Rozner: 17th at Medinah flooded with memories
Standing on the 17th tee and checking the wind over Lake Kadijah, I was obviously preoccupied.
Facing the Saturday afternoon pin from the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, front left and maybe 10 paces over the water, this is where Tiger Woods stuffed it to 4 feet, and then Luke Donald answered with a kick-in to halve the hole.
But that wasn't it. What was it, what thought was nagging?
Oh, OK, I got it.
"What's so funny?" asked my partner.
"Was I laughing?" I asked.
"Yes, probably at my tee shot," he said.
"I could have been. You're swimming," I said. "But that's not it. I'll tell you on the green, if we ever get there."
It was Shaun Micheel. That's what brought a laugh. Not the man, no. Micheel won the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, and in September 2006 at the Match Play at Wentworth, he took out Tiger Woods in the first round.
But a month earlier at Medinah, in the '06 PGA Championship, it was Woods who stood on the par-3 17th, 193 yards away and confronting a Sunday pin about 20 feet to the right of that Saturday location, also tucked in just over the water, where the green curves away from the player and offers more lake than pasture.
Woods, however, looked far past the green, 100 yards to the right, eyes darting to the 18th tee box, where Micheel -- in second place with a hole to play -- quickly went for his peg and took a stroll down the tidy path.
That's when Woods had a conversation with caddie Steve Williams and yanked a different club from his bag.
After going par-par-birdie on 17 the first three days, Woods took an extra club and blasted his tee shot into the back bunker.
And grinned the grin of a man in complete control.
"It was a 7-iron shot all week, but I took a 6-iron and made sure I played to the back edge of the green, if not the back bunker, and took the water out of play," said Woods, who lipped out an 8-foot par putt and settled for a bogey. "Anything could happen there. I could put the ball in the water and be there for a while.
"If I made bogey there and Shaun (Micheel) made birdie on 18, I'd still have a 3-shot lead playing the last hole. I figured I could handle that."
This was Woods in his prime, much like Michael Jordan in his, playing defense when prudent, attacking if needed, more pace or less depending on the scoreboard.
So he gave it an extra club and about 15 more yards, and won the PGA Championship by 5 shots over Micheel.
That's what brought the laugh.
Playing the same hole six weeks ago -- and 30 yards closer than the championship tips -- I also gave it an extra club but did not properly judge the left-to-right wind, and a lovely-looking strike right on the flag drifted 5 yards, pin high but where the green cuts in, the water comes out, and Lake Kadijah had another victim.
So I reloaded, started the next one left of the flag, landed 20 feet right and managed a second-ball par -- granted Illinois-style accounting. This score is also known in some of our 50 states as a double-bogey.
Medinah can do that to someone unfamiliar -- and unqualified -- to manage the undulating greens running hot and a PGA-quality rough, which is particularly troubling around the greens.
Run through and you find yourself in the deep stuff, as I did numerous times, unable to hold the putting surface and needing to hit a 4-foot shot out of 4 inches of rough.
Yeah, still thinking about the par-4 first when I turned a birdie opportunity from the middle of the fairway into a 6-foot bogey save.
Uh-huh, still a dope.
It is the classic bomb-and-gouge PGA tournament course, where the big boys will hit it very far with little concern for a rough they can maneuver, having only wedge in far too often.
But it has one of the great finishes in golf, with the drivable par-4 15th, the entertaining 16th, a dog left and up the hill -- remembered as the "Sergio hole" from the '99 PGA Championship -- the par-3 17th and the closing hole that featured so much drama in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
If you sit on the hill behind the 17th green this week at the BMW Championship, you might see the tournament settled, but you will get to watch the triumphant walk over the bridge, and a chance to see the leaders as they tempt fate and a large lake.
If the name of Shaun Micheel comes to mind, it's OK to snicker.