Darren Clarke called it the toughest par-77 he'd ever seen. Lee Westwood said there were eight very hard holes and 10 impossible ones. And just about every other player sensed Whistling Straits was about to eat them alive.
Which brings up the question: Did the PGA of America set up Whistling Straits too easy on Thursday? As usual, the discussion turned into an argument which turned into a bare-knuckle boxing match, but in the end, we decided words were the best way to settle this issue.
|Did the PGA of America set up the course too easy?|
If you watched last year's British Open at Royal St. George's or this year's U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, you saw hilly fairways which couldn't hold a drive, pot bunkers with ladders attached just to get out of, and baked greens slicker than formica. The players whined, the players complained, and the players had to shoot right around par to contend in the tournaments.
And what's wrong with that?
Many people thought this week's PGA Championship would be a repeat of those two. A monster of a course at 7,514 yards, players were saying a score over par could win the tournament.
Instead, the PGA of America swooped in to save the day. Like the sweet old grandpa who spends hundreds in a toy store, the PGA didn't want to see its kids suffer, then wail and cry if they didn't get their way. So, rather than a 70, a few 71s and a bunch of 72s, the PGA Championship leaderboard resembled that of the Reno-Tahoe Open, with 66s and 67s throughout -- and even a 65 at the top.
Yep, that's right. Darren Clarke made nine birdies en route to the round of the day. Toughest course ever? This might not wind up being the toughest PGA Tour course in the Greater Milwaukee area, as 13 under won the U.S. Bank Championship at nearby Brown Deer Park last month.
By moving up tees and making easy pin placements, the PGA of America has tamed Whistling Straits into a quiet beast. They wouldn't have it any other way.
No doubt, it could have been harder. But did the PGA of America make Whistling Straits too easy during Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship? Let's give it 72 holes and then see. Figuring the wind to be stronger, the organization that runs the tournament erred on the side of caution, moving up tees on three holes, giving the players a break. But that's not the reason a whopping 39 players broke par. The course was simply there for the taking. Unlike the practice rounds, the wind didn't howl. There was no rain. It was a pleasant, calm day. And when that is the case, the best players in the world -- many of them at least -- take advantage. The alternative? The final-round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. There, organizers didn't react to changing conditions and got burned. Had the wind been as strong as earlier in the week, things could have gotten out of control, especially at the par-4 eighth, which despite being shortened by 39 yards, was still the hardest hole of the day. Ask Tiger Woods, John Daly, Davis Love III and Jerry Kelly if the course was too easy. There's plenty of time for it to get tougher.
-- Bob Harig