MEDINAH, Ill. -- Billy Andrade was, for a short while yesterday, ranked No. 1. When he lost that status, he was thrilled. It meant that he was off the list of alternates and into the 88th PGA Championship.
The Rhode Islander, who had been listed as eighth alternate as recently as Friday, kept moving up the list as names dropped out, and when Wayne Grady (wrist) and Bo Van Pelt (his wife recently had the couple's third child) withdrew, Andrade found himself the first alternate. Still, he wasn't going to head to Medinah Country Club until he heard for certain that he was in. That call arrived by midday: Steve Elkington had withdrawn.
Thus, Andrade will be on a plane this morning, in time for just one practice round.
``I'll let all those other guys wear themselves out," said Andrade, 42, who has missed just one PGA Championship since 1989. The fact that he wasn't eligible for this one was something for which Andrade takes blame. Officials keep a money list from August 2005 to July 2006, and Andrade wasn't inside the top 70.
``It's a pretty easy system," he said. ``They've kept it the same for years now, but when you added it up, it wasn't enough."
Andrade drew inspiration from what happened in 2003 at Oak Hill CC in Rochester, N.Y. He got in as an alternate that week, worked his way into the last pairing in Saturday's third round, and eventually finished tied for 10th.
Another source of motivation will be the way he's playing, which is solidly. In three of his last six starts, Andrade has finished top 10 and with $972,147 in earnings, he's 65th on the 2006 money list and enjoying one of his best seasons.
``I really think I'm as competitive right now as I've been in a long time," said Andrade.
``I've been knocking on the door and I want to keep knocking."
Doing his part Padraig Harrington
has vowed to hand over his check to research in memory of Heather Clarke
, the wife of Darren Clarke
who died Sunday after a long battle with breast cancer. ``I'll donate whatever I win this week," said Harrington. ``For me, it feels like I'm doing something practical this week." Harrington, like most of his European colleagues, felt as if he should have withdrawn to show support to Clarke, one of the European PGA Tour's most popular players, ``but Darren made it quite clear that the players should go and play. It's what Heather would have wanted. That made our decision a whole lot easier to be here." . . . Told of Harrington's intention to donate his prize, Tiger Woods
nodded and said he wasn't the least bit surprised. ``Paddy is one of the greatest guys out here. You know he's got a big heart," said Woods . . . People wondered how it was that club pro Mike Small
ended up playing a practice round with Phil Mickelson
, but it wasn't that hard to explain. They bumped into each other Sunday, exchanged pleasantries, and the lefthander said if there was anything Small needed, just ask. ``I said, `Well, OK. Have you got a game? I'm looking for a game,' " said Small, who is also the golf coach at the University of Illinois. ``He said, `Sure, Tuesday morning, 7:45.' " True to his word, Mickelson was there at 7:45, off with Small, Jason Gore
, and Aaron Baddeley
Standing in Ron Philo Jr
. wholeheartedly appreciates that PGA of America officials put the club pros into pairings with PGA Tour regulars, rather than place them all together. ``The experience I have standing alongside some of the greatest players in the world and seeing how they perform is something that I can share with my students," said Philo, the onetime New England PGA standout who is now head pro at Metropolis CC in White Plains, N.Y. Philo will be paired with Larry Nelson
and Jonathan Byrd
in Rounds 1 and 2 . . . Luke Donald
may be an Englishman by birth, but he's at home in the Chicago suburbs. That's because he spent four years at Northwestern and still makes his home here. In fact, he's commuting this week. ``It's about a 40-minute drive, so not too bad," he said . . . The traditional PGA Champions dinner was last night, so what did the defending champ hand out as a gift to the former winners? ``It's tough to get winners of the PGA Championship a really nice gift on an $80 budget," said Mickelson, tongue in cheek. When the laughter subsided, the lefthander revealed that he was planning to present to them leather-bound scrapbooks that contained newspaper clippings about the players as youngsters and major champions.
THE PGA Jim McCabe blogs from the last major this week at www.boston.com/sports/golf/golf_blog.
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