A fair test, a fair field at final major

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“It’s set up a little more fairly than the other ones,” Steve Stricker said. “I think over the years, they’ve done a better job of mixing it up on a daily basis with the tees. The rough isn’t over-the-top brutal. It’s still hard, don’t get me wrong. The tournament is always hard. It’s probably not set up as hard as the other ones, but it’s more fair.”

“Most PGA venues I’ve played have been quite fair,” Ernie Els said. “Some of them have been an upgrade from tour events, maybe a touch more difficult. It’s the more friendly one of the four.”

But it’s fair in other ways.

No other major rewards a player for having a good year by giving them a spot in the field.

Think about it. Is anyone ever missing from the PGA Championship who should be here? Augusta National didn’t give a spot to Els because he had fallen from the top 50. The British Open and U.S. Open offer spots to the top 50 in the world. Among those in the PGA Championship this year are Robert Rock, who took down Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi; Bernd Wiesberger, who has won two smaller events in Europe; a couple of PGA Tour winners at opposite-field events, Scott Stallings and J.J. Henry.

“Top 50, that takes a lot of good stuff. That can be a long track,” Thomas Bjorn said. “Anyone can have a good year and get in the top 100, and they get in the PGA. It comes at the right time of the year for it. If you’ve played well through the season, there’s your bonus. You get in a major championship. That’s something they have identified, and it’s a good thing. It provides every member of the major tours a chance to get into a major by playing good over a period of time.

“It’s not the U.S. Open or the Open, where you play well for one day to qualify,” he said. “This, you play well for a season and you get your reward.”

If it’s true that golf is stronger and deeper than ever _ maybe that explains why the last 16 majors have 16 different winners _ then it stands to reason that the PGA Championship is one last chance for the best professionals to prove themselves at a tournament where score isn’t an issue as long as it’s the lowest one.

Being the last isn’t all bad. Not having an obvious distinction shouldn’t matter. Geoff Ogilvy might have summed it up in a column for Golf World magazine.

“No one is walking around saying Jack Nicklaus won 13 majors and five PGAs. In the record books, a PGA victory means just as much as one at the Masters, U.S. Open or British Open. That’s good enough for me.”

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