For this year’s PGA Championship at historic Oak Hill, we convened a special PGA Champions Confidential roundtable with Shaun Micheel, Vijay Singh, Lanny Wadkis, Raymond Floyd and Gary Player to talk about this year's tournament, the Oak Hill course, and their favorite PGA memories. Special thanks to these gracious champions for their time. We hope you enjoy it.
What type of game fits Oak Hill, and do you have a pick to win?
Shaun Micheel, 2003 (Oak Hill) PGA Champion: As is now commonplace at the PGA Championship, the rough is extremely penal. An accurate driver allows the player to play Oak Hill aggressively. Because the green complexes aren't as intimidating as other major championships, putting isn't the premium as at other venues. Of course, the winner usually makes his share of putts, but if you don't find the fairway you won't have many chances to make birdie. Brandt Snedeker seems to fit the bill nicely. Although he won't enter the PGA under many people's radar, I like Lee Westwood. Because of his world ranking, he will get a lot of attention, but most won't give him much of a chance because he hasn't won a major yet. Many may write him off early as they may view the pressure to win one to be too great. I like his chances.
Vijay Singh 1998 (Sahalee) and 2004 (Whistling Straits) PGA Champion: A guy like Charlie Beljan or Jason Kokrak has a good chance on that course. They hit it long and straight. I haven't played the course yet, but I imagine it's the one who's hitting it straight and long. There are so many guys out there who drive it well now. Driving the ball used to be an art, and now it has a lot to do with who your clubmaker is.
Gary Player, 1962 (Aronimink) and 1972 (Oakland Hills) PGA Champion: The past three PGA Championship winners have all been in their 20s, so maybe another young guy will take the final major of the year. I like the chances of Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald, and of course you cannot count out Tiger. For a dark horse, I think Richard Sterne or Branden Grace, but I also think the young Jordan Spieth will do very well. After winning his first PGA Tour event, I had a chance to speak with him during the Open Championship, and he is an impressive young man. I think we will see some great things from him soon.
Lanny Wadkins, 1977 (Pebble Beach) PGA Champion: Well, first I’m gonna look at great players. If I had to make an early pick, I’d go with Tiger. I think it sets up really well for him. I think he’s gonna play it very smart, and he can work the ball both ways, which you really have to do at that course.
Raymond Floyd, 1969 (NCR Country Club) and 1982 (Southern Hills) PGA Champion: A good player. When you get good golf courses well laid out, it tends not to have the occasional name pop up that never fits at that time, nor in history. Your great golf courses prove that in most instances. Today a lot of the Tour has gone to TPC or TPC-type golf courses. I was concerned about that when we first put TPCs on the map and began shifting our tournaments to them. And I said, “You’re going to have a type of architecture that favors a certain type of player.” And while certain players will love it, others won’t like at all. That’s not always a level playing field, in my opinion. I love the classic courses, but some of them are becoming obsolete. I put Merion in that class. They don’t have room to expand or move it out, and they can’t keep up with today’s game.
How Oak Hill will play this week?
Singh: Great, I assume.
Player: Oak Hill should be a good test and be difficult. It is a historic course that has proven its difficulty in past majors. I think this year will be no different, and I do not see a winning score being very high. Accuracy off the tee will be essential to ensure they do not encounter the tree-lined Oak Hill and its formidable rough. The greens at Oak Hill are quite small and also have a great deal of slope. You will have to find the greens, but also putt well, of course, to find any success there.
Floyd: I think Oak Hill is a very good golf course. I like the traditional architecture -- that’s the main thing. The diversity of play is special. It requires a variety of shots.
Wadkins: It has everything you could ask for in a classic, championship golf course. It’s a terrific, northern Donald Ross: bent grass, a great variety of holes, demanding par 3s. You have to work it both ways, and you absolutely have to drive the ball straight. I mean, Trevino and Nicklaus won there. Champions of that caliber should validate it alone.
Micheel: Oak Hill is one of those timeless courses that will always be relevant in major championship golf. Technology has changed the way that many of us play the game. Driving distance has, certainly, affected golf courses more than any other statistic in the game. But, tight, rolling fairways will be the great equalizer. Oh, and let's not forget about the pressure to win a major championship.