Golf Monthly's American intern Mike Smith recalls his experiences watching the USPGA Championship, and what it means to American sports fans
The USPGA Championship will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the first (and still the only) professional golf tournament that I have attended. I was lucky enough to witness parts of the 2009 PGA Championship held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, and it was an experience that I will never forget.
First off, let me talk about what the USPGA Championship means to the American sporting scene. It is the final major tournament of the summer, which to some represents a melancholic but exciting end to the golf season, and to others it’s just another sign that golf will be shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter all weekend.
Honestly, the summer is a very boring time for American sports fans. The only major sport that continues throughout the summer is baseball, which features a monotonous 162-game MLB season. By the time that the middle of August rolls around, I often have written off the MLB altogether when my team, the Minnesota Twins, are already out of playoff contention. However, I certainly have many fantastic experiences watching baseball throughout the summer from sunny Minneapolis, following my Twins on a run to the playoffs.
My experience at the 2009 PGA Championship was amazing. I was just young enough to secure free youth passes into the grounds, so I went with hometown buddies on Thursday and on Sunday.
I recall that this was the tournament that YE Yang’s fateful hybrid on the 18th hole seemingly sent Tiger Woods career off-track. We went early on Sunday, and got seats right behind the 9th green, which was situated right next to the 18th green, so I got an excellent view of that shot. I will always remember when Yang hit that 210-yard hybrid, someone in the gallery screamed, “get in the bunker!”
Obviously, the ball did the opposite, as it landed 10-feet from the pin, securing Yang’s victory. I could tangibly feel that I was witnessing history as that shot landed on the green, it was an experience that I will never forget.
Everyone wanted Tiger to win. If it seems like the public pays more attention to golf in the UK when Tiger is in contention, that correlation is probably multiplied by 10 in America. The TV ratings, news coverage and public discord drastically changes when he is in contention to win. So, as someone who wants to see golf coverage grow, I really hope that Tiger can at least get back into form at Valhalla, and make our Ryder Cup team. It would be good for golf, and would add another exciting storyline come September.
The PGA Championship represents the end to a dry summer of American sports, with one final major golf tournament to enjoy before we head into the fall. This year should be extra exciting, as golf fans around the world prepare for the Ryder Cup, however most Americans are much more anxious for the start of American football. The college football season starts at the end of August (go Badgers) and the NFL season starts on 4 September (go Pack go).
But I, for one, am very excited for this tournament, leading up to what should be an incredible Ryder Cup.