Wednesday At The PGA: Chilly With (Mostly) Blue Skies Ahead
Inevitable May weather issues surface in Rochester. Plus, Quotes, Picks, some Front Nine notes, Phil's mortician vibe wins Twitter, a merch review and more on 2023 PGA eve.
Chilly temperatures turned Wednesday into the rare late play day. Players who normally kick back and binge-watching old ep’s of The Bachelor went out for some afternoon golf. The hanger-ons and other assorted “team” types tagged along to monitor their gravy trains and to ensure no one treated the course with care.
In the most glorious sign yet of insufferable bratdom enveloping the pro golf upper echelons, a disturbing number of players and their luggage handlers regularly leave bunkers unraked and divots unfilled as they dial in their numbers. At least, I hear, the PGA Tour has recognized the boorishness and has begun fining for this pathetic disprespect of courses.
As for our impending PGA Championship, the likelihood of a significant Thursday morning frost delay appears to have forced various player polysomnographers to greenlight unusual last minute prep we saw Wednesday. And thank Heavens given the top dollar the oh-so-nice folks of Rochester paid to see golf on what has become a quiet day before the fun begins Thursday. Bright sun helped offset temperatures never reaching 50 degrees which, coupled with the last 36 hours of cold and low humidity, had superintendent Jeff Corcoran’s crew out in the afternoon to hit greens with some moisture in hopes of keeping the speeds within reason. Or, to put it down before the wet stuff freezes overnight.
Wednesday’s most surprising headline involved last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson Classic winner and 2015 PGA Champion Jason Day, who confirmed he’s resting instead of playing any practice rounds. Given the restored complexities of Oak Hill and obvious benefits to learning elements of the course, it’s a bold call in such a wide open year but he has done this before at tournaments.
“It’s an interesting choice for sure,” said CBS lead analyst Trevor Immelman. “A lot of it depends on what type of player you are mentality-wise. I would not have been able to do that because it would have freaked me out.
“Saying that, I did see his caddie out here and Jason knows his game is in a great shape so I’m going to trust him on that call.”
In other star news, Jordan Spieth played the front nine late Wednesday with Justin Thomas and Tom Kim. His tee shots were not the straightest but the short game appeared as brilliant as ever for a three-time major champion who is a PGA win away from joining the career Grand Slam club. More importantly, Spieth showed no sign his left wrist was an issue.
“I feel good,” Spieth said after the round according to ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach. He is slated to go off the 10th tee at 8:22 a.m. EDT Thursday, frost permitting.
Elsewhere at Oak Hill Wednesday we have some quotes, front nine thoughts, picks, a roundup of glorious Phil the mortuary director memes, the best of Oak Hill merch and some other news. And just a reminder, all of your TV and streaming times are here. Okay, onward…
We had a light press conference schedule Wednesday but did get some nice late adds in Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, but Patrick Cantlay WD’d from talking to the assembled Twitterers and content creators. The grieving was extensive but we carried on. As for highlights…
Jason Day on his practice round plan to not play a practice round. “I most likely probably won't see the course today. I'm just not fighting anything, I just want to make sure that I'm mentally prepared and mentally ready for tomorrow. No matter how well I prepare, even if I go out and play a practice round, if I come in tomorrow tired and exhausted, it won't do me any favors, so I'm just going to try and take it easy. It's not the first time I've come into the major championship not playing a practice round.”
Matt Fitzpatrick on the Oak Hill rough. “This week six, seven times out of ten, you're not going to get a good lie and you're hacking it out. I think that takes a lot of people out of the running.”
Dustin Johnson his Ryder Cup prospects now that he’s no longer on the PGA Tour. “I have no idea if I'd get picked. Obviously if I continue to play really well for the rest of the year, then obviously there's a chance. Yes, I would definitely like to play in the Ryder Cup. It's one of my favorite events to play in, especially after the last Ryder Cup. Obviously had a pretty good week. And, yeah, it's just an awesome event; and yeah, I'd love to be a part of it.”
Zach Johnson on Captain’s picks prospects this year. “It's funny you say that because I was talking about that just the other day with some of my vice captains. We're at a point right now where when it comes to -- it's not even a discussion item. There's maybe a couple guys that have come close to securing their spot in the top 6, but when it comes to picks, it's not even on my radar.” 🥴
Brooks Koepka is good. “Feel good. Game is in good shape, feel healthy. It's been nice to just play some good golf, so looking forward to a good week. Good golf course, so it will be a good test.”
