PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: INSIDE TRACK
Our man at Southern Hills, Harry the Hat Emanuel, brings you his pre-tournament analysis of how the course should play.
This year the PGA Championship returns to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa Oklahoma.
In recent times Southern Hills has hosted the 2001 US. Open, the 1995 and 1996 Tour Championship and 1994 PGA Championship.
Southern Hills is best described as an old style course. It is a beautifully maintained tree lined course with many doglegs and elevation changes.
It has been likened to Colonial and Phil Mickelson agrees, saying: “This course reminds me a lot of Colonial. The grasses on the greens are identical and the grass around the greens.
“There are a lot of similarities in the looks and the way the wind blows around the tops of the trees.”
Expect players with good Colonial records to play well here.
Southern Hills will provide a very stern test from the tee. Many of the fairways are quite narrow and the slopes make the landing areas even smaller.
The rough is penal. The ball really sits down making it difficult to progress the ball much more than 120 yards towards the hole. Accuracy off the tee will be crucial this week.
Zach Johnson put it simply: “Specifically on this golf course you’ve got to hit the ball on the fairway, bottom line.”
It does favour drawers of the ball but you’ve got to be able to shape it both ways.
Everyone is talking about the weather or rather the heat. It is forecast to be in the 100s all week long and many players only played nine holes in practice, and even then they looked beat.
It will be tough but most players have experience of these types of conditions. Padraig Harrington remarked: “I don’t see it as a real issue. I play quite a bit in Malaysia, where we get quite a bit hotter and stickier than this.”
The weather conditions in August make playing golf in Tulsa a very different proposition compared to other times of the year. Tom Lehman, winner of the 1996 Tour Championship, explained: “In 1996 it was cooler drier and firmer with less rough. In summer the rough is higher and the course is firm but not super fast. The main difference is the humidity which means the greens are soft and don’t have so much roll.”
Steve Stricker agreed: “The greens are smooth but holding.” The greens are receptive so players are able to stop the ball close to the hole and good scores can be made.
Stricker added: “Par is not going to hurt you this week but under par will win.”
Many of the greens are elevated with false fronts and are protected by bunkers and penal rough. A high ball flight is an asset so players can land the ball softly and keep it in the correct position on the very slopey greens.
Like many courses in the modern era the Southern Hills has been lengthened by nearly 300 yards since 1996. It now plays 7,131 yards but par is still 70.
A combination of modern technology and the heat means that players will be hitting even less club than they did in the past but they will still be laying up to the same spots off the tee.
The ninth and 18th greens have been relaid so there should be no repeat of the disasters that befell the players in 2001. The 18th is still a very tricky hole, though, and par will be a very good score.
To give you a better idea of how the course will play I’ve spoken to some of the players and this is how they played course in practice on Tuesday.
1st – Steve Stricker – ‘I hit 3 wood off the tee and then wedge. If you hit the fairway it’s a birdie hole.’
2nd – Aaron Baddeley – ‘Driver and then mid iron. It played a little into the wind so I hit 5 iron today.’
3rd – Arron Oberholser – ‘Driver up the right and then 7 or 8 iron in. You must be up the right hand side to have any chance of hitting the green.’
4th – Rich Beem – ‘2 iron, 9 iron.’
5th – Charlie Hoffman – ‘Driver, 3 wood to get it somewhere up near the green where you can wedge.’
6th – Adam Scott – ‘7 iron.’
7th – Nick Dougherty – ‘Draw a 3 wood down the left side and then 8 or 9 iron.
8th – Michael Campbell – ‘It plays about 230 yards to the front so I hit my 18 degree heaven wood with a slight draw.’
9th – Robert Karlsson – ‘You have two choices. Lay up in front of the bunker with a long iron leaving 8 iron or take 3 wood/driver over bunker and hit a wedge but you’ve got to keep the ball below the hole because the green slopes so much.’
10th – Jose Coceres’s caddie – ‘Draw a 5 iron and then 8 iron.’
11th – Sean O’Hair – ‘8 iron to a small green. You’ve got to hit the green because of the rough and then it’s a good birdie hole.’
12th – JJ Henry – ‘This is one of the most demanding holes on the course along with the 2nd and 18th. Draw a 3 wood and then hit a mid iron, I hit 7 iron today. The greens slopes back left to front right and with the hazard short right anything in the middle of the green is good.’
13th – Camilo Villegas – ‘With the trees on the left I hit 3 wood 3 iron.’
14th – Paul Casey – ‘The par 3s are exceptional. I cut in a six iron as it was down hill down wind it plays more like 200. With bunkers on the left and Bermuda rough on the right and a small green it is a very good hole.’
15th – Justin Leonard – ‘Draw 3 wood and 7 iron and leave ball below the hole.’
16th – Padraig Harrington’s caddie – ‘Driver, 9 iron because it was downwind and we hit the fairway. With out the wind driver, 6 iron.’
17th – Anders Hansen – ‘Into the wind it was 3 wood and 8 iron. You want to be hitting the ball to 230-240 yards off the tee.’
18th – K.J. Choi – ‘2nd shot high 4 iron, land softly, 175 to front 190 to pin.’
OVERALL: The key this week is to hit the fairways and then players can attack the pins and with the receptive greens scoring should be good.
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