SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) – Anyone who has ever played the game knows something about the fortunes of golf.

The putt that had nowhere to go, yet somehow stays out.

The shot that lands in a divot.

It’s a game that can be cruel. Often, it is at its cruelest at just the wrong moment.

Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington knew that long before they came out Monday morning with a chance of winning the storm-delayed PGA Championship. They knew it when they teed off on the 18th hole tied for the lead.

Sometimes, the golf gods are going to get you. And there’s nothing you can do but wait for your next chance.

“You stick your nose in often enough, this game is going to give you one one day,” Bjorn said.

Monday wasn’t that day for Elkington, and it certainly wasn’t for Bjorn. Both sat helplessly in the scoring trailer watching Phil Mickelson do what they couldn’t – birdie the 18th hole to win.

A few moments earlier, each had his chance to do the same thing. Both were betrayed by a golf course that wouldn’t let them in.

Elkington’s second shot ended up in a divot 96 yards from the hole, and it was all he could do to get it somewhat close. Bjorn wasn’t as close, but the putt he thought was in all the way lipped out agonizingly at the end.

“I felt good over it and when it was about a foot from the hole I felt even better about it,” Bjorn said. “You can only say that it wasn’t to be.”

Both Bjorn and Elkington were philosophical about their missed chances.

They had to be. Their only other choice was to let the quirks of the game beat them down.

Elkington had tossed and turned most of the night thinking about the lead he had on Sunday and how he let it get away. He thought about what he would do when he came out for his final few holes Monday and what he had to do to win his second major.

It had been 10 years since Elkington won the PGA at Riviera Country Club, but he came back for his final holes thinking he could do it again. He was only a shot behind Mickelson as play resumed with three holes to play.

Sure, what was left of the crowd from the day before was roaring for Phil. But crowds don’t win golf tournaments; good shots and good breaks do.

Elkington got one of those breaks on the 18th hole when his drive hit a tree and bounced out, leaving him with a shot toward the green on the par 5.

Just like that, though, the course turned on him when his second shot rolled into a sand-filled divot.

Elkington thought back to when he won the Players Championship in 1991 and the same thing happened. Armed with the positive vibes, he hit his shot to 10 feet.

The putt was inside left. He hit it where he wanted and watched as the ball and his chance slid by the hole.

“It looked good from my angle,” Elkington said.

Bjorn’s looked even better. His actually hit the cup and lipped out.

“It was going nowhere else but in the hole. Somehow it stayed out,” Bjorn said. “There’s not much more to it than that.”

Bjorn had come close before, losing the 2003 British Open when he couldn’t get out of a bunker and made a double bogey on the 16th hole. This time he nearly birdied the last two holes, so he had something positive to think about in the eight long months before the next major championship in Augusta, Ga.

“I’ll just keep going. 2006 is not too far away, and I’ll look forward to those majors,” the Dane said. “One day, these major championships are going to break my way.”

One already broke Elkington’s way, but it’s been a long time since anything else has. He’s battled injuries and sinus problems just to get back to this point and knows how hard it is to win one major, much less another.

“Tiger collects them like they’re nothing,” he said. “For the rest of us, it’s not that easy.”

Someone suggested to Elkington that even though he didn’t win the Wanamaker Trophy, it was still something of a moral victory to be able to contend after all his problems.

He wasn’t buying it.

Not on this day. Not on any day.

“There’s no moral victory for coming in second in this major,” he said. “If anyone who can tell me who was runner-up in any major, I’ll give you a hundred dollars. No one remembers you but family and friends.”


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

AP-ES-08-15-05 1406EDT

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