Length counts at Hazeltine
BY Anthony Powter | US PGA Tour | 2009 US PGA Championship | General | 12 Aug 2009
Players in this week’s US PGA Championship are set to face the longest course in the event’s 91 years, a whooping 7,674 yards should tournament officials play the event from the back markers.
The most demanding and lengthy stretch will be on the back nine at Hazeltine National Golf Club where, in a four-hole stretch, players could tackle the longest par-3, par-4 and par-5 in the championship’s history — the 518-yard par-4 12th, the 248-yard par-3 13th and the 642-yard par-5 15th.
Hazeltine National will play 319 yards longer than it did for the 2002 PGA Championship, 525 yards longer than it did for the 1991 US Open and 523 yards longer than it did for the 1970 US Open.
“It’s overly long in places,” says Stuart Appleby.
Appleby is not alone in his assessment.
“The course is different and in places lacks a bit of character,” says Mathew Goggin, who finished a creditable 5th at The Open Championship last month at Turnberry.
“It’s long out there, in fact in places it’s overly long. I had a practice round yesterday and enjoyed it. It will be testing, especially with the driver.”
Retief Goosen certainly found the 176 yard 8th hole to his liking during today’s practice round as his piercing 8 iron resulted in a hole-in-one whereby practice partner, Sergio Garcia, responded with a high-5 to the delight of the strong galleries that attended today.
In fact the sheer size of the galleries for a Tuesday practice round astonished many of the players, particularly the world’s number one.
“No, it’s very atypical,” said Woods at today’s press conference when asked about the size of the galleries following his group.
“To have that many people out here in a practice round is phenomenal. Even at Bethpage this year, we never saw this many people.”
One issue that took centre stage during today’s press conferences was the events that transpired last Sunday at Firestone Country Club in Akron.
Tiger Woods will not be fined by the PGA Tour for his criticism of John Paramor, the European Tour rules official who, after discussions with PGA Tour officials during Sunday’s final round at the Bridgestone Invitational, put the world number one and Padraig Harrington “on the clock”.
Woods was still seething over the issue at today’s packed media conference, keeping his responses to the bombardment of questions from the 100 strong media in attendance to a minimum.
“There’s no fine,” said Woods.
“The way I understood it, we were the only two in contention to win the event. We had separated ourselves. The winner was not going to come from the groups ahead, it was going to come from our group. It was a great battle.”
The media continued to press Woods about his comments, seeking an explanation of Woods’ conduct.
“I said what I said because that certainly affected how Paddy played the hole and the outcome of the tournament. He was in control of the event. He was 1 up with three holes to go, and he had a par 5. When we were put on the clock, it changed everything.”
Padraig Harrington was keeping his powder dry on the subject, yet his disappointment of letting a World Championship title slip was still obvious as he answered questions outside the Media Centre.
Once a player is on the clock, he is allowed 40 seconds to take fairway shots and 60 seconds for putts. But in the player’s mind, it’s not about the time, it’s about the threat of the penalty being imposed.
A violation will result in a stroke penalty. Although no player has actually been penalised since 1982, the fact is, the threat is still there, and that can play on a player’s mind.
“You know, I reacted poorly to the situation, and that’s my own fault,” said Harrington.
“The doubt creeps in, and you end up making a little mistake because you’re not settled on it. I’m going to take it on the chin and say it was my mistake.”
All eyes still remain focussed on Tiger Woods, who is seeking his 15th professional major and fifth PGA Championship.
Following wins in 2006 and 2007, Woods is now attempting to become the third man to win five PGA Championships, joining Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus.
Woods finished second to Rich Beem when Hazeltine National hosted the 2002 PGA Championship. He is also coming off a victory last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, however, you would be a brave man to raise how that win eventuated.
This afternoon, Geoff Ogilvy looked relaxed and at ease playing Hazeltine, at times sharing a joke about the layout with his good mate, Goggin. With limited success in recent times, Goggin’s fifth place at the British Open not withstading, the pressure on the Aussie duo is lessened and that suits them both.
The Wanamaker Trophy represents one of golf’s pinnacle achievements and there is no better evidence of this than the record-equally 98 players from the world’s top 100 competing this week in Minnesota. And if they don’t know it already, they will certainly know by Sunday, that length does indeed count.