Lateral Hazard: PGA's major season lacks Tiger Woods, but not drama

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

It seems like just yesterday that Jim Nantz, amid a carpet of azaleas and a light sprinkle of tinkling piano chords, said to us: "Hello, friends" at Augusta National, and gave us all a case of the warm fuzzies.

And now, here we are, four months later, wishing we could hang on to these precious and few major championship moments, wishing Jason Dufner's randy old rump slaps of his lovely bride, Amanda, after winning the PGA Championship could play on the GIFs of our mind, over and over.

But majors season is finished now and has left us with stark alacrity, not unlike a Tiger Woods courtesy car departing Oak Hill Country Club after a tie-40th at Glory's Last Shot. In fact, the majors season has left us so abruptly, "Glory's Last Shot" isn't even the PGA Championship motto anymore. They're now going with "The Season's Final Major," and I wish they hired Don Draper's ad agency to come up with something snappier.

It was a darn good majors season, too.

What was perhaps most amazing about the delectable nature of the 2013 majors was that neither Tiger Woods nor Rory McIlroy, for most of the year the Nos. 1- and 2-ranked players in the world, won a thing. In fact, McIlroy was darn near a zombie, buried well underground until he finally fogged up a mirror and finished tie-8th at Oak Hill, his first top-20 at a major in this, what will be known forever as Rory's Lost Year.

As for the world's No. 1 golfer, he left Akron a week ago fighting off confetti and rose petals after a fifth win in 10 stroke-play starts – then left Rochester Sunday evening fighting off questions and doubts about his ability to handle major stress in this chapter of his career. On the one hand, the questions are absurd for a player who has finished in the top-six of his last 18 majors a whopping nine times. On the other hand, with rounds of 73-70 in upstate New York, he now has a dubious streak of 16 consecutive weekend rounds at majors without breaking 70.

This slice of cyberspace is clear on our Tiger Stance: He will break Jack's record, and move closer perhaps as soon as next April at Augusta National.

So how can a Tiger- and Rory-free majors season still be righteous and worthy?

Because for the first time in years, all four major championships were won, not lost. All four major championships featured primary stories of triumph, not headlining stories of disaster. In other words, for the first time in years, the golf gods shelved their usual game plan of sadism, overt cruelty and sticking pins in the voodoo dolls of various players.

Lest you forget, the past few years have given us:

• Jim Furyk's agony at Olympic Club at the 2012 U.S. Open; and Adam Scott's unspeakable horrors at the 2012 British Open.

• Dufner himself coughing up a five-shot lead at the Atlanta Athletic Club's PGA Championship in 2011.

• Dustin Johnson pulling off the double-dip of pain in 2010, blowing both the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and failing to read the rules on bunkers at Whistling Straits later that summer.

• And in 2009, Tom Watson at Turnberry. 'Nuff said.

Those same golf gods went soft in 2013. They channeled their inner teddy bear, and went for the heartwarming finishes, like a Frank Capra movie instead of a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie. The list of 2013 goodness:

• Scott's Masters triumph not only featured matching 72nd hole birdies for Scott and rival Angel Cabrera, but saw Scott edge Cabrera with a birdie on the 10th hole in the playoff, sweetly-earned victory for the likeable Australian's first major win.

Justin Rose's U.S. Open triumph did feature two key bogeys by Phil Mickelson on Merion's back nine, but the true fan will appreciate Rose's sterling, studly finish on Merion's beastly 521-yard 18th hole. First, Rose struck the drive of dreams, center-cut, and then the 4-iron from 200-plus yards out to 12 feet. Richly deserved and won.

• When it comes to explaining how Phil Mickelson's final-round 66 at Muirfield fits into the stories of inspiring finishes in cauldrons of pressure, I fee like I should just leave this sentence alone and move on while you bask in memories of that glorious 18-hole turn.

• And then Oak Hill's PGA Championship, where an expressionless, tobacco-chewing, club-waggling, ball-striking paunchy 36-year-old from Auburn University by way of a childhood in Cleveland showed us all how to make pure contact, over and over, en route to a final-round 68 and his first major championship. Yes, Jim Furyk lost a one-shot, 54-hole lead, but anybody who heard the consistent thwack of Dufner's swing meeting the golf ball, time and again, knows this was a victory for golf swings under pressure, for striping the ball when trouble lurked left and right. Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champ, tweeted that it was the "best ballstriking" golf he had seen "in years. Incredible." It was so feel-good that 2011 PGA champ Keegan Bradley, who chased down and defeated Dufner two years ago, pulled a U-turn on his way to the airport and ran a red light so he could be greenside to congratulate a low-key and popular cat like Dufner on the win.

Plus, the guy who made "Dufnering" famous when he sat with his legs straight, his arms tucked under his thigh and his face a study in blankness in a visit to an elementary school to show how to relax has put a new spin on the phrase "Dufnering" – now it can mean to cop a feel off your wife in a moment of triumph, as Dufner did, much to social media's immediate delight.

Win your Little League All-Star game as coach? Beat the traffic home on a Friday? Get a raise at work? Husbands everywhere, start your Dufnering!

That's as fine a way as any to end a sensational season of majors, even if we never spoke the words 'Tiger' or 'Rory'.


69-71-67-70 – 3-under 277, Rory McIlroy, tie-8th, PGA Championship, Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, N.Y.

