Rochester: World number one Tiger Woods will be the focus of attention as usual at the 85th US PGA championship, but there is more than a major golf title at stake here this week.
Woods seeks a piece of golf history, needing a victory to match Walter Hagen as the only men to win majors in five consecutive years, while several top players compete for US PGA Player of the Year honours and President’s Cup berths.
Woods is in a tight race for US PGA Player of the Year honours and might lose the award, voted upon by players, for the first time in five years.
Despite four titles in 2003, Woods would be vulnerable without a major jewel from this year’s final major at Oak Hill Country Club, where he played a dawn practice round with pal Mark O’Meara and departed early.
Davis Love won his fourth title of the year Sunday at the International to jump past Woods to the top of the US PGA money list and leap three spots to third in world rankings. A second PGA championship title would help his cause.
Masters champion Mike Weir of Canada and Americans Jim Furyk, the US Open winner, and Ben Curtis, the British Open surprise champion, would likely take the prize with a win here. Three US PGA titles and seven top-10 finishes in a row give Kenny Perry a chance, but all would need a title here to seal it.
Woods has joked about talk of a “slump” because he lacks a major title, but only in such a year are rivals given a real chance at dethroning him from the annual player prize.
Fans in South Africa are anxious to see woods in November when the US defends the President’s Cup against a non-European squad of international talent. Final 12-man President’s Cup rosters will be decided next Monday.
Ten US players will make the field on points through the PGA championship with us captain Jack Nicklaus picking the final two men. World rankings decide 10 international players with captain Gary Player making the final two picks.
Woods, Love, Furyk, Perry, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Justin Leonard and Chris Dimarco are set for the US roster with Jerry Kelly almost a certainty.
Charles Howell holds the 10th spot, moving past Bob Estes by finishing ninth at the International. The 24-year-old from the Masters’ hometown of Augusta is hungry to play for Nicklaus.
South Africa’s second-ranked Ernie Els paces an international line-up that would also include fourth-ranked Vijai Singh of Fiji, sixth-rated weir and 11th-ranked Nick Price, skipping the PGA to stay home with his family.
Also locked into the International roster are South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Australians Robert Allenby and Stephen Leaney while Aussie Peter Lonard, 32nd, is a virtual lock.