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This PGA Championship was an odd ball

By Jim O’Connell Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – The third and fourth rounds were going on at the same time and with different rules. There was so much rain that there was a worker with a squeegee positioned near every green. The final putts were made in what some would call the dark. There was no re-pairing after the third round and the greens weren’t even rolled, let along cut. Oh yeah, on Friday they put the cup on No. 10 in the wrong place.

This was the PGA Championship. This was a major. This was an odd major.

Nobody will take anything away from Jimmy Walker, who closed a bogey-free 3-under 67 with a 3-footer for par to finish at 14-under 266 and beat Jason Day by one stroke on Sunday. All Day did to add to the drama was make an eagle 3 on No. 18 to get within a stroke.

“I figured birdieing 17 was huge and that was going to cap it off,” Walker said. “And then Jason making eagle sure made my job a lot harder on the last hole.

“Really cool way to finish. Making a putt like that to win, right in the middle, was just awesome.”

But the circumstances around some great golf were odd to say the least.

The leaders after the third round would always be paired together for the final round, but not in this rain-delayed tournament. Day said he would have liked to be playing with Walker.

“That would have been nice,” Day said. “But under the circumstances, that’s just how they work.”

Ten players didn’t even hit a golf ball Saturday – that meant Walker and Day and eight others played 36 holes Sunday – and 37 others returned on Sunday to complete the third round.

“It’s really quite fun to see how far you can actually push yourself mentally, more so than physically,” Day said. “Playing 36 holes today, especially under the pump, not knowing what was going on, really, and finishing that way, was pretty special.”

The extra holes so the tournament would finish on time meant Matt Jones and Roberto Castro were teeing off on No. 1 in the fourth round while Walker and Robert Streb were getting to No. 6 in their third round.

To add a little more confusion, the PGA of America decided that the fourth round would be played with lift, clean and place rules in effect for balls in the fairway. That’s the first time in a major tournament the preferred lie rules was put in effect. Guess that’s one more oddity for the 98th PGA Championship.

“My playing partner (Martin Kaymer) on the last hole there had a big chunk of mud on the ball and it went straight right and led to a bogey,” British Open champion Henrik Stenson said between rounds. He closed with a 71 and finished tied for seventh with Kaymer and Streb at 8 under.

Phil Mickelson, who won the PGA the last time it was played at Baltusrol in 2005 and finished at 3 under this week, was asked if the PGA of America’s decision to go with the preferred lies would inspire other majors to handle the same situation in the future.

“I hope so. I think it’s such the right call,” he said. “There’s so much element of luck involved if you don’t do that because of the amount of mud that will get on the ball as well as the inability to finish the round because of not being able to take full relief from the fairway.

“I think it was a great call. I know it’s not one that is ideal. But unfortunately that’s been the case this week because on the weekend this golf course was set up to be perfect for a major championship. And unfortunately the rains came and just softened the course exponentially.”

Because both rounds were going on simultaneously, the grounds crew workers weren’t able to attend to the greens as they usually do between rounds. That meant the greens were slower than usual and there were a ton of putts left short of the hole.

On Friday, the cup on No. 10 was put on the wrong side of the green but the PGA Rules Committee didn’t notice it until the first group off that tee had already hit their second shots, so the cup was left on the right side for the remainder of the round. The PGA of America immediately owned up to the mistake and apologized.

An organization admitting it made an error in a major sporting event. That’s odd.

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