2013 pga champions dinner

The Champions Dinner is always a highlight of PGA Championship Week.

Wednesday Notebook: Brooks out, Henry in

By T.J. Auclair, Stan Awtrey and The PGA of America

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- On the eve of the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, 1996 champion Mark Brooks withdrew due to an injury. J.J. Henry took his place.

Ironically, Brooks and Henry are great friends. Such great friends, in fact, that Brooks once took a little time off from playing on the Champions Tour to caddie for Henry on the PGA Tour.

FAMILY MEN: We recently heard the story of Hunter Mahan leaving – while leading – the RBC Canadian Open before the start of the third round to rush back to Dallas to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's first child.

Was it the right thing to do? Of course it was. 

On Wednesday, 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson relayed a similar, very special story of his own.

"I can only tell you a personal experience," Watson said. "In 1979, in September, at the Greenbrier, the Ryder Cup Team amassed there on Monday. My wife was very pregnant at the time and I advised the PGA that if my wife had the baby that I was going to retire and that there should be somebody else to take my place, and that happened on Thursday morning, 3:00 a.m. in the morning, and I did retire, and left there with mixed emotions of course. But the most important emotion was the birth of my baby." 

FUN WITH BEEMER: Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, always seems to have fun with the fans. While walking to the 18th tee, Beem asked a man dressed in a bright pink shirt and fluorescent yellow shoes, “How much did you have to drink last night to wear that today?” The crowd laughed and Beem even invited the object of his derision to cross the ropes and have a photo taken. 

HARRINGTON FOCUSES ON FINISH: If he’s in contention on Sunday, Padraig Harrington should be ready for anything he sees on the final hole.

Harrington, the 2008 PGA Champion, spent about 30 minutes working on and around the 18th green. He hit long and short putts to every possible hole location. He dropped balls in the rough on the hill in front of the green and hit wedges. He worked on downhill shots from the collar behind the green.

Harrington stopped only long enough to acknowledge the fans carrying a large Irish flag who were standing near the right bunker.

Harrington played his first nine holes with Englishman Danny Willett, but he headed for the clubhouse after checking a few spots on the green.  Left alone and with no group close behind, Harrington was able to spend an unexpected amount of time at the finishing hole.

PROGRAMMING REMINDER: Beginning Thursday, PGA.com will provide several viewing options for the 95th PGA Championship.

During the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday (8:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. ET), you can enjoy our special, live video coverage of the day's marquee groups. On Thursday, the morning marquee group will feature Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III when the trio tees off at 8:35 a.m. ET.

On Thursday afternoon, you can follow along beginning at 1:45 p.m. ET, when our marquee group consists of Masters winner Adam Scott, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, who triumphed for the first time in the Open Championship just a few weeks ago at Muirfield.

On Friday, the Marquee groups will be flipped, with Mickelson, Rose and Scott in the morning, and Woods, Bradley and Love in the afternoon.

PGA.com will also offer marquee group coverage (with the players to be determined) from 11:00 a.m.-7:00 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to the coverage of our marquee groups, PGA Championship Live will also enable viewers to follow coverage of Oak Hill's par-3 holes – Nos. 3, 6, 11 and 15. Par-3 coverage will run from 8:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m.-7:00 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, on Saturday and Sunday, you can watch live coverage of the PGA Championship on PGA.com thanks to a CBS simulcast of the live television broadcast from 2:00-7:00 p.m. ET.

LET’S GET IT STARTED: PGA Club Professional Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, N.J., will hit the opening shot of the 95th PGA Championship, on the first tee at 7:10 a.m. Thursday. John Senden and Shane Lowry are in the group with Labritz.

Charley Hoffman hits the first shot off of the 10th tee, at 7:15 a.m. PGA Club Professional Bob Sowards and Matt Every complete that group.

A DINNER FIT FOR 18 CHAMPIONS: From Doug Ford, the oldest living PGA Champion, to Rory McIlroy, the defending champion, 18 PGA Champions in all gathered Tuesday night to continue a grand tradition at the Champions’ Dinner, held in the Oak Hill clubhouse.

McIroy, as the host, selected Duet of “Irish” Beef Tenderloin as the Main Course, preceded by Goat Cheese and Beet Root Salad. The dessert was Oak Hill’s Traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding.

As is also custom, McIlroy called on two PGA Champions to relate what the Championship, and the dinner, means to them. McIlroy selected Dave Stockton (1970 and 1976 PGA Champion) and 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley.

“We had a great night last night at the dinner, getting to meet a lot of guys who have won the Wanamaker Trophy,” McIlroy said. “I got to serve them some of my favorite food and it was just a great night. It was really entertaining. I got to spend time with some great people and it’s a nice little perk about being a PGA Champion.

