children are building sand castles in them.
Notices will be posted in the locker room and available to players at the start of the round. Perhaps this time, everyone will read the rule. And follow it.
AMERICAN SWEEP: The last time the Americans swept all four majors was in 1982 when Craig Stadler won the Masters, Tom Watson won the U.S. Open and British Open, and Raymond Floyd won the PGA Championship.
They last had this opportunity in 1995 (Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin, John Daly) until Steve Elkington of Australia won the PGA Championship at Riviera.
PLAYOFFS: If the short history at Whistling Straits is any indication, expect the winner to play more than 72 holes. Both times the PGA Championship went to the course off Lake Michigan, it was decided in a three-hole playoff.
Vijay Singh won in 2004 over Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco. Martin Kaymer defeated Bubba Watson in 2010 in the playoff that did not include Johnson.
DON’T FORGET ZACH: Three times in the last nine years, a player won the final two majors of the year. British Open champion Zach Johnson has a chance to join some elite company. Rory McIlroy did it last year. Padraig Harrington did it in 2008. Tiger Woods pulled it off in 2006 (Woods also did it in 2000).
And with Spieth having won the first two majors, a victory by Zach Johnson would make only the third time since 1934 that the four majors were won by only two players.
GLORY’S LAST SHOT: This used to be the moniker for the final major of the year, and it still resonates. The PGA Championship is the last chance to win a major until the Masters next April. The list seems to be getting longer for the best player to have never won a major. The chief candidates would be Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. The perennial favorites to break through are Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
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