Shortly after carding his opening-round 77 (7-over-par), a furious Lee Westwood slammed the PGA Championship committee, suggesting it had ruined a great golf course and that the motive was to embarrass the players.
“The course is 7,500 yards long, the greens are firm, and the pins are tucked away,” Westwood said of Oakland Hills (official yardage: 7,395). “They are sucking the fun out of the major championships when you set it up like that. The fairways are narrow, and unfortunately if you miss the semi [rough] by a foot you are worse off than if you miss by 20 yards. I asked my partners [Geoff Ogilvy and Zach Johnson] if I was out of order, and they said ‘No, if you are slightly off-line, you are crucified.’ It is too thick around the greens as well. It takes the skill away from chipping.”
Comparing Thursday’s conditions to the practice rounds, Westwood wondered if the PGA had dispatched an army of workers overnight to “brush back” the rough, changing its direction so that the blades point toward the tees, instead of toward the greens.
“I can’t think of a reason why they would do it other than to irritate the players,” said Westwood, whose round included five bogeys, one double-bogey, and no birdies. “[The rough] is five inches long. Why brush it back at us? It makes no sense. People want to see birdies, and they have not seen me make any. I can’t see anything wrong with being 9- or 10-under-par for the week.”
Westwood, the World No. 12 and England’s top player, had great expectations entering the PGA. Enjoying a superb season, he tied for second at last weekend’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and finished third in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. But the Monster that is Oakland Hills chewed him up and spat him out.
“I didn’t do a lot wrong,” he said. “I sound as if I am moaning, which I am, but it is a great shame, as it is a fantastic golf course, they are great greens, and they are playable — but there is no need to play it as it is.”
Westwood said that the PGA should have followed the USGA’s lead at Torrey Pines, which was not the punishing setup often seen in the U.S. Open. “You have to reward the accurate players like they did at the U.S. Open,” he said. “[That] was set up perfectly. It rewards accuracy and penalizes you if you are off-line. I didn’t see that today.”
Major golf has officially gone mad. The PGA is the new U.S. Open, the U.S. Open is the old PGA, and the new Masters (where 8-under can again win) is the old Masters.
At least the British is still the British.