USPGA Championship: Inside Track

Our man at the course Harry Emanuel brings you his halfway analysis of the USPGA Championship.

The 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills may prove to be the hardest major championship of 2008.

Fast fairways, heavy rough, severely undulating greens and a touch of wind have combined to make this a test of character as much as test of golf.

David Toms believes: “It says a lot about yourself and how much in control you are of your emotions and your golf game when you play a golf course like this.

“You just have to hang in there as you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Brandt Snedeker had one word to describe the playing conditions: “Brutal”. When asked to elaborate he said: “Absolutely brutal”.

Lee Westwood was somewhat more disparaging, accusing the organisers of “sucking the fun out of major championships”.

Colin Montgomerie, who shot 84 in the second round, equalling his worst score as a professional golfer, felt: “The course is very, very severe.”

The average score has been nearly five over par (74.86 in round one and 74.85 in round two).

There is nothing wrong with a tough test of golf but the PGA of America has got this one wrong in my opinion.

It is more like an old style US Open set up with deep five inch rough that borders narrow fairways and players that miss by an inch are penalised as much or more so than players that miss by 30 feet.

The rough was raked towards the tees, which makes for such deep lies and means the players struggle to advance the ball more than 50 yards. It does take some of the skill out of the competition.

The course has dried out and there is a marked difference in the conditions from the one the players faced during practice. Playing fast and firm it is even more difficult to get the ball in the fairway.

The rough around the greens is so thick that the chipping comes down to luck more than skill. Justin Rose explained: “You want to be able to run the ball around a little bit and bring in the skill of chipping whereas this week it’s a little bit of guess work around the greens.

The PGA have admitted their mistake by bringing the tees forward on the sixth, ninth and 17 and 18 for the second round reducing the overall yardage by over two hundred yards. The sixth became a drivable par four at 300 yards and played half a shot easier.

The 17th and 18th still only yielded three birdies.
In such conditions there is a certain levelling effect and often a strange name ends up a top the leader board after 72 holes.

The winning score will definitely be over par if the PGA of America continues to tuck the pins in the corners and there is no expectation that they will make any further adjustments.

Below are the hole averages from the first two rounds.

Hole Yards Par Sc Av Rank
1 435 4 4.232 12
2 529 5 4.691 18
3 198 3 3.170 15
4 446 4 4.232 12
5 490 4 4.360 7
6 387 4 4.068 16
7 449 4 4.431 3
8 491 4 4.412 4
9 257 3 3.450 2
3,682 35
10 462 4 4.357 8
11 423 4 4.312 10
12 593 4 4.849 17
13 191 3 3.251 11
14 501 4 4.331 9
15 401 4 4.228 14
16 406 4 4.408 5
17 238 3 3.399 6
18 498 4 4.669 1
3,713 35
70 7,395

There have already been 1,575 bogeys, 236 doubles and 26 others compared 604 birdies and 3,140 pars.

The finishing holes on both nines are treacherous to say the least and no lead will be safe late on Sunday afternoon.