SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) – Give Phil Mickelson some credit. When he’s not missing 5-footers or exchanging high-fives with the fans, he thinks about things like this.

Apparently the people running the PGA Championship don’t.

If they had, 35,000 fans wouldn’t have crammed the exits and gone home with an empty feeling Sunday after spending $95.40 on a ticket and countless hundreds more in the merchandise tent to watch someone win the final major of the season.

If they had, millions of others who invested a few hours watching on TV wouldn’t have felt cheated, either.

It wasn’t that hard. They had plenty of warning.

All they had to do was check the weather forecast.

Or maybe just listen to Phil

“I had certainly asked to maybe go an hour earlier to try to get it in,” Mickelson said.

Incredibly, the thought of moving up tee times wasn’t even entertained by the PGA of America, despite weather so threatening that everyone in the state of New Jersey knew about it.

They wanted to please CBS and finish just before “60 Minutes” so they took a gamble that the storms wouldn’t come.

They lost, but the biggest losers were the fans.

They’ll be going to offices and other workplaces instead of Baltusrol Golf Club on Monday morning when Mickelson and the other leaders return to finish their last few holes. They’ll be working instead of watching television when the new PGA champion is crowned.

Blame it on greed, and blame it on television. Blame it on PGA officials who cower to CBS so much they didn’t even dare raise the issue of moving things up with the network on Sunday.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

“I know TV rules the world and all of that,” Stuart Appleby said. “But I don’t know how TV rules the world at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Appleby said he was surprised tee times weren’t moved up earlier than the scheduled 3 p.m. start for the leaders when strong thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon.

If he was surprised by that, think of how he might feel after hearing the explanation why.

For the record, here it is:

“If we absolutely knew for sure we were going to be hit at 6 in the afternoon, then we would certainly talk about it and figure out if it made sense to make an alteration,” said Kerry Haigh, who runs tournaments for the PGA of America.

Well, yeah. See what you can do about finding that weatherman who can tell you for sure when and where a storm will hit. We might be able to find him work somewhere.

Weather forecasting may be as much art as it is science, but the forecasts for Sunday afternoon were more threatening than any all week. They called for a 60 percent chance of some pretty serious thunderstorms in the Springfield, N.J., area.

The PGA had a team of weather forecasters on site, but really all anyone had to do was tune into the TV news the night before to know the storms were coming.

The tee times were the same as they were the day before, when Mickelson was also in the last group. There was no rain, but Mickelson said it was a struggle to see the last three or four holes because of fading light.

But Haigh said the subject of moving the tee times up was never raised. The PGA didn’t even ask.

“There was no discussion,” he said.

Don’t tell that to Tiger Woods, who likely would have climbed into his private jet and headed home Sunday night instead of spending another day in suburban New Jersey. Woods finished his round at 2-under-par, two shots off the lead, but had to hang around another day just in case everyone spits it up in the morning.

Mickelson can’t be happy, either, because he’ll have to try and win his second major without thousands of fans screaming themselves silly at every turn. Baltusrol figures to look downright deserted when play resumes Monday with just four holes left for the last twosome of Mickelson and Davis Love III.

Everyone, really, will leave unfulfilled for a championship that will now sputter to an end in front of sparse crowds, competing with the morning talk shows on television.

The PGA has always been the stepchild of the majors, not given its due because it’s not a national championship like the British and U.S. Opens and is not played each year in golf’s cathedral at Augusta National.

Before Sunday, the only real knock about the people running the PGA of America was that they tended to sell the rights to host the tournament and the Ryder Cup to the highest bidder.

This time, though, they sold out golf fans everywhere.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

AP-ES-08-14-05 2146EDT


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