KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. Since it abandoned match play in 1958 as television played a more prominent role, the PGA Championship has suffered an identity crisis.
The Masters is without compare for many reasons, though it starts with being at Augusta National every year. The U.S. Open is billed as the toughest test in golf, sometimes to a fault. The British Open is the only major played on links courses.
Where does that leave the PGA Championship?
"The fourth major," Graeme McDowell said, stating a fact instead of making a crack. "It doesn't get the accolades it deserves. But there's not a guy on the range that wouldn't put it head-and-shoulders over any tournament in the world apart from the other three major championships."
The PGA of America doesn't help itself by taking its premier championship to an ordinary course like Valhalla, which it owns. Or when it goes to Kiawah Island, where the president of the resort (Roger Warren) is a former PGA of America president. No other major telecast is laden with so many commercials and so little golf. And it's the only major this year where a corporate sky box occupies more space than grandstands along the 18th hole.
Even so, the slogan says it all Glory's Last Shot.
The PGA Championship has billed itself as having the strongest field in golf, an argument it wins with evidence from the world ranking. Barring anyone pulling out before Thursday's opening round, it will have the top 103 players in the world. That's more than the entire field at the Masters. Going into this year, the PGA Championship had the 10 highest-rated fields in all of golf.
Ban on long putters looms If golf decides to ban long putters, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson will be ready.
Simpson said he ordered two putters that are conventional length and has been practicing with them at home in case the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association decide later this year that anchoring a club to the body will not be allowed.
"I'm kind of telling myself to expect it," Simpson said.
Simpson has been using a belly putter for years, and when he won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, he became one of three major champions to use such a belly putter in the past year. Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship last year, and Ernie Els won the British Open last month. Els rallied from a six-shot deficit on the last day to beat Adam Scott, who uses a long putter that he anchors near his sternum.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said the day after the British Open that long putters were "firmly back on the radar" of the governing bodies, and that a decision is expected in "months rather than years."
McDowell, a former U.S. Open champion, said he has spoken to USGA executive director Mike Davis.
"Their research has shown that putting under pressure down the stretch on the back nine on Sunday, when you can anchor the putter to a part of your body, that just takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke. Putting under pressure with that type of putter is easier," McDowell said. "Let's level the playing field again."
Ryder Cup watch U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love has a simple message for the Americans trying to earn one of the eight automatic spots on his team this week at the PGA Championship.
He knows from experience it's not that simple.
Phil Mickelson, who has qualified for every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team since 1995, has fallen to No. 8 in the standings and has a tenuous lead the equivalent of $40,690 over Hunter Mahan at No. 9. A little further back are Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
Because Ryder Cup points are double for major championships, even Matt Every at No. 37 in the standings has a mathematical chance to earn a spot on the team.
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal still has time. The cutoff for 10 players who automatically make the team five from the European Tour money list and five on world ranking points they have earned is not for three weeks.
But the European captain made one thing clear Padraig Harrington better pick up the pace. Harrington, a three-time major champion from Ireland, has been on every Ryder Cup team since 1999. But he has not won since 2010.
Els and his caddies Els has used two caddies over the past several years Ricci Roberts and former NHL player Dan Quinn.
They split the earnings no matter who was on the bag, and they typically trade off majors. But not this week.
Roberts, who has been on the bag for all four of Els' majors victories, is working this week at Kiawah Island.
"We all had a bit of a chat last week and we decided to bring Ricci back here for the PGA," Els said. "I think Ricci earned his spot here."