PGA expects major warmth

TULSA, Okla. — TULSA, Okla. -- The last three winners of the PGA Championship are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, who have combined for 18 major titles, 12 by Woods, so they have strength in numbers.

This year, the tournament will be played starting today at steamy Southern Hills Country Club, where the forecast for the rest of the week, for the 98th PGA Championship, the fourth and final major of the year, is lingering heat and a first-time winner.


Except that Tiger Woods is hotter than anyone. A three-time PGA Championship winner, Woods won last year at Medinah, so he has pleasant memories of this event and of last week's Bridgestone Invitational, where he won by eight shots.

"I think he's still the guy to beat every day of the week," Retief Goosen said.


In the last major played at Southern Hills, the 2001 U.S. Open, Goosen won in an 18-hole playoff with Mark Brooks, who won his only major in the 1996 PGA at Valhalla.

Ten players in the past 17 years have won their first major title at the PGA Championship: Wayne Grady, John Daly, Paul Azinger, Steve Elkington, Brooks, Davis Love III, Singh, David Toms, Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel.

First-time winners have been the theme in the first three majors this year, with Zach Johnson winning the Masters, Angel Cabrera the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington the British Open.

Johnson said that possible trend should be rejected.

"I think too much is made of it," he said. "Bottom line is, everybody's good. Doesn't matter if it's a tour event or a major. Doesn't surprise me. It surprises obviously sometimes the media and certainly the fans, some of the names they haven't heard of or aren't household names, like myself at the Masters."

Woods this year has won four times, tied for second at the Masters and the U.S. Open and tied for 12th at the British Open. The $1.35 million he picked up Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational brought him to $6.5 million on the PGA Tour this year ($2.1 million ahead of second-place Singh) and $72 million for his career.

But without a major this year, Woods is stuck on 12, and Southern Hills is his last chance for 2007.

Southern Hills isn't considered ideal for Woods, with its many doglegs and rather narrow fairways that probably will take the driver out of his hands. With only two par-5s, Southern Hills would seem to negate Woods' power, but he said he has adjusted.


"You just do what the course allows you to do," he said. "I'm hitting the ball in the same spots I did in 2001 [in the U.S. Open, when Woods tied for 12th]. And probably a little bit less club because it's warmer. Those two factors. I'm playing the same spots that I did in '01, but it's just with different clubs."

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.