“Everyone definitely enjoyed the last two courses. I don’t know how the appetizer went down.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DOUG: Ford, the 1955 PGA Champion, celebrated his 91st birthday yesterday by attending the Champions’ Dinner.

RORY’S A PGA CHAMPIONSHIP KINDA GUY: Rory McIlroy begins defense of his 2012 PGA Championship title at 1:25 p.m. Thursday on the first tee. McIlroy has thrived in his first four PGA Championship appearances, finishing tied for third in consecutive years (2009 and 2010). His scoring average over 16 PGA Championship rounds is 70.56, with five rounds in the 60s.

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS: Putting the ball in play of the tee is a premium this week, according to the many contenders who joined us in the Media Center. Of the 25 players who rank highest in “Fairways Hit” this year on the PGA Tour, 10 are in the field this week:

Henrik Stenson (ranked second); Ken Duke (fourth); Jim Furyk (seventh); Graeme McDowell (11th); Zach Johnson (12th); Roberto Castro (16th); K.J. Choi (17th); Jordan Spieth (21st); Ryan Moore (24th); and Boo Weekley (25th).

Other notable players and where they rank in Fairways Hit: 

Justin Rose (50th)
Tiger Woods (77th)
Adam Scott (107th)
Rory McIlroy (159th)
Phil Mickelson (168th)

GREAT CONDITIONS: Kerry Haigh, the Chief Championships Officer of The PGA of America, has set up PGA Championship courses for more than two decades. He said Wednesday that GCSAA Superintendent Jeff Corcoran and his staff have the East Course at Oak Hill in superb shape.

"This is my fourth major championship that I've been involved with here at Oak Hill, and golf course-wise, I could not be happier with the overall conditioning of the golf course,” Haigh said. “The overall playing conditions of the surfaces are second to none and the conditioning of this course is just unbelievable.”

SPECIAL DAY FOR MICHEEL FAMILY: Shaun Micheel was back Wednesday at the exact location where he pulled off the incredible – a perfectly struck 7-iron that stopped just inches from the hole on the 18th green during the final round of the 2003 PGA Championship.

His family, including his wife and two children, joined him at the dedicated plaque on site at Oak Hill, which sits just in the first cut and under the famous tee on the 18th hole. 

Micheel showed his children that plaque proudly, reliving what will go down as one of the greatest shots in PGA Championship history.

THE PETTERSSON FAMILY CONNECTION TO THE HABITAT FOR HUMANITY BUILD: Among the PGA Tour Wives Association volunteer force that teamed with PGA of America Spouses for the Habitat for Humanity Build project was DeAnna Pettersson, wife of PGA Tour Professional Carl Pettersson.

Carl is among the 37 returnees to the PGA Championship from the 2003 Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. This Friday, the couple will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary at the 95th PGA Championship.

“We met in school at North Carolina State,” said Deanna. “We married in Hilton Head, N.C., then Carl and I went right to the PGA Championship in 2003 at Oak Hill. There really wasn’t any time for a honeymoon. After two children, we finally did get in our honeymoon. Now, 10 years later, here we are again in Rochester and Oak Hill.”

From 7:00 a.m. to noon Wednesday, DeAnna and the other volunteers associated with the Flower City Habitat for Humanity put the finishing touches of exterior paint and landscaping on the home at 170 Whitney Street in Rochester’s JOSANA neighborhood. The home rests in a diverse community near Center City, where there is focused revitalization. The benefactors were the family of Nelson Galetti and Vanice Rosario, who have three children: Eva, 9, Elisha, 8, and Caleb, 1.

“It was such a great day of fulfillment for all of us associated with the Habitat for Humanity Build project,” DeAnna said. “You come away feeling grounded, that you truly gave something of yourself when you leave. It’s all about helping another family. It was the second build project that I’ve been involved with, and it was terrific.”

Flower City Habitat for Humanity has built 210 homes in Rochester and has 4,000 volunteer applicants annually.      

“It was hard to keep from tearing up when the family got up on the porch and gave their thanks,” said DeAnna.  

HE SAID IT: “Set my alarm for 10 o'clock and I'll have probably 12 hours kip. It's easy. For me, I love sleeping; I'm half man, half mattress.” -- Ian Poulter, when asked about how he’ll prepare for his 1:55 p.m. tee time.

YOU PICKED ‘EM: The PGA of America asked credentialed media here at Oak Hill to let us know who they thought would win the Season’s Final Major. Here’s what we heard: 

Pete McDaniel, African-American Golfer’s Digest
Pick: Tiger Woods
“I’m picking Tiger to end his major championship drought here at Oak Hill primarily because his short game is finally approaching the consistency he displayed during the better part of his pro career. From his pitching to his chipping, the short game is spot-on and he’ll need it to be sharp on this difficult track as everyone will miss some greens. If he putts anywhere near as well as he did last week at Firestone, it will be a wrap by sundown Saturday.”

