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A cool towel will be as valuable to the players this week as a hot putter. (Photo: Getty Images)
A cool towel will be as valuable to the players this week as a hot putter. (Photo: Getty Images)

Time to find out who wants to grab Glory's Last Shot

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We know it's going to be hot -- crazy hot -- the next four days when the world's best golfers battle it out for the famed Wanamaker Trophy. We also know Southern Hills will prove a formidable test. After that, it's anybody's guess who will be the last man standing at the 89th PGA Championship.

TULSA -- Enough with the heat jokes.

We've heard them all. Even the one about your shadow not following you outside.

Yes, it's 110 degrees in the shade at Southern Hills. And the only breezes swirling on this property are inside buildings. Courtesy of air conditioners.

Glory's Last Shot -- the 89th PGA Championship -- is, once again, a survival test. Think 7,131 yards of narrow doglegs, tough greens and in a huge microwavable bowl. Think a couple cases of water -- per person -- to keep folks hydrated this week.

You're expecting cool? Right. PGAs held at Southern Hills in 1970 (avg. 100.3) and 1982 (97.0) and the U.S. Open held there in 1958 (97.6) hold the first, fourth and fifth spots, respectively, on the hottest-majors-on-record list.

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This week, the season's final major will play out in a heat wave that's descended in the middle of the country. Triple digits. Before you add any index. And, yes, it will be survival of not just the best ball-striker, scrambler and putter, but also of the fittest.

What not to expect? Wind sweeping down the plains. Or rain. Or OU Coach Bob Stoops. Or another train wreck at the 18th green. That green has been balanced since the 72nd hole debacle of the 2001 U.S. Open.

Nor can you look for Tiger to take a four-shot lead into the tournament. Doesn't work that way. But, yes, that was the number CBS' Jim Nantz threw out Monday, saying Tiger has a four-shot lead before anyone tees it up.

Just consider that, well, more than a little poetic license and move on.

So what can you expect?

* People talking Tiger. He hasn't won a major yet this year and he doesn't want to go 0-fer. He had two almosts at the the Masters and U.S. Open (T2 both places), was T12 at the Open Championship and comes in here after coming from behind to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by eight shots. But . . . rumor has it the course doesn't set up well for his run at a 13th major. He finished T12 here in 2001, but that hasn't stopped the gloom and doom. Tiger? He just smiled.

* The buzz over four first-time major champs for the second time in four years. It happened in 2003 (Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel) and we're primed for another run in 2007. We're three-for-three so far with Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington, so . . . the suspects to finish it out are Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Steve Stricker and Scott Verplank. To name a few.

* Then again, any of the previous three winners could make this major No. 2.

* Jim Furyk. He would have been right there with Tiger in the form charts if not for nursing a cranky back. Hurt it after winning in Canada, but still looks primed for a second major.

* Phil Mickelson. He's been out of sight and nearly out of mind with a wrist injury. But if that wedge of his gets working . . . well, think Baltusrol.

* The Presidents Cup. The deadline is here. In 72 holes. The top 10 players from both America and International lists make their respective teams and the captains each choose two additional players Monday morning. Still lots of points to be had to make that top 10. (Cink and Lucas Glover are 9-10 on the U.S. list; Trevor Immelman and Andres Romero on the International). Even more out there for those hoping to be a captain's choice.

* Which brings us to Mike Weir. The former Masters champ is fighting his way into that International top 10 so Gary Player doesn't have to choose him. But even if it would come down to that? We can't see Player not taking Weir to play in his home country. That would be the biggest mistake since the Houston Texans passed on Vince Young.

* FedExCup points. There's still two weeks until the playoffs, which means nearly half of the 144 spots in the first playoff event -- The Barclays -- are still up for grabs. Play well here and a player could nail down a spot.

* Vijay Singh. Remember him? He's another hot-weather player and is right there with Tiger as far as conditioning. His best major finish? A T-13 at the Masters. But don't count the former Masters and PGA champ out.

" Cink. He's done his best to exorcise the memory of that 18-inch putt he missed here in 2001. A Retief Goosen three-putt later, he missed the playoff by one shot. Maybe Southern Hills will give him another shot.

* Verplank. The former Oklahoma State star is having a career year -- at 43. He loves the heat. His game's in sync. He was T-7 at the U.S. Open. He'll be a crowd favorite.

* Other local favorites? Hunter Mahan, Bo Van Pelt, Anthony Kim and Todd Hamilton, all of whom dropped in to play a little college golf at Oklahoma or OSU.

* Not-so-favorites? Texas exes Justin Leonard, Mark Brooks and anyone who even thought of attending that burnt orange school south of the Red River. It's not Texas, it's the state to the south or Baja Oklahoma.

* Boo Weekley. No communication problems here. Plus, he can have his grits and a table full of fried chicken or any other southern comfort food he'd like. Boo knows heat, too. If he can lose that one bad round he had in each of the previous two majors, he might charm them in Oklahoma.

* Sergio Garcia. He was 8 feet away from an Open Championship a few weeks ago when his putt kissed the cup and stayed out. Then, his bogey at first playoff hole gave Harrington, who hit into the Barry Burn twice on the 72nd hole, just the cushion he needed to go from another Jean van de Velde to Champion Golfer of the Year. Garcia wants another badly. Will Southern Hills give it to him?

We could go on. And on.

There are endless possibilities in this stellar field -- the best of golf's majors with 98 of the top 100 players. There could be another Micheel or Rich Beem. Chris DiMarco could break through. Colin Montgomerie, who has missed the first three major cuts of the year, could shock us and contend.

All we can say, is if you're coming out, drink plenty of water and look for shade. Or those jet-engine sized fans they have near 18.

And if you're at home? Relax, enjoy the final major of the year -- and all the story lines -- from the couch. And the breeze. From your conditioner.

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