PGA Championship — the final major of the year — will provide a tremendous test
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org August 3, 2013 12:28AM
Lee Trevino pumps his fist after sinking a birdie putt on the 11th hole in final round of the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill, the site of the PGA Championship this week. | AP
AT A GLANCE
Event: 95th PGA Championship.
Site: Oak Hill Country Club (East Course), Rochester, N.Y.
Length: 7,163 yards:
Par: 35-35 — 70.
Field: 156 players (136 tour pros, 20 club pros).
Prize money: TBA ($8 million in 2012). Winner’s share: TBA
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy.
Major champions at Oak Hill: Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA), Curtis Strange (1989 U.S. Open), Jack Nicklaus (1980 PGA), Lee Trevino (1968 U.S. Open), Cary Middlecoff (1956 U.S. Open).
Tracking Tiger: Tiger Woods is 0-for-17 in the majors since winning his 14th at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Noteworthy: The last three winners of the PGA Championship have been in their 20s, the longest such streak in any major in nearly 50 years.
Television: Thursday and Friday, noon to 6 p.m., TNT. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.
to 1 p.m., TNT;
1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Ch. 2.
Updated: September 5, 2013 6:37AM
Have your pencil and scorecard ready.
Oakmont, which has hosted eight U.S. Opens and three PGA Championships, is the one in suburban Pittsburgh famous for Church Pew bunkers and fans jeering Jack Nicklaus when he defeated Arnold Palmer in the 1962 U.S. Open, Nicklaus’ first major title.
Oakland Hills, which has hosted six U.S. Opens, three PGAs and a Ryder Cup, is the one in suburban Detroit.
Oak Meadows, where Ben Hogan won the 1941 Chicago Open, is the one in west suburban Addison that floods regularly and lost its majestic clubhouse to lightning.
The one that matters this week is Oak Hill, which has hosted three U.S. Opens, two PGAs and a Ryder Cup. It’s the one in suburban Rochester, N.Y., where Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and the rest of the gang will tee it up Thursday in the 95th PGA Championship.
The PGA is the least appreciated major for good reason. The Masters is a rite of spring. The U.S. Open is our national championship. The British Open is the world’s championship.
That said, the PGA still counts very much. Just ask Nicklaus, who won five of his 18 majors at PGAs. Or Woods, who has four PGAs among his 14 majors.
Or Mickelson, who’s coming off his fifth major victory at Muirfield. A sixth major would move him into a tie for ninth among all-time major winners since the Masters began in 1934.
And some people think Mickelson has the stuff to become the first player to win back-to-back majors since Padraig Harrington won the British Open and PGA in 2008.
‘‘If Mickelson is putting well, I don’t think you can beat him,’’ said Lee Trevino, who won the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill.
Mickelson, Woods and many long hitters will keep the driver in the bag most of the day, if they put it in the bag at all. Like Merion and Muirfield in this year of classic major venues, Oak Hill isn’t so much about length as it is about accuracy, shotmaking and avoiding mistakes.
‘‘The beauty of major championships this year is how par has been the standard,’’ said Oak Hill’s longtime head pro, Craig Harmon, whose brother, Butch, is Mickelson’s swing coach. ‘‘I would say most of the players won’t use a driver more than half the time. I would be shocked if someone hit seven drivers at Oak Hill.’’
Like Merion, Oak Hill has some rugged finishing holes. Although it’s listed at a manageable 7,163 yards, 1,000 of those yards come on its final two par-4s, the 509-yard 17th and the 497-yard 18th.
The 598-yard 13th and the 323-yard 14th, a drivable par-4, could bring risk-reward drama if players are aggressive. And missing the narrow green at the 181-yard 15th often will come with a hefty penalty.
‘‘I love Oak Hill,’’ said Nicklaus, who won his final PGA there in 1980. ‘‘It’s a good test, a wonderful golf course. Nobody has ever really chewed it apart, and it’s one you’ve got to play smart on. You’ve got to control your ball and you also have to putt because the greens are not easy greens.’’
Mix in major-championship nerves, and Oak Hill is likely to be a good stage for drama.
‘‘That finish is as tough as any you’ll ever see,’’ Trevino said. ‘‘A guy better have a good lead if he’s coughing and leaking a little oil, or he’d better have a hell of a nerve.’’