Koepka on what he’d do to remedy slow play. “Honestly, I would start stroking guys. If you are going to take that long, you have to get stroked.” 🤔
The Front Nine
As much as I love the back nine improvements and overall upgrade, the less exciting front benefitted just as much from Andrew Green’s restoration. Previously a tree farm interrupted by golf and those abhorrid changes at the fifth and sixth, the opening nine offers a some terrific holes that set up the hillier and more dramatic back.
The 405-yard second hole has gone from a clautrophobic uphiller into a beautiful looking hole as part of a good getaway start. The green offers all sorts of trouble short and long, but the tee shot also makes a more aggressive player to flirt with bunkers and nestle one up the fairway to enjoy a shorter second shot (see above image). The short grass lurking long:
The par 3 third plays 230 yards and the back tee is a bit much for a green seemingly made for a shorter shot (it was into the wind Wednesday and the prevailing comes from the left). The PGA put out Oak Hills’ distinctive acorn markers on a forward tee to suggest they will knock off fifty yards at least once.
The 615-yard fourth plays downhill to a fairway sloping away from the players. If it gets running, a big fade will be needed to keep the ball in short grass. It’s a solid lay-of-the-land hole and one of just two beastly three-shotters. A caddie waiting on the tee lamented this Wednesday: “Why is there not a gettable par 5?” To which his player moaned, “And there are only 10-15 guys who are truly long out here!” They were serious. I stifled a laugh. Athletes!
The par-4 sixth is a beautiful 503-yard dogleg right buttressed by Allen’s Creek, but the green may be the most heavily contoured on the property. I suspect this will be the toughest hole on the front.
The 461-yard seventh played downwind Wednesday, leading to three-woods and even irons to stay short of the creek. A distinctive draw will work wonders here for those daring enough.
The 482-yard ninth is a dogleg right teeing off over a new back 12th tee into a valley with massive trouble in the form of trees and scrub right. The uphill second shot plays to a plateau green with a steep front. It’s a huge upgrade from the previous ninth and a great warm up for a wild nine to come.
One final note: I clocked the walks back to all of the new front nine tees along with the walk forward to the old tee location prior to the Andrew Green restoration: the added length to deal with today’s jocks at just over eight minutes of walking time throw on to the 3,765-yard front nine. If you figure something similar on the back nine over four days that’s well over two hours players will never get back just walking to and from the added yardage. Two hours they could be in the gym!
There has been little movement in the betting markets regarding PGA favorites. Other than Day’s revelation and Spieth’s wrist concerns the wide open race should have punters scrolling right on by the top 20 or so and some value options given Oak Hill’s last two winners. Though I feel the increase in drivers and hole locations, combined with a less restrictive setup should benefit great drivers or those who shut down on an obedience test.
Wyndham Clark 75-1
Adam Scott 80-1
Seamus Power 250-1
Phil Wins The Day On Twitter
After turning up for the Champions Dinner in his best ill-fitting marry ‘em-and-bury ‘em hearse driver uniform, Phil Mickelson managed to distract from the oddity of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan joining the past PGA winners for dinner. Even better, Philly managed to win the evening on golf Twitter. Enjoy!
"Collin looks like he's working on his 10th vodka soda."
"Phil: 'It's a sure thing, bet the over.'"
"Divided by tours, forced by majors."
"Is Phil an Undertaker now?"
"Phil looks like some weird sports agent pitching his agency. I always feel like I need to wash my hands after seeing him."
"You could convince me every single person has been Photoshopped into this."
"Collin, once you buy in to the premium coffee subscription, you can find as many people you want to buy in and sell coffee for you. You'll be your own boss!"
"We're going to shotgun starts next year. Don't tell anyone"
"Jay and Phil look like sworn enemies who will eventually join forces to launch a speculative real estate venture."
"It's like Morikawa tried to crash a wedding but ended up at an accountants convention."
Best Of The Merch
Chandler Withington has been a PGA member since 2006 and after assistant stints at Merion and Seminole, spent nine years as the head golf professional at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
He’s now a full-time artist who hand draws everything from scratch without tracing or any technological crutches. The result is a mancave must and idyllic way for courses to commemorate a piece of history in a more stylized manner.
For the PGA Championship he’s signing a print featuring all former sites and their logos. Withington secures an okay from the courses to use the logo and welcomes their suggestion on which to use, particularly since logos were not a guaranteed part of course identity prior to the 1950’s.
Other stuff that caught my eye, starting with a Signs-By-The-Sea “Tour Visor” coaster, $28: