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Bill Plaschke: Golf wins as Tiger Woods loses at PGA Championship

August 15, 2011 |  9:55 am

The thought settled in my mind at approximately the same time Keegan Bradley’s 35-foot birdie putt settled into the 17th hole, highlighting his humid, howling charge toward a PGA Championship.

I don’t miss Tiger Woods.

The idea pounded through my brain when, a few minutes later, I watched Jason Dufner graciously pump fists with fans before beginning the painful process of coughing up that PGA Championship.

I don’t miss Tiger Woods.

I don’t miss sullen when I can watch joy. I don’t miss aloof when I can watch engaging. I don’t miss plastic when I can watch real.

There will be much discussion today that rookie Bradley’s playoff victory over Dufner in the PGA Championship in Atlanta on Sunday capped a summer that was a major bore. The four biggest tournaments had four different anonymous winners, none of which were named Woods, and isn’t golf going to hell in a head cover?

Wrong. Golf grows. Golf wins. This transformation to younger, unaffected champions is the best thing to happen to golf since, well, Tiger Woods.

It’s fun to watch new faces. It's inspiring to feel a different energy. Charl Schwartzel overcomes Rory McIlroy’s collapse to win the Masters. McIlroy rebounds to dominate the U.S. Open. Darren Clarke rolls out a big-bellied win at the British Open.

And now, a kid playing in his first major wins his first major by playing pressure golf like a Tiger, but without the Woods. And down the stretch, he beats a guy who has never won a PGA tournament and carries a last name that is two consonants from being the worst thing you could call a golfer. Neither dude really had a clue where they were. Nobody watching had any idea how it was going to turn out. Was this a great Sunday afternoon or what?

Bradley wore a red shirt on the final day but, unlike Woods, it wasn’t about power, it was about his college, that traditional golf power from the middle of the country’s biggest city, St. John’s. Yeah, I didn’t know they had a team, either.

Bradley paused behind the scorer’s trailer before beginning the playoff, like Woods often did, but it wasn’t to study a yardage book, he stopped to play with his stroller-riding nephew.

Bradley chipped a ball into the water on the 15th hole, leading to a triple-bogey that seemingly ended his chances, but there were no thrown clubs, no nasty glares, nothing but a wince, following by another hour of fight.

Bradley’s win capped a summer of surprising and dramatic golf theater, and if you’re not watching because you miss Woods, you’re missing out. And, oh yeah, when Bradley sank his final winning putt and raised his fists into the air and began the celebrating, did you see his caddy? Did anybody see his caddy? Anywhere?



Photos: 2011 PGA Championship

Video: PGA Championship highlights

Tiger Woods misses the cut at the PGA Championship

Bill Plaschke: Take a bow, Steve Williams ... now go away

Top left photo: Keegan Bradley. Credit: Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

Bottom left photo: Jason Dufner. Credit: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

Right photo: Tiger Woods. Jeff Haynes / Reuters