Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Let's Get Crazy at Oak Hill

That's what the PGA of America did with their setup for the Senior PGA Championship, won by Jay Haas. Sal Maiorana weighs in on the setup:

The players understand the course is brutally difficult, they aren't whining that the rough is too long and lush and they are more than willing to swallow their medicine when they drive their ball astray.

They don't have to grind like this every week, especially on the Champions Tour, and believe it not, on the whole they seem to be enjoying the challenge that has been put forth.

That's great. I'm all for challenging the best players and making them work hard to earn this prestigious championship. I'm just not enamored with watching player after player gouge out of the rough after missing the fairway and then wedging onto green after green in search of a par.

It would be nice if, once in a while, someone had the option of making the bold play and trying to hit a risk-reward type of shot out of semi-playable rough in search of a birdie.

It was this kind of golf that I felt plagued the 2003 PGA Championship and turned that tournament into a snooze until Shaun Micheel hit his remarkable game-clinching 7-iron to within two inches at 18.

I will give the Champions a lot of credit. They took what the course presented and didn't complain much about it. Still, consider this statistic:

Jay Haas won it - or he finished first, anyway - with a 72-hole score of 287, which was fully seven strokes over par. And while that was unsightly, Haas' numbers look downright Woodsian when you consider that only 12 of the 336 rounds (or one out of every 28) submitted by the 84 swells who survived this affair were under par.
Or how about a quote from the winner?

"I would not have thought a 74 could win it," he said. "I thought maybe 70 might have a chance. But, no. Not seven-over. There are probably guys at eight- or nine- or 10-over who didn't think so, either. What was the low score today? Anybody break par?"

Told that three gents - John Ross (68), Vicente Fernandez (69) and Gene Jones (69) - did, Haas had a question.

"Did they," he asked, "quit on 17?"

Yikes. No wonder so many players opted against the championship this year. Tim Simpson's theory did give me a laugh:
The number of players who passed on the opportunity to play the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill CC begs the question: Why?

"Guys have to walk for four days?" Scott Simpson said, positing the most interesting theory.

Thirty-seven players from the alternate list eventually made the field at Oak Hill. The Champions Tour allows players the use of carts, but the Senior PGA Championship is conducted by the PGA of America, which does not permit carts.

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