There is potential for the 2012 PGA Championship. Oh, for a Tiger-Phil fight to the finish at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, high-stakes golf likely to send TV ratings into orbit.

For now, the South Carolina-Clemson baseball game set for Friday night at The Joe feels like the greatest sporting event and toughest ticket in Lowcountry sports history.

This is tell-your-grandchildren stuff, two-time defending College World Series champion and No. 3 South Carolina playing No. 15 Clemson in a bragging rights series opener within a small but famously charming facility.

Thanks to Charleston snagging the neutral site game from Greenville, the heated competition extends to municipalities.

"I call it the barnstorming weekend," South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "I think it's turned out pretty neat. We've got cities now that say, 'Hey, how about bringing that game to us?' There's been some interest other than Charleston and Greenville. There's been some other cities (in South Carolina) inquire that, 'This might be a good thing for us.' I think it's neat."

Comparing other top Lowcountry sporting events:

Family Circle Cup

The best women's tennis players in the world have tangled on Daniel Island since 2001, and Serena Williams' three-set victory over Maria Sharapova in 2008 stands out.

"We're both pretty expressive on the court," Maria said after the match. "I think that's what makes it so entertaining is we never let down. We keep fighting and we keep trying and, I mean, that's why our matches are so entertaining at times."

But bracket formats don't allow for an all-winter prelude to excitement.

1991 Ryder Cup

The "War on the Shore" put the Ocean Course on the world golf map and a thrilling United States victory revived the Ryder Cup.

No need to knock one great thing to argue for another, but I'm guessing most Palmetto State people would rather watch South Carolina-Clemson baseball at its peak than any single day of golf.

NFL exhibitions

Yes, at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium in the 1960s.

The Baltimore Colts defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 31-21, on Aug. 26, 1960.

The Chicago Bears downed the Washington Redskins, 29-13, on Aug. 19, 1961.

The New Orleans Saints edged the AFL's Miami Dolphins, 20-17, on Sept. 2, 1967.

The Colts, featuring icon quarterback Johnny Unitas among other future Hall of Famers, less than 20 months earlier won the NFL Championship by squeaking past the New York Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Speaking of Unitas after the Charleston game, Colts running back and former South Carolina star Alex Hawkins said, "That guy is so great you can't describe it."

But not much rivalry buzz that night.

MLB exhibitions

The Boston Braves played the Detroit Tigers at Hampton Park in 1905 and more than 6,000 fans turned out at College Park to watch a Chicago White Sox-Washington Senators game in 1959.

In between, back when big league clubs returned home from Florida spring training camps via train, teams would stop in Charleston for exhibition games against minor league squads. Ted Williams and Bob Feller played here.

The Tampa Bay Rays twice played the Charleston RiverDogs at The Joe.

Alas, unlike South Carolina vs. Clemson, none of these games counted in the standings.

NHL exhibitions

Icy fun at North Charleston Coliseum, including a 1-0 chiller in which the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Atlanta Thrashers on Sept. 24, 1999, before a crowd of 6,020.

"The fans were really into it," Atlanta head coach Ron Fraser said. "I'd like to come back and see what it's like for an ECHL game."

NBA exhibitions

By far, the best of the handful at North Charleston Coliseum was on Oct. 10, 2009, when LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal led Cleveland to a 101-96 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats before a lively crowd of 11,489.

"I didn't realize that Charleston was as beautiful as it was," Shaq said. "I got to go downtown. This is a nice city, I'll be back."

That was cool, no doubt.

LeBron and Shaq probably are better known in Chicago, Seattle or Kansas City than any Gamecock or Tiger baseball player.

Golf and tennis resonate more than Clemson and South Carolina in New Zealand and China.

Let's face it, big-time college baseball is a regional sport.

Thankfully, we are at the epicenter of that niche and it doesn't get any better than Friday night.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or sapakoff