Short Putts

In form

THE US PGA Championship used to have a reputation of producing first-time major champions, from Wayne Grady and Shaun Micheel, to stars like Vijay Singh and Davis Love III. That’s no longer the case, as the last five champions of the final major have been Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods (twice), Phil Mickelson and Vijay.

What stands out among recent champions is what kind of year they have had.

Micheel in 2003 is the only winner who had not won until the US PGA Championship.

That remains Micheel’s only victory.

David Toms (2001), Mark Brooks (1996), Vijay (2004) and Rich Beem (2002) all had their best seasons the year they won the PGA Championship. Brooks had won twice before his major victory at Valhalla.

“I think it makes a difference between the ears of the golfer,” Stewart Cink said.

“It’s a huge confidence builder. It can only help.”

Drummer boy

THE defending US PGA champion not only hosts a dinner for past champions, he selects a special gift. Shaun Micheel gave them a guitar at the 2004 dinner, while Phil Mickelson gave the champions a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from their US PGA victory.

Padraig Harrington made some noise at his dinner on Tuesday.

His gift was a “bodhran,” which is a traditional Irish drum that looks like a tambourine without the bells.

“Micheel gave us a guitar,” Rich Beem said. “All I need now is a bass player and I’m good to go.”

“In the hands of the right Irishman, it makes a lovely sound,” Harrington told them.

“In the hands of a 6-year-old, I’m not so sure. You might want to keep it on a high shelf.”

The other guy

RICH Beem won the US PGA Championship the last time it was held at Hazeltine, but even he expects to be forgotten during the first two rounds. His playing partners are defending champion Padraig Harrington and Tiger Woods.

Beem made light of being the third wheel when asked to speak at the dinner for US PGA champions on Tuesday.

He told stories of his relationship with Hazeltine members over the last seven years, how he has made a dozen trips to the golf course and now was an honorary member.

Beem said he looked at Harrington and Woods and pulled a line straight from the movie, “Anchorman.”

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal,” he said. “People know me.” — AP

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