Dire Straits at Whistling Straits

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Six years ago at menacing Blackwolf Run in neighboring Kohler, Nancy Lopez and her playing partners approached the 18th green at the U.S. Womens Open waving white towels from their putters.
 
Similar scenes of surrender might very well transpire at the 86th PGA Championship this week at Whistling Straits, another Pete Dye-designed world class creation in Herbert Kohler Jr.s golfing empire.
 
A roundabout figure eight spread along two miles of Lake Michigans rugged shoreline, Whistling Straits is both an Irish illusion and an American original.
 
Dye built the walking-only, links-style course on the site of an abandoned military base and toxic dump site with the help of more than 10,000 truckloads of lake shore clay and sand.
 
There are hundreds of sand bunkers, foot-high fescue rough, gnarled fairways and whipping winds that constantly change directions, all of which makes it seem like youre half a world away at Royal County Down in Ireland, not a short drive from Sheboygan.
 
We wanted to go back to the roots of golf, Kohler explained.
 
All thats missing is a herd of black-faced sheep with tinkering bells grazing on the steep hills'theyve been put away for the season already.
 
Its a visually spectacular course, with a view of the lake on every hole. All four par 3s hug the bluffs with greens perched precariously close to the whipping waves.
 
I think the worlds going to say, Where is that? Ive got to get there, Ive got to play this golf course, said Steve Friedlander, the director of golf for the Kohler Co. I think when they see this, theyre not going believe that this is in Wisconsin or even the United States because theres nothing like this. Nothing.
 
And theres the rub for many golfers, who will find out on the first hole that Kohler succeeded in making his masterpiece a measurement not only of golf but grit.
 
Its probably one of the most penal first tee shots that I have seen at a golf tournament, said reigning PGA champ Shaun Micheel. Its going to be a true test and it just basically starts from hole No. 1 through 18. I think it just lets you know that right at the beginning.
 
The PGA of America downsized the course by 83 yards, deciding against using a new tee box on the par-4 first hole that would have made it play 491 yards.
 
Still, Whistling Straits, which plays to a par-72, will measure 7,514 yards, the longest in major championship history, 78 yards longer than Columbine Country Club in Denver, site of the 1967 PGA.
 
Friedlander said the fairways, some of which are only 20 feet across at points, wont be widened as many golfers had implored.
 
The Straits Course features the three longest par 4s in major championship history: the 507-yard eighth, the 518-yard 15th and the 500-yard 18th, where the green is shaped like a four-leaf clover and sits in an amphitheater where the winds swirl unpredictably. Blessedly, the thin-bladed fescue grass fairways have been top-dressed with sand, making them faster and harder, Friedlander said.
 
If the winds are calm, this golf course will play short, he predicted. I mean, lets face it, 7,500 yards is not short by any stretch of the imagination. But if the fairways are rolling hard and fast it doesnt play quite as long.
 
And if the winds whip up?
 
If the wind blows, 75 is going to be a pretty good score, said Loren Roberts, who called Whistling Straits probably the hardest golf course Ive ever played on.
 
August is typically the mildest time of year in Wisconsin, but past champion Rich Beem suggested the course, which he tested in June, will be troublesome even on a calm day.
 
I didnt expect to see as many blind shots as I did, said Beem. And, generally just the width of some of the fairways and the length. Id heard about it, but I figured theres just no way. But then we played it, it was awful.
 
Im not going to pack a lunch, Im also going to pack a light snack and a dinner.
 
Micheel also played Whistling Straits on a windy June day.
 
Along with the massage therapist at the spa, I think we need to have some psychiatrists and a couple of couches, I will pay for it, he said.
 
Micheel said the players who show up Monday, sight unseen, will quickly realize they should have played this course all summer long as they labor through a six-hour practice round.
 
Kohler makes no apologies. When the three-year construction began in 1995, he envisioned a golf course that would challenge the worlds best, especially with the wind that can help vary the temperature 10 degrees from the inland holes to the mist-sprayed shoreline.
 
The golf course challenges your golf skills to the nth degree, Friedlander said. There is no part of your game that isnt used on this golf course. Short irons, long irons, drivers, fairway woods, putting, chipping, length. If youre a big hitter, it will challenge you because the farther you hit it, the straighter youve got to hit it. The shorter hitters, the better you have to hit it onto the greens because youre a long ways away.
 
So, it favors no one?
 
Well, I think it favors the guy that deals with the elements better than anybody else, doesnt let the wind get to him, Friedlander said.
 
Micheel said the wind affects every single shot out there, and suggested the course is so challenging it will alter almost everybodys game.
 
Let me say here for those of you that are sick and tired of us hitting irons off the tee and hitting 3-woods off the tee and all that stuff, you want to see the big stick? You guys want to go follow John Daly? Now, you can follow all of us because were going to hit driver on every shot out there, even some par 3s.
 
Spectators might also find the course challenging. After dealing with traffic congestion on the country roads leading to the course, theyll find dazzling vantage points from atop the many mounds'if all that climbing doesnt tucker them out.
 
This is one of the best places youll ever see, Friedlander said. Itll blow people away, not to mention the television shots theyre going to have. Theyre just drooling over those shots.
 
Kohler can only hope when it comes time to crown the survivor Sunday that his creation will still be called Whistling Straits and not Dire Straits.
 
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.