DULUTH, Ga. - The course on which the last two major championships at this Atlanta suburb were played hardly resembles the one that will play host to the 83rd PGA Championship beginning today.
The plaque on the 18th hole of the Atlanta Athletic Club commemorating Jerry Pate's famous 5-iron from the rough that helped him win the 1976 U.S. Open is one of the few recollections of those majors.
"It's much tougher, it's longer, the greens are in much better condition, the fairways are in better condition," said Pate, who as a 22-year-old won the Open and will play here this week by way of an invitation from the PGA of America.
But Larry Nelson said there is a familiarity to the place where he won the 1981 PGA Championship.
"The trees have gotten bigger and it's gotten a bit longer, but other than that, it has pretty much the same look that it did 20 years ago," Nelson said. "I think the water is a little closer to some of the par-3s, but for the most part, it's going to be the same golf course with the exception of an additional 300 yards in length."
The course is now a robust 7,213 yards and will be played at a par 70.
Five of the par-4s measure out at more than 450 yards, highlighted by the 490-yard finishing hole, which might see some playing layup in front of a water hazard that starts out along the left side of the fairway and winds its way in front of what is essentially an island green.
"I thought we had all par-5s on the front nine," Scott Hoch said after finishing a practice round Tuesday.
Hoch, who hit a 4-wood off the tee on 18, was asked if he would consider laying up.
"It all depends on the position you're in," Hoch said. "I'd like to be in a position to play it left. It's a difficult hole. Obviously, if you need to make birdie on it, you're not looking too good."
Said two-time PGA champion Nick Price: "It's a long, long golf course. There's some pretty stout par-4s out there. Length is going to be a big advantage this week ... I've got to look for Tiger Woods, David Duval, Phil Mickelson. Those are the guys who are going to play well around here because of their length."
Tom Watson had an interesting perspective.
"It's longer," said Watson, 51, who tied for ninth last year at Valhalla. "It's longer because I'm older."
Wayne DeFrancesco has yet to come down from his victory in June in the PGA Club Professional Championship in Sunriver, Ore. The Woodholme Country Club assistant pro said that he is still getting calls and e-mails from old friends and former competitors.
"It's been great," said DeFrancesco, who will play in his third PGA Championship. "Everyone who plays golf was watching that tournament on television. It was pretty surprising."
DeFrancesco, 43, received a first-place check for $40,000 and a package of prizes that was worth around $60,000. More importantly, he received six exemptions on the PGA Tour for next season, three of which he can pick.
"I'll try qualifying for the Kemper and the Michelob [at Kingsmill outside Williamsburg, Va.]," said DeFrancesco, a two-time Maryland State Open champion. "I'll probably play at Doral. My parents live down there, so they'll be able to come see me play. That'll be lots of fun."
That's probably not the way DeFrancesco would describe what's in store this week.
"The course doesn't suit my game," said DeFrancesco, who finished tied for 71st at Riviera in 1995 after shooting an opening- round 69 and missed the cut at Medinah in 1999. `This is certainly the longest course I've ever played."
DeFrancesco is using the same caddie, former teaching pro and longtime friend Mark Diamond, that he did in 1995.
"We're trying to go 2-for-2," DeFrancesco said.
Ryder Cup race on
The battle within the tournament this week will be for Ryder Cup points, and consideration as a captain's choice by U.S. captain Curtis Strange. Ten players will qualify automatically for the U.S. and European teams for next month's competition at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England.
Joe Durant, who fell out of the top 10 last week after being there most of the year, said that he'll probably have to play his way onto the team this week. So will Chris DiMarco, who at No. 11 is one spot ahead of Durant. Three-time Ryder Cup member Tom Lehman is at No. 10.
Strange, who is playing here this week, wouldn't reveal which direction he might go before making his two choices Sunday night. But he indicated that Lehman, a former British Open champion, would get strong consideration should he lose an automatic berth this week.
"If he misses, you certainly give him a lot of thought," said Strange, who was a captain's choice on the 1995 team. "If he makes it, that will open up two other spots."
Others who will merit consideration as a captain's choice include Brad Faxon, who played on losing Ryder Cup teams in 1995 and 1997 and is 13th on the points list, and former PGA champion and three-time Ryder Cup player Paul Azinger, who is 19th on the points list.
A news conference to announce the team will be held here Monday.