As a wild-eyed Gene Wilder shouted to the heavens in "Young Frankenstein," upon first hearing Peter Boyle's monster stir: "Alive … It's alive … IT'S ALIVE!"

I sort of feel that way about Rory McIlroy's PGA Championship, minus any cameos by Marty Feldman.

I've had a barely-concealed ManCrush on Rory's golf swing since his breakthrough win at Quail Hollow, which only doubled and tripled after his two major championship wins before he even turned 24. Many of us had grand visions of a Rory McIlroy Era, when the Northern Irish kid with the agreeable personality, relatable charisma and luscious golf move would arrive, full-bore.

And then came 2013. And the switch to Nike. And the news conference with fireworks in Abu Dhabi. And the odd buddying up to Tiger in those Nike spots. And the walk-off at the Honda Classic. And the tie-25th at the Masters. And the tie-41st at the U.S. Open. And the missed cut at Muirfield. And the public questioning by Gary Player about his focus. And the zero wins.

So disappointing. So worrisome.

So for McIlroy to contend – sort of – at Oak Hill must mean something is turning in the right direction. Right? I mean, we'll sort of ignore him missing a 4-foot putt for birdie on the fourth hole when he had a chance to start a little momentum, and try to gloss over that triple-bogey on the fifth hole, which in fairness was a hole that destroyed a number of players on Sunday.

Instead, let's focus on McIlroy playing 2-under golf after the triple-bogey, and McIlroy rallying on Friday to make the cut with a 67 when he was flirting with an MC, and McIlroy making 18 birdies at Oak Hill – even more than the winner Dufner.

He remains a 24-year-old with two majors, and maybe this decent showing at Oak Hill will remind him that there's still some game in those young bones. This opinion, however, is subject to change upon the next disappointing McIlroy showing. That's how we do it in RoryLand, 2013.


"BABY BOOEY!!" – Oak Hill fans, shouting allegiance to the radio personality Howard Stern all throughout the weekend, well within range of CBS' boom microphones, along with other shouts of 'MASHED POTATOES' and whatnot.

If American golf fans ever wanted to shed their image as loudmouth boors, well … I guess American golf fans don't have much interest in shedding their image as loudmouth boors.

Sir Nick Faldo was ticked off by the shouting louts, and you never want to tick off Sir Nick. Wait. On second thought, I have no problem with that concept. Let's come up with a better reason to not endorse any post-impact shouts.

How about the fact that a post-impact shout – which has evolved from the late 1980s' "YOU DA MAN!" to the Tiger-Era "GET IN THE HOLE!" to the post-Tiger Era "MASHED POTATOES" to Oak Hill's "BABY BOOEY!" – enriches no one's life?

Ian Poulter was ticked off, too. He took to Twitter, and perhaps in an attempt to blow off some steam after an unsatisfying tie-61st at 8-over par, Poulter used his popular account to challenge the hecklers. He used all sorts of English slang that this California-raised dude does not understand – he called the hecklers "bell ends" and "muppets" and "thrushes" – and eventually wound up tangling with Stern himself after Stern humorously corrected him on the spelling of "Baba Booey."

In an "Oh, snap!" moment, though, Poulter outed Stern for having only 1.46 million followers, fewer than Poulter's 1.52 million followers. Poulter taunted Stern, even using the always intimidating incorrect grammar to make his point: "I thought you was big time," Poulter mocked.

Entertaining enough from Poulter, yes. But for post-impact shouters, the truth remains: It's tired. You're tired. Let's move forward, and strive for a tired-free golf world.


There was some talk that this PGA Championship lacked true drama and flair, that Dufner's stoic demeanor was the facial expression equivalent of a major that needed pizzazz.

Fair enough. There was precious little jousting on the leader board, none of those crowded shootouts where TV cameras are cutting, quickly, from hole to hole as five or six players fire at pins down the stretch.

Instead, it was Furyk and Dufner trading sensible golf shots. Once Dufner established himself the better man on Sunday, perhaps the only thing missing was a crowning finish, a triumphant walk up 18.

But his approach to the exceedingly difficult 18th hole did not reach the green, instead sticking in that awful "asparagus," as CBS' David Feherty called it, below the putting surface. It was one of those "Ohhhh!" moments, when the crowd goes from potential wild cheers to a disappointed letdown.

Worse, Feherty had exulted upon Dufner's contact on his approach, lifting our hopes. After all, Dufner had been "Stiff-ner" all day, hitting approach after approach stoney.

So, his approach at 18 falling short, well … it fell short of our hopes.

In search of a Mully o' the Week in a championship that didn't feature any five-star meltdown moments, let's go back out to 18, then, and to Dufner's ball just off the fairway in the light rough, remind him that he's about to win his first major, that he's put on a ball-striking display that has some dropping H-Bombs in comparison (yes, Hogan), remind him to take a little more club up that big ole hill and … give that Dufner a mulligan!


Talk about letdowns. The Tour heads to Greensboro for a tournament that will mean a lot to the guys on the bottom rung of the top 125 vying for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and mean very little to the rest of us – especially after a major, and especially since the FedEx Cup playoffs start the following week.

To protest, this column is taking the week off, and we'll see you back online for the FedEx Cup playoffs' first stop, the Barclays at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J. In the meantime, time to do some "Dufnering" with your loved ones, sports fans.

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Howard Stern, Ian Poulter chime in on obnoxious Oak Hill gallery
Jason Dufner silences demons of 2011 PGA meltdown
Woods continues major championship woes

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