Neil McLeman, Daily Mirror 
Pick: Henrik Stenson 
“The hottest European player on the planet – and his winner's press conference would be hilarious.”

Ronald Montesano, BuffaloGolfer.Com/Golfwrx.Com
Pick: Hunter Mahan

Vartan Kupelian, InsideDetroit.com
Pick: Bill Haas
“This one is for you, Pop.”

Leo Roth, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
Pick: Tiger Woods
‘‘Coming off his fifth with of the season, on this course that he’s learned to respect and now knows how to play, on this giant stage he knows so well … it’s hard to pick against the world’s No. 1 player who just seems closer and closer to ending his 0-for-17 streak in majors.’’

Don Jozwiak, PGA Magazine
Pick: Ian Poulter
“He will build on his Ryder Cup heroics by claiming his first major.”

Gene Battaglia, SportsRadio 950 ESPN (WROC-AM) Rochester
Pick: Ian Poulter
"He’s been close in majors before. The key for him will be getting off to a better start.  

Craig Potter, RochesterNyLive.com
Pick: Phil Mickelson
“I expect even to 1 or 2 under par to be the winning score, due to the toughness of the course, I think Phil has the best chance of achieving that score at Oak Hill.”

Bernie McGuire, Irish Star/Scottish Herald
Pick: John Senden
“When it rains, it pours.  Adam Scott's Masters triumph opened the floodgates for a number of Aussie success stories about the globe this year. Senden is a fellow Queenslander.  He knows how to win and could very well continue riding the crest of that Adam Scott Augusta National winning wave.”

Mike Johnson, Golf World/Golf Digest
Pick: Henrik Stenson
“With the high rough keeping the ball in the fairway and then getting it on the green is going to be a key to success and no one does it better than Stenson, who is T-6 on tour in driving accuracy and second in GIR. A pair of consecutive runner-up finishes at the British Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational show his game is on form, too.”

Mallory Crosland, The PGA of America
Pick: Brandt Snedeker
“Not only has he had one of the best years on tour, I think this course sets up for his style of play like East Lake in 2012. He's finished in the top-20 in every major this year. He's a great putter, and his putting will shine this week. Plus, this would be a great course for Vanderbilt to have a major champion alum crowned on!”

Bob Denney, The PGA of America
Pick: Adam Scott

Dan Reardon, KMOX Radio
Pick: Matt Kuchar

Joe Juliano, Philadelphia Inquirer
Pick: Zach Johnson

Ben Everill, Australian AP
Pick: Adam Scott
“He's in the zone, hitting the ball beautifully and believes this is his era of golf. There is no longer as much pressure on his shoulders after the Masters. This will be number two of at least six majors.”

Dave Shedloski, Golf World
Pick: Jason Dufner

Paul Gerrity, NEPA Sports Radio The GAME
Pick: Angel Cabrera 
"He only cares about the majors, so it’s hard to count him out even when he is playing poorly. Actually, I'm not sure if he cares about the majors, either, but he's a lot of fun to watch."

Steve Slocum, Golfweek Custom Media
Pick: Steve Stricker 
“What a story that would be … a great man winning a great championship would bring a tear to everyone’s eye, especially Strick’s.”

Dennis Danheiser, Buffalo News
Pick: Rory McIlroy
“He's overdue, played well at Oak Hill back in May on Media Day and said he likes the course.  He can hit it long and hopefully straight. Rory goes back-to-back in the PGA.”

Mike Davis, ESPN 950
Pick: Steve Stricker

Jeff Neubarth, Golf Channel 
Pick: Joost Luiten

Luke Elvy, ElvisGolf
Pick: Adam Scott

Jeff Babineau, Golfweek
Pick: Hunter Mahan
“Top ballstriker who has been gaining valuable experience on Sundays at the majors.”

REES JONES BOOK SIGNING THURSDAY: Acclaimed golf course designer Rees Jones, author of GREEN Glory, a visual tribute to the courses of the major championships, will be signing copies of his book along with renowned photographer Patrick Drickey, Thursday, (Aug. 8) from 1:00-3:00 p.m. in the Golf Shop here at Oak Hill. 

95th PGA CHAMPIONSHIP … BY THE NUMBERS

4: Players in the current field who finished inside the top 10 of the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill (Shaun Micheel, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, and Charles Howell III)
9:  Number of times a player has won the PGA Championship after finishing the first round as the leader
63:  Low first-round score in PGA Championship history (Raymond Floyd, 1982; Michael Bradley, 1995; and Steve Stricker, 2011)
63: Low score in any round in any major championship
66: Low first-round score in the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill (Phil Mickelson and Rod Pampling)
67: Low first-round score in the 1980 PGA Championship at Oak Hill (Craig Stadler)
2000: The last time a player who led after the first round won the PGA Championship (Tiger Woods at Valhalla)