- US PGA Championship
Plate full of stars headlining at PGAAugust 10, 2014
Not much going on here at the PGA Championship, otherwise known as The Land of Red Numbers.
First of all, you've got a leaderboard with so much pedigree that it ought to be entered into the Westminster Dog Show. It's a golf calzone, filled with your 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, along with Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Henrik Stenson all stuffed into the top 10. Yum.
And Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood are lingering just outside that top 10.
If you're keeping track, that's four players in world-ranking single digits (No.2 Scott, No.4 Stenson, No.8 Furyk and No.9 Day) and four players with majors (Scott, Furyk, Mickelson and Oosthuizen) all within a half dozen shots of world No.1 McIlroy. And Fowler (world No.18) can't fall out of bed this year without landing on a top-five finish in a major. Now he'd like to actually win one.
Everybody is going low at Valhalla Golf Club. It's a negative integers convention. Of the 74 players who slogged through the Philippines-like humidity on Saturday, 46 of them shot below par 71. I'm pretty sure CBS's Jim Nantz carded a 67.
The PGA Championship is the fun major. Unlike the US Open or the Open Championship, it doesn't want to hold your still-beating heart in front of you after ripping it from your chest. It wants to hear roars, not whimpers.
Everybody knows who McIlroy is. He's going for his third victory in a row, his second major in a row. He's a brand. His watch commercial has run 11,000 times during the telecasts.
Bernd Wiesberger is not a brand. He's an IPA you order at Octoberfest - or so I heard someone say in the gallery.
I'm going to be honest with you: Wiesberger wasn't on my short list of possible winners this week. The Austrian wasn't on my long list. I'm not sure the Wiesberger family took him in their PGA Championship pool.
"I didn't really expect any of this coming into this week," Wiesberger said.
But that's the cool thing about golf and this major: It has a soft spot for unknowns (John Daly, Mark Brooks, Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel and Y.E. Yang) and weird endings.
Wiesberger is known, sort of, in the golf world (ranked a respectable 70th in the world) and in his hometown of Oberwart, Austria, but until this week he was a nonfactor in the biggies. He had made one cut in his previous five majors, including two PGA Championship MCs in 2013 and 2012. His best-ever major finish: T-64 at the 2013 Open Championship.
But here he is, fresh off a bogey-free 65 on Saturday. One day a semi-nobody, the next a contender for a major.
"Well, you know, I have it in me," he said. "I know I can perform on the big stage."
Eighteen holes separate the 28-year-old Wiesberger from a Wanamaker and instant fame. His two favorite players are Mickelson and Ernie Els. Win on Sunday and he joins them as major winners. Oberwart will be hopping.
Those same 18 holes separate McIlroy from a fourth major victory before his 26th birthday; Fowler, Day and Stenson from their first major win; Mickelson from his sixth career major and incredibly, his first top-10 finish in the States this year; Oosthuizen from his second career major; and if you believe in healthy-sized comebacks, Scott and Furyk from their second career majors and Westwood from his first.
McIlroy shot a 4-under-par 67, but there was nothing stress-free about it. He grinded and, on occasion, showed a moment or two of frustration and anger. The club slam after he fluffed a downhill chip shot on No.12 comes to mind.
But McIlroy recovered. His mantra during this incredible golf run has been patience, and he showed it during a round in which a 67 could have swelled to a 69 or worse if not for a pair of world-class bogey saves.
How can you not love a Sunday when McIlroy, once again a 54-hole leader at a major, can join the conversation as a legitimate pursuer of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major victories?
"Loving it," said McIlroy. "I'm loving it. It's where I want to be. It's the best place to be in a golf tournament. I couldn't want to be anywhere else."
How can you not marvel at the possibility of the obscure Wiesberger, who comes from a country where you could fit all the golf fans into Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, winning this thing?
How can you not drool at the prospect of another Mickelson family reunion and hugfest at the 18th green?
"It's so fun for me to be back in the thick of it ... being in contention heading into Sunday and not having to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning to tee off," said Mickelson, who has been in way too many dawn-patrol pairings this year.
And how can you not root for the likable and respected Fowler, all of 25 and paired with the 44-year-old Phil, to break through?
"We'll have a good time, that's for sure," said Fowler.
Imagine that, fun at a major. That's the PGA Championship. That's Sunday.
This article first appeared on ESPN.com