Phil Mickelson's feel-good run toward the U.S. Open title fell just short in June. (Franklin/Getty Images)
Will another almost-great storyline play out at Hazeltine?
The script from this bizarre year of majors has been a little science fiction, some fantasy, a chapter or two of mystery, never lacking in drama, always full of surprises. And in the end, the 'wrong' guy keeps winning.
CHASKA, Minn. (AP) -- If the PGA Championship follows suit, look for a scenario like this to unfold at Hazeltine.
John Daly, with only two rounds under par this year on the PGA Tour and coming off an 88 in the Buick Open, finds that "grip it and rip it" magic and opens with a 67. Everyone waits for him to collapse, but it doesn't happen. There he is on the back nine, leading comfortably, on the verge of winning his third major, as many as Ernie Els.
Then comes a tee shot into the water on the 16th. A three-putt on the 17th. Two shots to get out of a bunker on the 18th.
He goes into a playoff and loses to Brian Gay.
If that sounds crazy, it is. If that sounds familiar, it should.
The script from this bizarre year of major championships has been a little science fiction, some fantasy, a chapter or two of mystery, never lacking in drama, always full of surprises.
In short, the “wrong” guy keeps winning.
"I hadn't really thought about that, to be honest, but it's really true," British Open champion Stewart Cink said on Tuesday. "It's a good point that 'what could have been' would have been a heck of a story to be written for the majors this year."
Start with the Masters.
Kenny Perry thought his storybook career had ended at the Ryder Cup when he helped the Americans win in his home state of Kentucky. Then came Augusta National, where he had a two-shot lead with two holes to play and at 48, was on the verge of becoming the oldest man in a green jacket. Then came bogeys on the last two holes. A mud ball on the second playoff hole. A family in tears.
Angel Cabrera won the Masters, a deserving champion. Perry's popularity soared, and he has been asked more about losing the Masters during the last four months than Cabrera has about winning (the language barrier plays a role, to be sure).
Act II came at Bethpage Black and the emotional return of Phil Mickelson, who only a month earlier learned that his wife, Amy, had breast cancer. Mickelson wasn't even sure how much he could play the rest of the year, much less whether he had the desire. She got encouraging reports from the doctor that allowed surgery to be delayed until after the U.S. Open.
Mickelson was the only player who failed to break par over five soggy days on Long Island. Then came the final-round charge; an eagle on the 13th tied him for the lead, with momentum and half of New York on his side. Then he three-putted from the fringe for bogey at No. 15, missed his par on the 17th and set a record by finishing second for the fifth time in the U.S. Open.
The trophy went home with Lucas Glover, who captured his first major by making one birdie in the final round.
No feeling was more empty, however, than Turnberry.
"The Watson story blows them all away," Cink said.
Tom Watson, the oldest player in the British Open at 59, made a couple of birdies early in his Thursday round to get his name on the leaderboard, and then it stayed there -- on Friday and Saturday. He gave back the lead early in the final round, then roared ahead with a birdie on the 17th hole that led Peter Alliss to blurt out on the BBC, "By God, can it really happen?"
He missed an 8-foot par putt on the final hole, then lost energy, hope and a four-hole playoff to Cink.
What shouldn't get lost in this remarkable year is that Cabrera, Glover and Cink were deserving of their major championships. And while many paying customers didn't get the winner they wanted, they got their money's worth.
Padraig Harrington watched them all and found every major to be fascinating in its own right.
"Yes, if Tom won; yes, if David Duval or Phil won the U.S. Open, maybe it would have stood out more going forward," he said. "OK, people would have remembered more if Watson won. But it still does not take away from the quality of Stewart Cink's win, or the quality of the event. It takes a little bit from people's memory of that, but their actual enjoyment? I don't think it made any difference.
"It was exciting right up to the edge."
Perhaps the fitting end to this year's major should focus on "what" instead of "who."
There has never been three majors in one year decided in a playoff. Wouldn't that be something?