Another trip to Oak Hill

Week-long coverage of PGA Championship can be found here

It’s been quite a major season.

From Adam Scott shedding his Lytham demons in the rain at Augusta, to Justin Rose fulfilling his teenage promise 15 years later at Merion, to Phil Mickelson delivering a final-round masterpiece at Muirfield to snatch the one title he thought he’d never win, the show has always delivered.

Now the show is right in our backyard, an hour or so up the road, tucked into the Rochester suburb of Pittsford at a special place called Oak Hill.

They’ve seen everything here. The apotheosis of Cary Middlecoff, breakthrough of Lee Trevino, runaway of Jack Nicklaus, repeat of Curtis Strange and shocker of Shaun Micheel’s seven-iron, not to mention senior and amateur titles and an epochal Ryder Cup in 1995.

This brings us to the 95th renewal of the PGA Championship. A decade after Micheel notched his only pro win in the year’s final major, they return to Oak Hill, which is still a tough, fair and exacting beast that demands the best of a golfer.

At 7,163 yards, Oak Hill doesn’t wow you with distance. But you absolutely, positively, must put the ball in the fairway, for the rough is deep, lush and plentiful after all the rains of spring and early summer. Hit it there, and it’s a scramble to make par, and winning gets very difficult to achieve.

Nothing is hidden, though. All of the bunkers, the dangers of Allen’s Creek that flows through several holes, the small and tilted greens that Donald Ross and designed and others tweaked over the decades are right in front of you.

Players, whether they do well or not, have always raved about Oak Hill, even though no one has ever scored lower than Nicklaus’ 274 (six under) when he won the PGA in 1980. The course strikes the right balance between birdie chances at 2, 4, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, and holes where you mostly hang on, like 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 17 and 18.

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