BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - The image of Americans being John Wayne types may have started going out the window almost 30 years ago during the Jimmy Carter presidency - and flown the coop for good during one of those crying scenes from the first "Survivor." But does this country need to be known as a bunch of Michael Scotts (the Steve Carell character from "The Office"), the guy hiding under his desk with the door closed as a bat flies around the branch?
If you based things on how America's best golfers are reacting at the PGA Championship, it would be hard to argue with that as a characterization.
As rain pelted Oakland Hills Country Club South Course Saturday afternoon, the U.S. players in contention - including a number that Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger will have to choose between for his wildcard picks - turned into marshmallow mush men.
There's J.B. Holmes bringing up how "exhausting" having to play 36 holes for a major championship will be on him today. There's Boo Weekley knocking the PGA of America because of the annoyance of having to wait for nearly five hours for it to finally call play for good. There's Ben Curtis noting that the few players in contention who did get to finish their whole third round "will have a nice relaxing morning while we're out there grinding."
And that's just the Americans who talked, the guys who largely tried to put a "tough" face on it. Others, like Phil Mickelson, dashed out of Oakland Hills faster than O.J. used to run through the airport.
You would think somebody stole these guys' favorite blankies rather than delayed a golf tournament.
Meanwhile, Camilo Villegas, the Colombian pretty boy known as Spider-man for his overly dramatic, completely sprawled-out-on-the-green putt reads, sounded like Patton by comparison:
"No big problem," Villegas said, shrugging.
Spider-man happened to be 4-under for the day through 14 when the sky erupted, too. He's looking at a shot at the best round of the entire tournament, the best round anyone's ever shot in a pro event at Oakland Hills, potentially. If anyone should be feeling rain rage, it's Villegas.
Charlie Wi - a 36-year-old South Korean who has waited years and years for his first chance to play in a major, let alone one where he's near the lead - appeared equally unfazed by not getting to hit a single shot on Saturday.
"I just hung out in the locker room with Steve Elkington and talked to Aaron Baddeley and a couple other players," Wi said. "It was very relaxed."
It's not like these guys were stuck in holding cells at Guantanamo Bay. Or even left to huddle around the stands or any building awning they could find like many of the fans who showed up to watch. Heck, being this put out about sitting around the inner digs of a posh, private country club built for rich guys - and full of people who will fawn over you - makes even those folks who treat an airport wait outside a club lounge like it is Job's Bible trials look better.
This American woe-is-me attitude goes right along with the scene that's been playing out all week in suburban Michigan, though.
Kenny Perry - Mr. Ryder Cup icon himself - set the stage with his Lasik eye surgery withdrawal. Perry is already talking about coming back to play the week after next, in the first tournament of the FedEx Cup, the next time he always planned to play. It's enough to cause legitimate questions on whether Perry would have withdrawn if he hadn't shot 9-over in the first round of the first major he's played all year.
Did Perry's eye make it impossible to continue? He did play 18 holes with that eye that was just as bothered as when he withdrew. Did he just not want to sweat his way through another round on a grueling golf course?
Remember, Perry is the guy who dodges tough courses and events with the same zeal that the Chinese government uses to put a happy fireworks face on everything. Perry hates to play courses that beat you up. He didn't even try to qualify for the U.S. Open even though he had a really good chance. He didn't go to the British Open after he earned a spot. It sounded almost cute at the time with his whole Ryder Cup obsession, but in the wake of this major WD and apparently quick comeback, it now rings mostly wimpy.
"I caught a little of the British Open coverage, and I saw Pat Perez come up the course soaked after that first round," Perry said while chuckling earlier this week. "And the first thing he said in the interview is, 'Kenny Perry is the smartest guy in the world.'"
Not the smartest. Just the biggest scaredy cat.
This is who U.S. team leadership is touting as the symbol of American players' new Ryder Cup dedication? If Azinger was smart, he'd be working on a way to somehow kick this easy-tournament fat cat off the team completely. Kenny Perry emerging as a sure Top 8 automatic qualifier is the worst thing that could have happened to the U.S. squad.
You want the guy who evades tough tournaments as one of your main men in arguably the most pressure-packed golf event of all?
Before the PGA started, Azinger told Perry that the Ryder-Cup-only man had more heat on him than anyone else in the field. And how does Perry respond? He runs home.
Kenny Perry disease seems to be catching among American golfers at Oakland Hills, too. Sure, Europe's Lee Westwood let off the most blistering (and entertaining) whine about the PGA of America's ridiculous setup here. But it's the American fright at the rain delay that figures to mean more.
"We'll see if playing 36 holes is good or bad (today)," Nashville's Brandt Snedeker said.
It's already bad for anyone who liked the image of the American tough guy.
August 10, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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