The Final Round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., is underway on Sunday, and it has the potential to be a classic finish. Australia’s Jason Day leads after three rounds, but 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth is two strokes behind. If Spieth can catch Day, he’ll have won three of the four majors in 2015, and with his fourth-place finish at The Open Championship, he’d arguably have the greatest major tournament year in history.
Majors vs. Rankings: And it’s winning majors — not World Golf Rankings — that make legends and forge rivalries, says Golf Channel analyst Arron Oberholser. “In the media, I think we sometimes try to build rivalries potentially that aren’t there,” Oberholser says. “But this Spieth and Rory [McIlroy] has the potential to be a true rivalry.” With a victory on Sunday, Spieth would take over McIlroy’s No. 1 world ranking, but Oberholser says true rivalries are made by the top two players going mano a mano in major championships on Sunday. “The World Rankings to these guys mean nothing. It’s all about the major championships to guys like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, especially now that Jordan’s got the first two this year and two overall, and fourth in the last one with a chance to win. … We have that budding rivalry starting right now, but I still want to see it out here [on the course].”
Use Your Phone, But Don’t: If you haven’t attended a golf tournament in a while, you’ll see the omnipresence of smartphones in the gallery. There are useful apps aplenty for the golf spectator, including the official PGA Championship app and Golf Channel LIVE Extra app. In the days before we all had computers in our hands, spectators were limited to watching what was happening in front of them. Smartphones have helped keep fans in the loop on scores and highlights from all over the course. Whistling Straits had wifi hotspots throughout the course (though they weren’t 100 percent reliable). I found Golf Channel’s LIVE Extra app particularly useful at Whistling Straits early Friday morning as I watched a live feed of LIVE From the PGA Championship to help identify players in the practice areas. The PGA Championship app provided updated leaderboards, scores, player locations, and Marquee Group video feeds which televised the top player groupings. “You just have so much more awareness now of what’s going on and where you are than you used to in the past,” says Golf Channel reporter Steve Sands. “When you’re at an event as a fan, you you really don’t know what’s going on with other holes because you can only see one hole in front of you. Same thing for us in the media. Now with technology, that’s been eased up a bit.” While the PGA encouraged use of its apps, it wasn’t messing around when it came to enforcing its mobile device policy prohibiting photos and videos. A small army of green-vested Mobile Device Policy Enforcement officials issued warnings to spectators who would dare snap a photo of a player at the practice range. In some instances, phones were confiscated. With things like Periscope emerging, sports entities are going to have to be more sensible and realistic about protecting official broadcasters’ rights.
Tiger’s Always Relevant: Tiger Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, the third-straight major in which he didn’t qualify to play on Saturday and Sunday. Despite his struggles, he remains a huge draw for spectators and TV cameras, even if there is some element of rubbernecking at a great champion who’s fallen on hard times. Sands and Oberholser agree that interest in Woods should and will remain high. “I think that he, in a positive way, has earned the right to want to be seen and heard from every time he plays. Very few people have earned that right,” Sands says. “Fans still come out to watch him in person, and ratings prove it. His interest level has not waned even though he’s not winning. And there are very few athletes in or out of golf who can say that.” “He’ll always be relevant,” Oberholser says. “We’re just waiting for that one glimmer of hope that says, ‘Ah, he’s back! He’s back!’ And we’re just going to have to continue to be more patient,” Oberholsen says. “But that’s why they continue to put the camera on him in hopes that little by little, that whatever he’s working on is going to click and he’s going to start becoming the Tiger of old.”