TULSA, Okla. — Vijay Singh had sweated through his shirt as he stood on the first tee Tuesday, about to start his practice round. By the time he got to the third green he looked around sheepishly and worked his way over to the edge of the putting surface. There, he stood in front of one of the giant, green fans that blow air over the grass (lest it die in the suffocating heat), and smiled as it buffeted him with a cool wind.
The good news Wednesday was that the excruciatingly hot weather was predicted to change by the time the 89th PGA Championship begins at Southern Hills Country Club on Thursday. The bad news: It was supposed to get even hotter, and those cooling fans won't be running when the strokes start counting.
The Tulsa World newspaper includes a "real feel" element to its weather forecast, and Wednesday's "real feel" was supposed to hit only 103, thanks to the breeze. But the forecast is for that breeze to disappear when the PGA starts Thursday; the actual temperature is supposed to hit 101 with a "real feel" of 114.
"It's a good week for me to lose some weight," Rory Sabbatini joked. "I'm thinking of wearing a black, cashmere sweater."
Sabbatini started his practice round at 7 a.m. Wednesday in an effort to get his work done before the day's most debilitating heat, and he was surprised to see that Corey Pavin had already gone out at 6:30.
"I couldn't see the fairway (at that hour)," Sabbatini said. "He must have had some ball-spotters."
So many players got in late practice rounds Tuesday that the first tee looked like rush hour at 7 p.m. But practice means simulating actual playing conditions, too, so Todd Hamilton, Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley went out at noon Wednesday, and as Hamilton stood on the first tee he was already drenched from the thighs down and the waist up.
Scott Verplank started early and finished just after noon; he looked like he'd showered in his white golf shirt. As if to thumb his nose at the heat, Verplank's caddie, Scott Tway (Bob's brother) raced Brian Smith, Justin Leonard's caddie, up the steep hill between the 18th green and the clubhouse.
"We played nine holes, and Scotty had about seven bottles of water, I had about two," said Tway, gasping for breath. "He eats all the time because he's diabetic. I didn't eat anything. Yesterday he played 18 and I ate a pack of crackers. This isn't that bad, really."
Tway cited the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol and the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont as particularly hot tournaments; worse, he claimed, than the PGA has been so far this week. Retief Goosen, who won the last major at Southern Hills, the 2001 U.S. Open, said, "The hottest I've been on a golf course has been in Singapore, Malaysia and those places. I think it's the humidity there that just kills you."
As they would in rainy weather, players will pack more towels, more gloves and even an extra shirt or two this week. Large, white coolers stocked with bottled water and energy drinks sit like an oasis on every tee. Several pros have opted out of lengthy practice rounds, limiting their daily activity to nine holes (Zach Johnson on Tuesday), no holes (Tiger Woods on Wednesday) or somewhere in between (Weekley planned to go five holes Wednesday).
"It's easy to get caught up with the way the round is going and get focused on what you're doing and not pay attention to your hydration levels," John Rollins said. "The next thing you know, three or four holes have gone by and you haven't got any water, you start getting a little tired, light-headed from the heat. The better you stay on it early and all through the day, the better off you'll be."