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HAMMOCK: Must-see golf next week

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Gwinnett County golf fans got spoiled for a few years there.

With an annual PGA Tour stop held at the TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth from 1997 to 2008, it was a given that once a year we'd get to see some of the world's top professional golfers. If you missed it one year, it was OK. You'd see it the next year and get the same show. You'd get to see Phil Mickelson, but never Tiger Woods.

But what's coming next week is far from the AT&T/BellSouth Classic.

The PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club is must-see golf. It features 100 of the top 102 players in the world, the second-best field ever assembled in a tourney, and it only comes around once in a long while.

It last came to the area when AAC hosted the 2001 PGA, a thrilling event that saw David Toms edge his partner in the final group, Phil Mickelson, with a clutch par on the 72nd hole.

Even if we don't get that kind of amazing ending, there will be plenty to see for local golf fans next week. The actual tourney begins a week from today, but the sights at the practice rounds will be just as interesting.

The deep field will allow fans to see the world's top-ranked golfers, like the current World Golf Rankings leaders Luke Donald (No. 1), Lee Westwood (No. 2) and defending champion Martin Kaymer (No. 3). Young phenom Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland will be there, too.

Mickelson, a longtime fan favorite in Georgia and in Gwinnett for his play at Sugarloaf, also is in the mix. And Tiger Woods is expected to make his long-awaited return to tournament golf at AAC.

Maybe the best part of having the PGA in our backyard is that we can root hard for our American players. U.S. golfers are on their worst run in major tournaments since the 1930s, having gone six straight majors with a win for the Red, White and Blue.

If that drought ends next week -- and even if it doesn't -- you don't want to miss out on our rare shot to host golf's final major.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.