Oakland Hills (aka the Monster) doesn’t draw blood the same way that beasts like Oakmont and Winged Foot do, but it has teeth and claws, and it can hurt you pretty good.
A sampling of quotes and soundbites from Day One of the U.S. Op…, er, I mean PGA Championship. From Larry Dorman of the New York Times:
Asked to rate the difficulty of the Oakland Hills layout, Rocco Mediate, never at a loss for words, said, "It’s like trying to play Scrabble without any vowels."
The PGA of America have made a mistake in the way they have allowed the South course here at Oakland Hills to be prepared for the US PGA Championship. They have set it up the way the United States Golf Association used to prepare courses for a US Open. That means tight fairways, a narrow, no more than six feet strip of first cut rough (what we in Britain call the semi-rough) and then ankle-high, 4-inch rough down the side of each fairway and close to every green.
Furthermore, this year the PGA of America have allowed the greenkeeping staff at Oakland Hills to brush the rough back towards the tees so that balls landing in it will be even more hidden than ever and there will be less chance of any forward momentum. The occasional patches of flat rough have been plumped up ready to catch a wayward shot.
"You can stand on a green and look back down a fairway and see the rough shining at you," Alistair MacLean, Lee Westwood’s caddie, said.
Why is this necessary? It is not as if a 7,395-yard golf course with a par of 70 and 135 bunkers and slopey greens that run at 12 on a Stimpmeter is not difficult enough already.
Many players said they were almost astounded by how the 7,395-yard course played in the grueling first round, compared with its relatively stress-free degree of difficulty in three previous practice days.
"I was surprised at the transition, how different it was from [Wednesday] to today," said Phil Mickelson, who began with back-to-back bogeys on his first two holes but fought back to finish at even-par 70, including a missed three-footer for one last frustrating bogey on his final hole. "I thought it would be a little firmer and a little faster, but it got a lot firmer and a lot faster. That’s going to make it play difficult on the weekend unless we get some rain."
"I just hope they don’t lose the greens," added Billy Mayfair, also in with a 70 after holing out a 30-yard chip for birdie from the 17th fairway. "If the wind stays up and the sun stays out and we don’t get any rain, we’re close."