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As Things Should be Remembered

As Johnson's 2 stroke penalty beats Kaymer's victory at the PGA Championship, Imagine Golf Club's Dermot Gilleece says to salute competitive brilliance rather than dramatic failure

Posted Aug 17, 2010 by Dermot Gilleece

Martin Kaymer

The front page of Milwaukee's "Journal Sentinel" on Monday morning carried a lead story of about 750 words on the PGA Championship which had been staged further up the shoreline of Lake Michigan at Whistling Straits.  Under the headline "Johnson can't beat rules", only 15 words of the story referred to the winner, Martin Kaymer.

This obvious imbalance struck me as especially curious for a Milwaukee newspaper, given the large numbers of German descendants who happen to inhabit the city.  In fact there is a place called German Town about 20 miles to the north.

As with most American news outlets, the marvellous victory by the 25-year-old German got secondary treatment behind what was perceived to be the big news of the championship's climax - the unfortunate two-stroke penalty incurred by Dustin Johnson when in a perfect position to at least join the play-off for the title.  And all of this, only two months after he had blown the chance of winning the US Open at Pebble Beach.

The story became seriously cockeyed, however, when comparisons were drawn between's Johnson's mistake and that of Argentinian Roberto de Vicenzo, who failed to get into a play-off for the 1968 US Masters because of disqualification for signing for a wrong score on the 17th - his second-last hole. 

To compare the two incidents is quite ludicrous, especially when a notice was posted in the championship locker room specifying that competitors had to treat all 1,200 bunkers on Whistling Straits as hazards.  None could be played as a waste area, irrespective of the sort of condition it was in from trampling spectators.

Martin Kaymer played some wonderful golf, particularly on treacherous greens, to become the second player from his country to capture a major championship.  And his play of the notorious 18th, the third play-off hole, was especially notable for the memories it evoked of the Bernhard Langer golfing repertoire.

After watching his rival, Bubba Watson, gouge his six-iron second shot from rough on the right only to send it into the hazard short of the green, Kaymer was not about to make the same mistake from a position in the same rough, 30 yards nearer to the hole.  With remarkable presence of mind, the 25-year-old settled for a modest pitch back onto the fairway where he left himself with a third shot of 173 yards to the green, into a stiff breeze.

Believing that Watson was going to run up a double-bogey six, the German decided that a safe bogey would win him the title.  And he was right.  Hitting a seven-iron third shot safely on the green, pin-high, he eased his first putt about 18 inches past the target and then holed the return for victory.

It was an effort reminiscent of Nick Faldo's extraordinary fight-back against Greg Norman in the US Masters in 1996.  That was when Faldo carded a superb final round of 67 while Norman collapsed to a 78.  Because of the dramatic nature of the Australian's demise, Faldo predicted afterwards that the day's play would be remembered for all the negative reasons, rather than for the quality of his own play.  And he was right.

True golfing enthusiasts, however, remember things as they should be remembered.  They salute competitive brilliance rather than dramatic failure.

Meanwhile, Kaymer is one of the new breed referred to by US Open champion, Graeme McDowell, before his early departure from Whistling Straits at the halfway cut.  "There are more and more top players out there nowadays," he said. "Guys are more talented, fitter, in better physical condition and they have no fear. I think the days of no-names getting in contention on Sunday afternoon and backing up, doesn't really happen anymore."

He went on: "That's one of the great things about our sport.  The 50th ranked tennis player in the world has absolutely no chance when he takes on Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. But in golf, the 100th player in the world could beat Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker or Lee Westwood on any given day."

Kaymer was a lot better than a 100th ranked challenger, but the point was well made, just the same.

- Dermot Gilleece

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