Hit it straight like Beckman

People are golfing somewhere. And among those most fortunate souls are people that, while they may not be in Minnesota, are from here.  I take some strange comfort in that as the winter draws long.

Cameron Beckman is such a person.  While fellow Minnesota pros like Tom Lehman, Tim Herron, Hilary Lunke, and John Harris may have gathered more pub in recent years, Beckman -- days short of his 39th birthday and a PGA Tour player since 1999 -- has been swinging a sweet stick lately that is worthy of attention. 

The PGA Championship at Hazeltine looms large in August, and Beckman -- now a resident of San Antonio, Texas -- looks to be there.  But before looking too far forward, let's take a gander back:

Beckman hails from Burnsville, where he captained both the golf and hockey teams, and was named All-Conference in each sport.  Post high school, he went down to Texas where, in 1991, he spurred competition, winning the 1991 NAIA individual golf championship while at Texas Lutheran University.  Beckman is a Hall of Fame member at both alma maters, and is also a member of the NAIA Hall.

Beckman turned pro in 1993, and qualified for the PGA in '99.  Two years later, his won his

first tour event at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic (now, perhaps ironically for Beckman, played as the Viking Classic).  He then went through an oft-woeful stretch of back pain and swing strain that led him to near retirement.  But recently, something happened.

Last fall, Beckman, nearing a return to qualifying school, shot a final round 63 to force a playoff with Kevin Sutherland at the Open.  A victory on the second playoff hole earned him $900,000, a two-year PGA exemption, and snapped his seven year dry spell.  Said Beckman after the win:

"I don't know, I just had a calmness about me this week, and it just happened.  It's just like the last time I won. It just kind of happened. It's strange. I don't know what it is."

The win propelled a streak in which Beckman has now made the cut in seven straight tournaments - that's good for the 19th best run on Tour.  He's 4/4 in cuts made in '09, and has six top-25 finishes in his last 20 tournaments played.  Of his 17 rounds played this year, he's been sub-70 eleven times.  Prior to this week's Buick Invitational (in which Beckman is not participating), he has the Tour's second-best tally on Par 3's (-7 overall), the second-best total on Par 5's (-30), and has accrued the third-most Birdies (77) and the most eagles (5).  Beckman also ranks in the top-40 in putting average, par breakers, and putts-per-round.

Surely, more people will know the name of Tiger Woods (or hell, even James Woods) when "Glory's last shot" comes to Chaska for a sacred weekend in mid-August.  But Cameron Beckman is said to have putted on carpet lain over melting snow and dirtied turf at the onset of childhood, Minnesota springs.  Rich Beem came out of nowhere to beat Tiger by a stroke at Hazeltine back in 2002, and the PGA Championship is long known for finding first-time major victors.  Beckman won't have his carpet there, but he will have his backers.  And should he continue playing at his present clip - it looks like he'll be bringing some game as well.