Twelve things you didn’t realize you needed to know about the 2012 PGA
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Here's your last-minute, emergency guide to this week's PGA Championship at the Ocean Course.
1. Bring rain gear, and prepare to evacuate. There's a reason I've dubbed this tournament The Pour By The Shore. The winner will be someone who likes kayaking.
2. You know that AT&T commercial where Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall listens to The Odyssey while he trains, then stops when the book is over and starts Moby Dick? The shuttle bus rides to the course are a lot like that. My Wednesday morning bus ride was 1 hour, 16 minutes. Compared to other rides this week, that was fast.
3. Only one road goes to the Ocean Course, but you can still get lost on Kiawah Island. Our media shuttle bus driver made a wrong turn on the way to the course today and had to finagle the big bus for a U-turn.
4. Former PGA champion Rich Beem is alive and well, and playing this week, for those who were wondering if he was still in the golf biz.
5. When the Ocean Course was announced as the PGA site several years ago, I predicted then it would be the worst major venue since PGA National, which was stultifyingly hot and had bare greens when it hosted the 1987 PGA. So far, my prediction is right on track. Although I did hit Jack's Cosmic Dogs for dinner last night, which helped.
6. The famous '91 Ryder Cup, the War On The Shore, wasn't supposed to be played here. During the 1985 PGA Championship, a press conference was held to announce the '91 Ryder Cup had been awarded to PGA West in California. Some combination of more revenue and a fear that Southern Californians wouldn't show up eventually led to the PGA moving it to Kiawah before the course was even built. It wasn't the last time the PGA of America stiffed a site that was previously promised a big event (see Sahalee). If you've still got a '91 Ryder Cup logo shirt with PGA West on it, you've got a valuable collector's item. I'd give you $20 for it sight unseen.
7. Enough with the talk about the courses that can't host majors because they aren't long enough or big enough or lack infrastructure or sufficient hotels. The U.S Open is going to itty-bitty Merion next year. The PGA is at the Ocean Course — there's one long road in, it's an hour from anywhere, and it was scheduled in a month in which thunderstorms are a daily occurrence. This week proves that majors can go anywhere. Somebody get Pine Valley on the phone. We can make it work. Chicago Golf Club? No problem. Spyglass Hill? Yup. Note to the PGA: Tulsa, Atlanta and now South Carolina? Isn't it time to bring a major to Idaho or Oregon? How about Nebraska? Is something wrong with playing in prime time in the East Coast every night with a major in California? People loved that with the U.S. Open. Next year's PGA is at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. Good track, yes, but how about something not in the Rust Belt? In golf's Olympic year, 2016, why not move the PGA to Scottsdale, Hawaii or Florida and play it in March — Glory's First Shot? You could even go back to PGA National and merge the PGA with the Honda Classic for a year.
8. Sorry, but the PGA Championship does not have the strongest field of the year. There are still 20 club pros in the field. The U.S. Open has 60 or so qualifiers, but they're players, many of them tour pros like Canadian Open champ Scott Piercy. These guys play their way into the field through 36-hole sectional qualifying. Strength of field shouldn't be measured by how many of the top 100 players are there; it should be measured through the bottom of the field all the way to 156. That makes the Players the strongest field, followed by the U.S. Open and British Open (lots of global qualifiers) and then the PGA. The Masters, with fewer than 100 in the field, some of them geezers and amateurs, isn't even in the ballpark here.
9. When is a bunker not a bunker? Don't ask me. Don't ask Dustin Johnson, either. The PGA of America considers all of the bunkers here "sandy areas," which are to be played as waste areas, not bunkers. That means players will be allowed to ground their clubs. So they're not bunkers, even though the PGA is asking caddies to rake after shots, as a courtesy. The kazillion bunkers at Whistling Straits, however, were played as bunkers because they were "clearly defined," according to Kerry Haigh, the PGA's tournament director. Ohhh-kay. Tomato, to-mah-to.
10. The TV monitors in the press center showed Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" Wednesday morning. Lanny Wadkins was the guest host. There was no volume, which was a shame, because Lanny is one of the sharpest and most opinionated guys in golf. I'd like to hear a lot more from him, either in informal studio chats like that or in print. Same goes for Curtis Strange. Anyway, one of the topics was the South Carolina course you'd like to see host the state's second major championship? I'm thinking of somewhere that might actually have hotels near the golf course? Myrtle Beach? There are more than a hundred courses there. One of them has to be major worthy.
11. Sorry, no dreams this time. I picked Adam Scott to win the British Open because I'd had a dream in which that happened. No premonitions this week. I did joke last fall that we had entered the Webb Simpson Era; if he adds another major to his U.S. Open, it really would be true. I also have a feeling about Rory McIlroy, since the course will play long and soft, although he hates playing in a rain jacket.
12. I just learned moments ago from a reliable source that the limited-time-only peach milkshakes have allegedly returned to Chick-fil-A for August. I'll be right back…