The PGA wasn't pretty, but someone had to provide this year's dose of major misery

Tuesday August 16th, 2011
The 15th hole at AAC swallowed many players' dreams during the PGA Championship.
Fred Vuich/SI

Something was missing from 2011’s major championships: fear and loathing. The official major championship cookbook is supposed to be filled with recipes for disaster, but this year’s majors were too easy.

Ten players reached double figures under par at the Masters. Rory McIlroy destroyed Congressional Pitch & Putt at the U.S. Open, and although the wind inflated scores at the British Open, Royal St. George’s never had the world’s best players running scared. Where was all the bitching and moaning?

Thank you, Atlanta Athletic Club and your brutal finishing holes, for making fear the comeback player of the year. Those last four holes were so decisively terrifying that they’re begging for a nickname, but nominees such as Calamity Lane, Impregnable Quadrilateral, Southern Discomfort and Rees’s Pieces are too contrived to stick. “They’re just hard,” Tour player Bill Haas simply said.

He’s right. The 15th and 17th are long par-3s guarded by water. Long? The 15th is 260 yards. Tiger Woods began his lost week by splashing one there and making double bogey the first day. The 17th is a mere 207 yards, but ­McIlroy dunked his doughnut there in the second round, then three-putted for triple bogey.

“There’s no need for 260 yards on a par-3,” said 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut. “I couldn’t tell you a par-3 I love that’s over 220 yards.”

The par-4 16th qualifies as a breather, and it’s 476 uphill yards of bunkers, trees and misery but, at least, no water. The 480-yard 18th, a par-5 converted to a par-4, is a NASCAR crash waiting to happen. Water and bunkers harass the tee shot, and the second is a long carry across more water. Eighteen was a PGA dream-crusher even before Sunday. On Friday, Gary Woodland put two shots in the water and made triple. Luke Donald made six birdies on Saturday but undid his work with a bogey at 16 and a double at the 18th — after he had laid up. “It’s a shame,” Donald said. “It’s that kind of course.” Ask Jason Dufner, who played the final four in three over to blow his Sunday lead.

On Saturday morning a CBS technician waded into the reeds below the 18th green to install a microphone at water level. Asked why, he said because CBS wanted to hear the splashes. Darn right, the fear is back. Thanks, PGA.

And don’t forget to turn up the volume.

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