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Long-distance calls to add up at PGA
Championship contenders might struggle to break par on Baltusrol's 7,392-yard, par-70 course.
By BOB HARIG
Published August 7, 2005
The PGA of America has never been about trying to torment the best players in the world, as their brethren at the United States Golf Association have done in major championships.
And upon first glance, bringing this week's 87th PGA Championship to the venerable Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey appears to be a case of more benevolence.
After all, Baltusrol is where U.S. Open scoring records have fallen, including in 1967, when Jack Nicklaus finished at 275 to break Ben Hogan's tournament mark by one stroke. Or in 1980, when Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf opened with record-tying 63s and Nicklaus lowered his record to 272. Or in 1993, when Lee Janzen matched Nicklaus' winning total.
But the Lower Course at Baltusrol, designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1922 and home to five U.S. Opens, will be far from a pushover when the tournament begins Thursday. At least from appearances and early eyewitness accounts.
Defending champion Vijay Singh visited for media day in June and was amazed at how many long irons he was forced to hit.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played practice rounds last week, and both remarked at the course's length and sternness.
With four par 4s measuring more than 500 yards, fairways narrowing to 25 yards, thick rough grown to 4 inches and the typically fast greens, maybe this is going to be the U.S. Open.
"Baltusrol represents a continuation of our commitment to take our tournament to the best championship venues in the country," said Roger Warren, president of the PGA of America.
That the course measures 7,392 yards is stunning enough. Throw in that it's a par 70 with just two par 5s, and it should offer some test, even in this technological age.
To make things more interesting, both par 5s come at the end of the round, with the 17th a 650-yard monster.
"It's going to play really long," Singh said. "A lot of 5-irons and 4-irons (on approach shots), and if you're Corey Pavin you need a lot of woods, I guess."
Pavin, one of the game's shortest hitters, won't be able to reach the 17th green in two. Then again, it will take some effort for Singh to get there. He hit driver, 3-wood during his outing in June and was still 70 yards short.
Only two players have reached the 17th in two shots during championship play. Billy Farrell did it in 1967 when it played 610 yards. And John Daly did it in 1993 when it played 630.
Singh will be trying to become the first since Woods in 1999-2000 to defend his title.
Woods, who five years ago won three majors in the same year, will try again. (The only other player to win three of the professional majors in the same season was Hogan in 1953.)
To do so, they'll have to defeat a field that has 97 of the top 100 in the world ranking.