It's softly, softly as you go for 'curious' Woods
PHILIP REID:NO NEED for Usain Bolt poses here.
Yesterday, offering a foretaste of what is to come for this 94th USPGA Championship, the thunderous roars from the grey skies overhead brought us the real thing, an electric zigzagging pattern of lightning bolts and, with it, copious downpours of rain to add extra difficulty to the upcoming tournament challenge on a unique course.
As a certain gentleman in the golf industry would put it, “it is what it is”. And, for sure, the Ocean Course – and the elements – here will definitely make for an examination unlike any other. For this one, the PGA of America has decided there will be no bunkers, just “sandy areas” and, consequently, players will be allowed to “lightly” ground their clubs should the ball land in sand and encouraged to rake the areas after shots.
In dismissing any suggestion the rule had been brought in to avoid a repeat of the situation at Whistling Straits in 2010 when Dustin Johnson missed out on a play-off after incurring a two-stroke penalty for “grounding” his club in a bunker which wasn’t clearly defined, the PGA’s Kerry Haigh said: “We look at each course on its own merits and this is a totally different design, a unique design. It’s all sand-based. Whistling Straits is not.”
The amount of sand on the course and its surrounds would have made it impossible to define bunkers, even around the greens. There are holes where the sand starts at the tee box and runs the entire length of the hole right the way up to the green complexes, while, on some of the 10 holes that front the ocean, the sand runs right down to the beach.
“To try to ask players to determine which would be bunkers (was unfair),” said Haigh.
Certainly, this course – which introduced itself to the golfing world when it staged the 1991 Ryder Cup, which became known as the “War on the Shore” and used as the setting in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance – has an appeal all of its own.
Yesterday, Tiger Woods, now the prime pursuer of Luke Donald’s world number one status, admitted he was “curious” as to how they would set-up the course, which plays to 7,676 yards at its maximum length.
“I don’t think they’re going to play it brutally long the first two days, just because we’re going to have thunderstorms and it’s going to be hard to get everyone around and they want everyone to play a little bit quicker. But come the weekend, it’ll be a different story.”
As it is, the amount of rainfall in recent weeks – with the course subjected to storms on 12 of the last 13 days – has led to less run on the softer fairways. Woods, for his part, would have preferred a firmer course set-up in his bid to claim a 15th Major and first since his US Open of 2008.