Dave Stockton won the 1970 PGA Championship at Southern Hills and his nostalgic return this week included the champion’s dinner to swap stories of the greats, the terribles and the memories of career victories.
He was disappointed by the low turnout. Only 11 former champions playing this week were present. No one misses the Masters Champions Dinner, Stockton noted.
“That’s what it should be,” he said. “I don’t quite understand why because I think it’s very important for us as champions to come back.” Other former PGA champions who were there: Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Martin Padraig Harrington, Shaun Micheel, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks and Jeff Sluman.
Those who jumped: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, YE Yang, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and John Daly.
One player Stockton hasn’t missed? Defending champion Phil Mickelson. Lefty withdrew from the tournament last week as he pursues a hiatus from golf following his inflammatory comments about a Saudi-funded rival league that the PGA Tour opposes.
”It was a fun night. Phil did not miss. I think Phil would have been a big distraction if he was here,” Stockton said. ”The story here this week is the PGA. ”Mickelson would normally have been the host and chosen a gift for the players. This time, the PGA of America chose the giveaway and kept it with an outdoor theme.
So the champions were given an outdoor fireplace with the PGA logo on it, a coincidence. The quotes that caused Mickelson the most trouble came from an excerpt from Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography. It was posted on a website called ”The Fire Pit Collective.” COMING TO AMERICA Long flights, odd hours and jet lag. Lots and lots of jet lag.
Coming to America for three of the four majors can be tough for Europe-based players, Belgian Thomas Pieters said Wednesday ahead of the PGA Championship.
Pieters has traveled between Europe, the Middle East and the United States to play several times already this season and the pace tired him after the Masters, where he missed the cut. He took several weeks off before returning for a top 10 finish at the Soudal Open last week in his native Belgium. Then he boarded a flight to Tulsa.
”I just think I haven’t played as well in America for the past two years just because the trip for me takes it. When you have to do it yourself, you feel alone. Like I said, when you go back and forth like six, seven, eight times, it impacts your body,’ he said.
“It’s always been last minute for me, like getting invites and playing my way,” Pieters said.
Because his body is still out of whack from the time change, Pieters said he was grateful to have shot a 9:17 a.m. start time for Thursday’s first lap. He wakes up before dawn and is exhausted by late afternoon. “I’ll be fine (Thursday),” he said.
Still, he doesn’t plan to move to the United States
”I invite you to Belgium. It’s a beautiful country,” said Pieters. “My family is there, my girlfriend, my child, my daughter. So no, I’m not moving here anytime soon. My life is over there.” BROTHERLY LOVE Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard is quick to admit he wouldn’t be playing in the PGA Championship without his brother, Rasmus, and the way the twins pushed each other on the golf course through the years.
Rasmus isn’t on the court this week, but he made the cut at last year’s PGA at Kiawah Island.
“He gave me a taste of what to expect playing a major championship here in the United States,” said Nicolai, who missed the cut of his only other major, the 2018 British Open. It’s a bit different here compared to Europe and the climate too – it’s so hot here. He gave me some good stuff that I could use this week.” weeks back.
“Back when we were fighting, we could fight,” Nicolai said.
”We could start fighting afterwards if I had a good lap and Rasmus played badly or the other way around. We’ve had conversations in the past, and also now, about how we deal with ups and downs. “One day we may not play the same tour, and how are we going to approach that? We had conversations. That’s how golf is. Life is like that. As long as we’re together, it’s a bonus.” MAMMA MIA US. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson is already planning next year’s matches in Rome, for much more than golf.
Johnson is a self-proclaimed “geography nerd” and foodie. The prospects of exploring the Italian countryside and its cuisine make him a little giddy.
”My parents went there two or three times, my wife went there twice. The consensus is that it’s their favorite country, outside of this great nation,’ Johnson said Wednesday. ”I know makeup. I know you have the Mediterranean here, and I know the Alps are to the north and the beauty of this country is in the people there, so I’m delighted to meet them. And to eat with them. Eat a lot.
“I don’t eat to live, I live to eat,” the 46-year-old said. “It probably is, depending on how you look at it, it’s not a good recipe to go there because I guess I eat until I’m uncomfortable. So it’s going to be okay. It’s a good thing, actually.”
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