Everyone's A Long Shot

Pga Championship Hazeltine National

Course's Potential Record Length Could Be Player Equalizer

August 13, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein | Teddy Greenstein,Tribune Newspapers

CHASKA, Minn. - - Hazeltine National will play so long for the PGA Championship, even Corey Pavin likes his chances.

Huh?

Pavin is the wimpiest hitter on the PGA Tour. His average drive peters out at 259.4 yards, an entire first down shorter than those of Brian Gay, who ranks 200th among the tour's 201 measured players.

And yet, Pavin loves the fact that Hazeltine National could play to a major championship-record 7,674 yards, depending on the setup.

Why? Because three of the four par-5s are all but unreachable, meaning that players will approach the greens with wedges or 9-irons. And that favors scrappers like Pavin.

"It will be the same boat for everybody," he said. "It's good. I think it does open the field, definitely."

At 7,674 yards, the par-5s would measure 633 (No. 3), 572 (No. 7), 606 (No. 11) and 642 (No. 15) yards.

Godzilla would struggle to get home in two on No. 3 or No. 15.

Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champion, made the only eagle on No. 11 that year. A bunker has been added short of the green to make the reach even more daunting.

Big hitters will go for No. 7 in two, but if they miss short or left, they'll need a Speedo to retrieve their ball.

"The only one I really see a decent percentage of the field having a go at is [No.]7," said Jim Furyk, who ranks 180th in driving distance. "A third of the field won't be going in any of those par-5s. That might be a little bit of an equalizer."

Hazeltine National has added 319 yards to its official length of seven years ago. That has rubbed some players wrong.

"This thing is just long," Beem said. "I mean, it's just excessively long, and it's nowhere near the same golf course that it was. But it's the state of the modern game, I guess. In order to make it harder, just make it longer."

"It's monster long," British Open champion Stewart Cink said. "I'm wearing out the 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-irons out there - and the driver, of course."

Other players said it's a stretch to suggest that the course's length will harm the championship.

"I don't think the length is such a big deal from what it's been made out to be," defending PGA champion Padraig Harrington said. "If we were playing this golf course in Ireland, it would be a long golf course. But in the heat, the ball goes a long way."

Besides, Colin Montgomerie said the longer hitters should have an edge - even though he is not one of them.

"Length has always been a wonderful asset to have," he said. Like "Andy Roddick serving at Wimbledon."

Montgomerie said that if tournament organizers really want higher scores, they should shrink and firm up the greens.

Lee Westwood hopes it doesn't come to that.

"We're in the entertainment industry," he said. "I mean, I'd rather watch people make birdies rather than hitting into the rough and hack out and make bogey. Wouldn't you?"

That question elicited some chuckles from reporters.

"Maybe you're sadistic," he said good-naturedly. "I don't know."

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