PGA could be best major of the year

Tiger Woods (R) walks up the 11th fairway

Tiger Woods (R) walks up the 11th fairway with caddie Byron Bell (L) during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on the South Course at Firestone Country Club. (Aug. 5, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

Mark Herrmann

Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988,

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AKRON, Ohio

This is your week if, in this Coke-or-Pepsi world, you prefer RC Cola. Here's to you, if your favorite among the Three Tenors is Jose Carreras (you know, the Other Guy). Now is your time if Ringo always was your most beloved Beatle.

This is the week for the unsung to sing. The PGA Championship, which normally is a solid fourth in popularity among golf's four majors, has a heck of a chance of being the best major of the year.

A lot of stuff has been brewing all year, and it is ready to boil over. Most of it, naturally, is related to Tiger Woods, who missed the past two majors. There is the issue of Woods' continued quest to regain his game after the 2009 scandal, to reclaim his form after nearly three months off because of injuries, to move along without Steve Williams, the caddie whom he fired last month.

Woods still is a little rusty, especially on the greens, but he has proved at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week that he is healthy and that he can hit it solidly again. Just the fact that he will be at the Atlanta Athletic Club will make the PGA interesting. That he has at least a puncher's chance for a big week makes the week compelling.

On top of that, there is the matter of some observers having called Rory McIlroy "the next Tiger Woods" (probably a decade prematurely, at best). There is the question of when an American might finally win a major again. There is the matter of the new generation emerging -- "It's getting really, really tough to win golf tournaments out here," said Jason Day, 23, who is a stroke out of first place at the Bridgestone -- and there is the possibility that an oldie can win again, as did Darren Clarke, 42, at the British Open.

This all comes into play at the PGA, which has no green jacket, no Magnolia Lane, no national championship cachet, no Claret Jug. It often has been the Old Milwaukee to the other majors' Bud Light, Miller Lite and Heineken, which is too bad. The PGA has the best field in golf and deserves to be a centerpiece, not an afterthought.

Woods insists that a PGA counts as much as any other major. He said here this week: "We get four a year, and try to peak four times a year. It's as simple as that."

Let's face it, the sport hasn't exactly peaked three times in 2011.

Sunday in Augusta was fine, and it looked like something really dramatic was going to happen. But with due respect to Charl Schwartzel's four birdies, the finish felt anticlimactic.

McIlroy was stellar at the U.S. Open, and it was inspiring to see how he recovered from his heartbreak at the Masters. Still, Congressional Country Club was Charmin soft and that "graduated" rough looked more like a high school dropout.

What a sweet story it was to see Clarke win at Royal St. George's. But the landscape just looked gloomy and, as far as the average American sports fan was concerned, it was a distant second to Women's World Cup soccer.

So the PGA has a chance to outshine them all, which is about time. It is a well run tournament on mostly high quality courses. Walter Hagen won it, so did Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Woods. Arnold Palmer never won it, proving the PGA is no pushover.

It is no Godfather III to the other majors' Godfather I or II. It's first rate. This year, "Glory's Last Shot" (the official slogan) figures to be golf's best show.