Recapping the 2017 PGA Championship and other items

If you missed this column last week I apologize. I have been under the weather the last ten days and was on a short leash. The situation was both good and bad. I was limited to watching TV and took in baseball, football, auto racing, the PGA Championship and the news.

The sports portion of my sabbatical was very good. The news? Not so much.

I did get to watch more coverage of the last major championship for the golf season than normal. I would like to share some thoughts on the action from Quail Hollow.

The worst decision of the tournament — That would have to go to Jason Day on his second shot at the finishing hole in round three. Having pushed his drive far to the right, he was faced with what I considered to be no decision at all. On some pine straw with a tree so close that it was likely to impede his swing, all he could really do was to punch back into the fairway and take his medicine.

Or so I thought…

He was within a couple shots of the lead and a bogey would keep him in contention. He saw a possibility that I could not envision in a hundred years. Then again he is a professional. He attempted to hook the ball some 40 yards around the said tree towards the green. If pulled off he would likely get a remarkable par or more likely the aforementioned bogey. If not? Well, can you say risk v. reward?

Now I would never have made the same decision. I can hook the ball. I just don’t know when it’s going to happen. It did not happen for Jason Day on this day and his quadruple bogey took him right out of the tournament. I’ll give him credit though. He smiled all the way to the clubhouse. Wonder what he was really thinking…

The shot of the tournament — That would have to go to the eventual champion Justin Thomas on the 17th hole of the final round. Nursing a small lead he came to the tee on the 220-yard par 3 that is as close to an island green as you will get. He struck the ball crisply and it headed to the middle of the green before rolling left toward the cup. A 15- foot birdie putt dropped and Thomas cruised to victory.

I was enthralled with the shot if for no other reason than his club selection. Had I used the same club for the same shot I would have been some 80 yards SHORT of the green. I suppose he had some adrenaline flowing, but giving me the same jolt might have meant being only 70 yards short!

Cool moment of the tournament — That would be Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler waiting by the 18th green to congratulate their friend on winning. I like the fact that the young guns on the tour are close friends. One doesn’t have to be a jerk to be competitive.

Best story of the tournament — That took place in an early round segment on TNT and really had little to do with golf. Broadcaster Ernie Johnson showed some pictures of Jordan Spieth celebrating his recent win in the Open Championship. He was shown celebrating on a boat in some warm climate. He also was shown drinking from the Claret Jug.

Then a picture of Spieth hugging his sister Ellie appeared. Johnson pointed out that Ellie has special needs and shared a story about her. She had recently turned 16 and when Johnson asked her when she actually hit the magic age she responded simply: “on my birthday!”

Ernie Johnson knows something about special needs children. He and wife Cheryl have six children. Two of them are biological, while the other four have been adopted. Included in the latter is 25-year-old son Michael who was adopted from a Romanian orphanage at the age of 3.

Not your typical adoption as Michael could not walk or talk and had many health issues. The Johnson’s were not concerned with his problems, but wanted to make sure he got a chance at life. There is a documentary that one can watch about Ernie and his adopted son.

Now confined to a wheel chair, Michael can do nothing for himself. As you watch the film footage, you become convinced that Ernie and Cheryl Johnson are incredibly wonderful people. Ernie will quickly dispel that thought though as he believes Michael has given them much more than they have given him. Michael’s favorite phrase is “love you too” and that can come out at any time even if it is not preceded by the same statement to him.

As I watched the Spieth’s share the hug and thought about Ernie and Michael Johnson the word that came at me was indeed love. The love shared by these people is pure and boundless. It comes in stark contrast with the news that I watched as the week unfolded.

While the events in Charlottesville and Barcelona spewed hatred, violence and contempt, this story convinced me that love will always — ALWAYS — triumph over hate.

Now you know why this was my favorite story from the PGA Championship. It has very little to do with golf and a whole lot to do with hope.

Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for the Advertiser-Tribune

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