Ben Curtis’ second-place finish (tied with Sergio Garcia) helped earn him his first-ever appearance for the U.S. Ryder Cup Team.
He did it ultimately with three terrific putts on the final three holes: a 20-footer to save par at the scary, par- 4 16th; a “lovely” 10-footer on the par- 3 17th, which had been torturing golfers throughout the tournament; and that final 15-footer on 18. The last putt was a double-breaker that Harrington read as if it were a blueprint. It followed an inelegant journey to the 18th green, which included a tee shot into a fairway bunker and a blast into the rough, even before he spanked a 7-iron to within 15 feet, setting up the final stroke of the 277 he accumulated in beating par by three shots.
“The thing from experience that I know is that, in a major, nobody goes without making some mistakes,” said Harrington, who became the first European to win the PGA Championship since Tommy Armour of Scotland in 1930. “So, as long as I could hang in there, I knew that I would get my opportunity.”
It was a bold, even presumptuous, analysis when one considered that Oakland Hills had been wrecking the world’s best golfers all week long.
Not that it was unanticipated. Oakland
Hills had established through the decades that it was a tough hombre. Ben Hogan had outlasted it in 1951 to win the U.S. Open (most of the golfing world has by now absorbed the lore of Hogan’s speech following his final-round 67 that clinched victory: “I finally brought that monster to its knees.”). But by the 1990s, Oakland Hills was beginning to wear down because of new technology – and new physiology.
Big, strong golfers were hammering their high-tech drivers into new regions and spinning short approach shots onto greens that designer Donald Ross intended to be reached with considerably different equipment and strategies.
So, in came lauded designer Rees Jones, who stretched the South Course from 7,099 yards to 7,446. He also added new bunkers, brought more water into play, and generally out-monstered the old course that Hogan had survived 57 years earlier.
Garcia, in an ironic way, could almost foresee Sunday’s events as he talked early in the week about Oakland Hills and its new muscle.
“I love this course,” he said. “It’s a hard