Elkington, Bjorn ponder what could have been

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Upon completing his final round at the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods talked about the missed opportunities, about the putts that didn't drop and the shots that didn't go where intended. If you dwell on it too much, he said, you could drive yourself crazy.

If so, Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn are prime candidates for a visit to the doctor's couch.

At the very least, it will be difficult for either player not to think about what could have been Monday at Baltusrol Golf Club, where each finished a shot behind PGA champion Phil Mickelson.

Sure, there are misplayed shots throughout the course of a 72-hole event. Everyone has them.

But for Elkington and Bjorn, they need look no further than Baltusrol's 18th hole.

The 565-yard par-5 played as the easiest hole all week, but it was not so benign on Monday morning, when the wind had changed direction and a soft fairway made it longer.

Still, they had destiny in their hands and were unable to take advantage.

First came Elkington. The 1995 PGA champ, who also has two Players Championship titles to his credit, started on the 16th and made two pars. After a Mickelson bogey at the 16th, they were tied.

On the 18th hole, Elkington got a huge break when he yanked his tee shot to the left but saw it hit the trees and bound into the fairway. He couldn't go for the green but still had a chance to make a birdie. His lay-up shot came to rest in a divot, a bad break for sure, but Elkington still gave himself an opportunity, knocking his approach to within 10 feet of the hole.

If the putt goes in, Elkington leads alone. Instead, he missed.

"I didn't quite get exactly the right read I wanted to on that last putt," said Elkington, who lost the 2002 British Open in a playoff. "It sat on the crest, but I was very happy with the way I hit that putt. It was on the inside left. I'd like to see it on tape and see what it did, but it looked good from my angle."

Elkington, 42, admitted it had already been difficult not to think about what could have been.

"I thought about it all night," he said. "I laid in bed from about 9:30. I was looking at the clock at midnight, still looking at the clock at 2 in the morning, thinking, 'What could I have done to keep my lead?' or 'What could I have done different?' You know, what are all the possibilities and things that happened."

For Bjorn, looking back might not be quite so tough. The 34-year-old Dane has been working on some swing changes the past few weeks and did not expect success so quickly.

Still, after a birdie at the 17th, he was tied for the lead. He played the 18th with a chance to put a heap of pressure on Mickelson.

After a good drive, Bjorn had a 3-wood shot to the green, one that was a difficult yardage for him. He hit the shot into a green-side bunker, then blasted out to about 25 feet. The ensuing putt was almost perfect ... and missed falling in by inches

"You stand up, you hit it, it was on a perfect line and a foot from the hole, it was going nowhere else but in the hole," Bjorn said. "Somehow it stayed out. There's not much more to it than that.

"The second shot brought me into that position, and you deal with it. I gave it the best I had, and there's no doubt I gave 110 percent this week to everything I did. I committed myself to playing as hard as I can and I came up one shot short. One day, these major championships are going to break my way."

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.