TULSA, Ocala ( Associated Press) — There’s a sign inside a clubhouse in the Southern Hills that proudly signs its heritage with the phrase “First to Five.” No other course has hosted the PGA Championship so many times.
This PGA Championship already feels very different from the last four.
Think back to a year ago. What is the probability that Tiger Woods will be in the Southern Hills, three months after a car accident crippling his right leg and ankle; And will Phil Mickelson, having become golf’s oldest major champion, refuse to defend his title?
And on the first official day of practice, when Woods played back nine and Bryson DeChambeau contemplated an early return from wrist surgery, the Saudi-funded golf league sent applications for its first LIV Golf Invitational series to disrupt play. makes threats.
Strange timing, indeed.
“It’s a bizarre situation, that’s for sure,” Victor Hovland said. “It’s not often that the defending major champion doesn’t come back to the rescue. … I think we all would have loved to have Phil here and t-up it and see how he fared.” The way he won it last year was fantastic. It’s just a strange situation.”
Mickelson decided to extend his three-month hiatus from golf following his comments that he recruited top players to pay lawyers to write the rival league’s operating agreement. He said he didn’t care that it was successful as long as it gave him the advantage of making changes to the PGA Tour, and accused him of “obnoxious greed” when playing a Saudi international on the PGA Tour.
Woods arrived in Southern Hills on Sunday to play the Front Nine – the last time he won the PGA Championship in 2007 – and revealed he is much stronger than he was during his remarkable return to the Masters.
“Just seeing him at the Masters, that was unreal, just what it does for the crowd and the tournament,” Hovland said.
Hovland knows as well as anyone with the restored Southern Hills, not so much from his time in the state of Oklahoma, but the fact that the Norwegian star chose Stillwater to make it home. He felt he had played it half a dozen times as Gil Hansey and Jim Wagner reinstated a Perry Maxwell design that put a premium on angles and accuracy in the green, as the edges now allow golf balls about 20 yards into the collection areas. send at a distance.
Initial scouting reports are that a good short game will go a long way.
Born and raised in Talor Gooch, Oklahoma, figures he has played Southern Hills a dozen times, but only once since the Restoration. And that was not a happy memory.
“It was blowing 30. It was about 50 degrees. And so needless to say, I didn’t get a good first impression because it was just having my lunch,” Gooch said.
Monday was different. Temperatures climbed into the 80s, with endless sunshine and only light breeze, and the course was busy.
Gooch said, “For the past few months, I have friends here (on tour) with whom I play a lot of practice rounds, I’ve tried not to overextend this place because it’s one of my favorite places in the world.” is one.” “And so I think it’s phenomenal and I think it’s going to be hard to find someone who is going to speak about it differently.”
The only grumble is how long the round can take. Roughness is minimal. There are a few rotating streams that come into play. One issue is the middle of the front nine.
Par-3 Tee shot on the sixth hole Par-4 goes over the new tee on the third hole. And the seventh tee is directly behind the sixth green.
Even for a practice round the sequence was awkward. Gooch hit his drive at number 3 and then Rory McIlroy launched his tee shot at number 6 while playing as a single. To play at number 3 were Max Homa and club supporter Casey Pine. And then number four allowed McIlroy to run towards the sixth green, before Adam Hadwin hit the final drive at number 3.
“That corner can be really slow,” Hovland said.
Those are golf’s least problems at the moment. There’s a Major to be won this week, with a century of history on a golf course that’s also hosted the PGA Championship and the US Open multiple times.
And the prospect remains an imminent battle between the new Saudi league and the PGA Tour, which has denied its members the release to play outside London in three weeks.
Ricky Fowler, who has not won since 2019 and is on the verge of being out of the world’s top 150 for the first time since his rookie year in 2010, said he has been approached by the new venture and “I didn’t necessarily want to be one.” decided one way or the other.”
“I’ve mentioned in the past, do I currently think the PGA Tour is the best place to play? I do. Do I think it could be better? Yeah,” he said. That’s an interesting situation.”
More Associated Press Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports