Jul 31, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
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.
I had the privilege of attending the 2003 PGA. It’s stunning to see the amount of infrastructure involved in an event like this, from building pavilions, installing hundreds of miles of wires for media and TV, erecting grandstands, roping off the fairways and thousands of other tasks, and much of the work done by hundreds of volunteers.
Now I’m going back, and you will be able to follow the entire story of the week.
Beginning on Monday, there will be daily reports from Oak Hill on PGA week at our web site, eaglenewsonline.com. Here’s what to expect:
Don’t forget about the tweets. If you are so technologically inclined, go to Twitter, find my feed (@blackwell_phil) and you will find, throughout the week, entirely too many updates, quotes, tidbits and other musings about a week spent with most of the world’s best golfers. By the time it’s done, you’ll wish me back on the high school sports fields. Don’t worry, all in good time.
And lest you think I have it spoiled during the week, getting comp meals and access to sports superstars and ridiculous amounts of technology and data….well, yes, except that my parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces are vacationing in Hawaii at the same time. Compare and contrast as you would please.
It will be lots of hard work and long hours, for sure. But it will also be immense fun to provide you with an inside glimpse at Oak Hill, and the PGA Championship.