Women's PGA week starts with shotmaking clinic


Writing from Olympia Fields, Illinois

Monday, July 26, 2017 

There were about 700 people, many of them children by turns attentive, awe-struck, giggling and eventually eager for autographs, crowding the eighth tee at Olympia Fields Country Club’s South Course on Monday, delighted to see Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis and Phil Mickelson put on a shotmaking exhibition.

One of that quartet is not playing in the 63rd Women’s PGA Championship, which commences on Thursday on Olympia’s testing North Course, which hasn’t hosted a women’s major championship in 84 years. Since then, there has been a PGA Championship, a U.S. Open, an NCAA Championship and two Western Opens, plus the 2015 U.S. Amateur.

Lewis, for one, can’t wait.

“Frankly, we can play here,” Lewis said. “To add a female to that list of past champions where guys have played U.S. Opens, it’s really an honor for us to be here. It’s nice to see things changing and going in that direction.

“It’s awesome. You walk on property and you can feel it’s a major championship.”

Henderson had similar feelings.

“What’s so amazing about this major championship is we play the best golf courses,” Henderson said. “Watching Jim Furyk win (the 2003 U.S. Open), maybe I’ll have to go back and watch some highlights to see how he did it.”

Henderson was 5 when Furyk held off the field to win that Open.

Now 19, Henderson has played the North Course twice so far, and has the logical assessment.

“It’s a tough golf course,” Henderson said. “Especially if the wind picks up like this. It’s not going to be super-low scoring. If you get solid under-par rounds each and every day, your chances are really high.”

Mickelson, once again heaping plaudits on caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay, said brother Tim Mickelson will carry his bag for the rest of the year, and that he has no idea whom Mackey will work for next.

“There’s going to be a lot of great players (asking), but one great player is going to be lucky enough to have him, and he’s going to bring a lot to his game. They’re going to be a great team.”

The quarter-century Mickelson and Mackay were together is unusual in the player-caddie realm. Even Jack Nicklaus and Angelo Argea were together only about 20 years.

“We’ve gone through highs and lows on the course and highs and lows off the course,” Mickelson said of his relationship with Mackay. “We wanted to end it at the U.S. Open, because that’s where it started in 1992. We wanted to make it exactly 25 years, but technically it was, because our first event was the qualifier in Memphis in 1992. We knew that final round in Memphis (this year) was our last round together, most likely, and it was an emotional day.”

One prospect is Jon Rahm, whose agent is none other than Tim Mickelson.

The appearance of Mickelson, who tied for 55th in the 2003 U.S. Open, was not by happenstance. He, like Lewis, is paid to represent KPMG, the title sponsor of the Women’s PGA.

Tuesday at Olympia

There’s a pro-am, in which a few hundred amateurs will torture themselves on the course while playing with the pros, who will try to get in some serious practice. It runs all day.

Tim Cronin

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