US PGA digest: At 7,876 yards, how long is too long?

Bad lies in the sand; Harrington the philosopher; Lynn’s brush with Kiawah’s alligators

Jordan Spieth tees off on the fourth hole during a practice round at the US PGA Championship on the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.  Photograph: Matt York/AP Photo

Jordan Spieth tees off on the fourth hole during a practice round at the US PGA Championship on the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Photograph: Matt York/AP Photo

 

How long is too long?

As the debate about rolling back the golf ball continues to rage, this week’s test at Kiawah Island will likely become a central point of reference. At 7,876 yards the course will play as the longest in Major championship history, edging perilously close to the 8,000-yard mark and raising more questions about just how much land, water, fertiliser and everything else is needed for golf courses these days.

In Wednesday’s practice round, Cameron Champ – who ranks third in driving distance on the PGA Tour – hit a three-hybrid to the 223-yard Par 3 17th which is all carry over water. With moves being made by the R&A and USGA to address the ever-increasing distance the ball goes, Kiawah may, in fact, never lose the title of the longest course in Major history.

While the Ocean Course has the space to move tee boxes back, many tournament courses don’t have the same option, and that’s before the huge extra costs are even considered. Expanding courses can’t continue to be the answer. The question now is: when will the R&A and USGA act?

Be prepared for bad lies in the sand

It’s hard to think of the 2010 US PGA at Whistling Straits without remembering the final round debacle which saw Dustin Johnson miss out on a playoff because he was penalised for grounding his club in a waste area on the 18th. Such an incident won’t be an issue this week with tournament organisers deciding – as they did in 2012 – to deem all of the bunkers on the Ocean Course as waste areas.

With plenty of sand the whole way around the course it adds an extra challenge for the players, and there are also very few rakes on the course meaning plenty of bad lies are to be expected, especially where the galleries have been walking.

Players will at least be allowed to ground their club without any confusion, but be prepared for at least a few to bemoan bad lies in the sand given how much they a’re used to perfectly raked bunkers on the PGA Tour each week.

Richy Werenski plays a shot from a bunker on the seventh hole. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Richy Werenski plays a shot from a bunker on the seventh hole. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Harrington the ultimate philosopher

It really is true what they say – Pádraig Harrington never fails to be interesting when performing media duties. The European Ryder Cup captain – playing in his 22nd US PGA – spoke to the press earlier in the week on a wide range of topics, including how important experience can be for players. As expected the Dubliner wasn’t about to give a simple, boring answer.

“As you gain experience, you lose innocence. I suppose if you drew a graph, there’s a crossing point of equilibrium where you have some experience and a certain amount of innocence and enthusiasm. As you get a little bit older and you get all this experience, on paper people might think you get better with experience, but as I said, you’ve seen a few things that you know in your game that you probably never wanted to see, so you kind of lose that little bit of, I suppose, innocence.”

Wise words indeed.

Quote of the day

“If the wind blows this way for the rest of the week, it’s going to be a battle to just get in the clubhouse. It is a long course, but the wind... when you stand on 16 and it’s 608 yards, it’s playing like 750, and it’s probably numbers that we’ll never hopefully see on golf courses. But that’s what it’s playing like.” – Adam Scott is ready for a war of attrition.

By the numbers

6: If Jordan Spieth wins this week he will become just the sixth player ever to complete the career Grand Slam. This week represents the Texan’s fourth chance to join golf’s most exclusive group since winning the British Open in 2017.

Lynn and Kiawah’s alligators

It’s nine years now since the US PGA was last held at Kiawah Island when Rory McIlroy won by eight shots in 2012. However, while McIlroy would go on to become, and remain, one of the biggest names in golf, the rest of that leaderboard makes for some interesting reading. And none more so than the man who finished second to McIlroy that week – David Lynn.

The Englishman shocked everyone with his performance that week in what was a standout week in a journeyman career which, two years later, would come to an end when he decided to walk away from the game aged just 40. However, Lynn has particular memories of Kiawah Island’s alligators which he recently discussed with Golf Digest.

David Lynn in action at the 2012 US PGA. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
David Lynn in action at the 2012 US PGA. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

“I was feeding them all week. Pizzas. But with a difference. I would see how hot I could get them by adding chilies and peppers and Tabasco sauce. Then I would throw them into the lake. I laugh when I think of the gators shuddering as they swallowed the hottest pizzas ever.”

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