Oak Hill impressions

Thoughts from a week covering the PGA Championship

Wednesday – One more chance to get close to Tiger as he finishes his last nine holes of practice. Through the gauntlet he must pass from the 9th green to the clubhouse, the fans take pictures and shove all kinds of memorabilia at him as he walks fast and signs a few. One guy waited 10 years, and got his autograph. Another guy held up his Nike shoe for a signature. I don’t know if he succeeded.

Further away, on the 17th hole of the West course, one-timers and wannabes hack away from 150 yards out, looking to win a car if they can get a hole-in one. Only a few even hit the green. Most go way left or right. Some are topped. One guy flew his club further than the ball.

Thursday – They’re underway now, and it’s ironic that as the masses follow Tiger into a week full of irrelevance, right behind him Jim Furyk, who did more practice than anyone, is threatening records before grabbing the lead with his 65.

You soon realize that 99.5 percent of the golf fans are great. The other 0.5 percent insist on shouting “Baba Booey!” or “mashed potatoes!” every time a ball gets airborne near a boom mike. That gets really tiresome, real fast – and imagine how the big names who hear it all the time feel. Despite a weather delay, everyone finishes before dark.

Friday – As it turns out, my most vivid memory of the week isn’t of a golfer. It’s of a handful of Canadian teenagers in red T-shirts, dedicated fans of laid-back Jason Dufner. They call themselves “Duf’s Dips” and they’re out, in uniform, before 8 a.m., amid the pouring rain, more than five hours before their hero tees off.

More than 10 hours later, those same guys are standing beside the green at 18 as Dufner faces his putt to become the first man ever to shoot 62 in a major. I’m nervous. Imagine how Jason feels, though he never, ever shows it. The putt falls short, but Duf’s Dips don’t care. They still greet him as he walks off the green, heading toward his greatest golfing triumph.

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