Pete Dye, who designed Whistling Straits, the venue for this last major of the year, “Glory’s Last Shot”, said Golf is not a fair game...More on his DYEABOLICAL doings, shortly. Jordan Spieth doesn’t play fair, having an all-round great game, being humble in major victories and honorable in defeat - as witnessed by his homage for Zack Johnson’s 2015 Open win. Dustin Johnson, who out drove Spieth some 40 to 50 yards off the tees in the first two rounds when they played together at the Open, splitting – in Jordan’s words – “...bunkers at about 380 yards...”, led the field – but he blew himself up ballooning to 75, 75 in rounds 3 and 4. And, don’t forget, the always-a-bridesmaid Johnson was a sore loser no show at the presentation ceremony after Spieth topped him in the US Open. Johnson’s a disgruntled bomber, a wanna be, who can’t hit the bull’s-eye. (Even more unfair: his father-in-law is ultra winner and ultimate-hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.)
And the PGA Championship is unfair to teaching professionals because their games are tested against touring pros, though the formers’ games are rusty, spending their time instructing, not practicing or playing for real – save for their vying in the PGA Professional National Championship for one of the 20 spots at Whistling Straits. But they deserve this major, and its recognition of their teaching of us duffers to not fluff and muff shots – is only fair, totally fair. And they are jubilant to play in it, no doubt about it.
Now, what of this unfair course? It’s a links course, said to be the 6th toughest course in America. Unfairly for members – it’s a walking route. No carts. Dye took what was Camp Haven – a military training base – flat enough for aircraft landings and made the terrain into a ferocious facsimile of Ireland’s south west coast, Ballybunion-like of ridge, crest and crevice. DYEABOLICAL is the name for the 18th...DYE also said:”...why build a course fair.”
The course looks, gnarly, rigid, tough, wind-swept rough. Rustic, in parts bucolic, it’s stone capped off by a straight-angled club house that looks like a well maintained farm-abode domicile of days, ages, past.
Crooked concrete paths circumvent cluttered together bunkers, coasting Lake Michigan, while jagged rocks, un-trapped sand, and yellow tufts of grasses surround. Pock-marked swales and dunes make great scenery, but have to scare the willies out of all but the professionals. Eight holes are by the great lake. Hole eleven, for Pete’s sake, has a twelve foot deep bunker! Sheep, real live ones with ringing bells on their heads, may disrupt your game on the green at 14, for example. The fog off the lake can be lower than your tee off shot...Green fees are a STEEP $360 but that includes gratuities for your caddy, plus their basic fees...The “wave” from fans in grandstands will match those of Lake Michigan on a windy day...
So Jordan, Dustin, Zack (and Rory, if he’s recovered from his left ankle ligament rupture – and that’s looking iffy) will get the last crack and whack at this course and the Wanamaker Trophy, itself named after department store owner Rodman Wanamaker. (In 1916 he and a bunch of golfing pros met at the Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle and hatched the PGA.) Since then the PGA has come a long way. “Other than the U.S. Open, this is the largest annual temporary construction project for a sporting event in the country...” These grand old courses of yore weren’t met for us some 250,000 souls – traipsing the grounds for 4 days.
What makes this major so endearing? It has the shooting stars, of course, but it has, at its root and core of the sport, the unsung teaching pros, whose efforts go largely unheralded - showcased. Generally, not a one of us would have a clue unless they tutored us individually, as to who these tutoring professionals are, or their stories.
Even though their instructional insights and talents are god-like, these guys are human: they want to shine under the glare of the sun - and the spotlight of world publicity – at least for this tournament. For a week, like their brethren on the tour, they’ll sweat, praying their playing, forms can last. Many haven’t played a lot of tournament golf, while careering as club pros, so stress skyrockets. Nothing, however, beats the high of qualifying for these guys – and it’s so satisfying to watch one or two get their fifteen minutes of fame...
Some feel the PGA Championship is the sorry sister, the cousin you didn’t want to kiss, of the majors - because at times, relative unknowns like Yang Yong-eun or Mark Brooks, have won. That’s an unfair cheap shot. Short answer?
It speaks to the uniqueness, capriciousness, and vagaries of elite, competitive sport, rather than to any shortcomings of the tournament, that accounts for this. Every sport has upsets and if the PGA has had its share, let’s deal with it. (Besides, any tournament that John Daly wins has got to be a delicious, long-ball for all.)
Ultimately, just remember, outside of the fairness or unfairness of the participants, their predicaments, or the place, the motto of the PGA Championship is: “This is major.”