WHERE IT ALL STARTED FOR LOVE III
After missing last year due to injury, Davis Love III is playing in his 30th PGA Championship this week at Quail Hollow. With Love reaching 30 -- in the town where he was born, Charlotte -- only four players have made more appearances in the PGA Championship: Jack Nicklaus (37), Arnold Palmer (37), Tom Watson (33) and Raymond Floyd (31).
Four of the 52 pairings for the 99th PGA Championship will include multiple PGA Champions. They are Group #6 (Rich Beem/2002, Vijay Singh/1998 & 2004, John Daly/1991), Group #22 (Padraig Harrington/2008, Keegan Bradley/2011, Davis Love III/1997), Group #32 (Jimmy Walker/2016, Phil Mickelson/2005, Jason Dufner/2013) and Group #44 (Y.E. Yang/2009, Shaun Micheel/2003).
DEFENDING ISN’T EASY
As defending champion, Jimmy Walker will have the daunting task of besting the other 155 players in the field this week at Quail Hollow. He has, however, successfully defended a title before. Walker won consecutive Sony Opens in 2014 and 2015. Since Tiger Woods won back-to-back PGA Championships in 2006 and ’07, the PGA Championship’s defending champion has posted four top 10s (Padraig Harrington/T-10 in 2009; Keegan Bradley/T-3 in 2012; Rory McIlroy/T-8 in 2013; Jason Day/second in 2016); a 17th-place finish (McIlroy in 2015 in first event returning from an ankle injury); and three missed cuts (Y.E. Yang in 2010; Martin Kaymer in 2011; Jason Dufner in 2014). In 2008, Woods was not present due to injury to defend his two straight PGA Championships at Oakland Hills.
LAST IS OFTEN FIRST
Dating to Davis Love III’s 1997 win at Winged Foot, the PGA Champion has emerged from the final round’s last pairing 18 times in 20 years.
DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY…
Although 2015 PGA Champion Jason Day is winless this year, don’t count him out. Not only did he finish second last year at Baltusrol, but he’s posted a score in the 60s in 12 of 13 PGA Championship rounds, including eight straight, dating to the final round of the ’13 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
CHAMPIONS DINNER LAST NIGHT
The PGA of America’s annual Champions Dinner was held last night at Quail Hollow and 15 Champions were in attendance (14 PGA Champions and 2017 PGA Professional Champion Omar Uresti). Defending Champion Jimmy Walker, per tradition, hosted the event and his meal of choice (14-ounce, bone-in, prime filet mignon, with brussel sprouts and baked mac & cheese) was well received by all. Walker’s gift to his fellow champions, a state-of-the-art Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor Telescope, was also a hit.
A TAR HEEL TALE
While in school in the early 1980s at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, three-time All-American golfer Davis Love III and UNC basketball player Buzz Peterson introduced the game of golf to Peterson's roommate...a guy by the name of Michael Jordan. While a widespread legend has it that Love gave Jordan his first lesson, that is not exactly true. Rather, Jordan tagged along with Peterson and Love to the course, and became interested in the game. However, Jordan’s interest at first was more like a Dean Smith “Four Corners Offense” than a patented Air Jordan slam dunk. Jordan would hang around the course driving golf carts and riding along with friends, before eventually trying a putt or a drive or two, and then eventually, the game for the first time.