Players Fans Brave Elements

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Smack in the middle of red barn and silo country, bordered by farmland as flat as a painter's canvas, Pete Dye bulldozed a former army base and toxic waste dump into the closest thing to the Auld Sod that the New World has to offer.
With rolling hills and long fescue and pot bunkers more typical of the British Isles, Dye created Whistling Straits in 1998 and made it a course deserving of a major championship. But what really brought links-style golf to Wisconsin this week was something Dye couldn't truck in: winds whipping off the water, a light rain that makes the grasses slick, air just cold enough to create doubt in their golfers' grips.
'We keep looking to see if we can see Ireland across the water,' Davis Love III said Wednesday, a day before the start of the PGA Championship. 'You just feel like you're playing in Scotland.'
Not quite.
Signposts like the one that says 'Turnberry, 3653 miles' remind visitors that they are farther from Cruden Bay (3,711 miles) than Green Bay (59). The waters on Lake Michigan are calm, and are protected by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter stationed about a mile offshore.
Turn from the water and there is America's Dairyland in all its splendor: Cue the cows and tractors. But look at the 17th hole, a 223-yard par 3 running cliffside along the lake, and it is enough to make Darren Clarke homesick for Northern Ireland.
'If you try and remember all of the most difficult holes of all of the courses at home, put them all together,' he said, 'I think you'll have this one here.'
Even on the loveliest of summer days, when a gentle lake breeze blows and the sun keeps the grass dry, Whistling Straits is a difficult course - perhaps the toughest and definitely the longest ever to host a major on U.S. soil. But temperatures in the low 50s and the potential for crosswinds on a linear layout promise to make this week difficult for golfers and fans alike.
'It's all weather,' said Jerry Kelly, a Madison native who is one of the few pros to have played Whistling Straits before this week's tournament. 'This place, if it's calm, I think 15 under could win. If it blows, I think even par could do pretty darned well.'
It's not just the competitors who have to worry about the hilly, 7,514-yard track. Although fans attending the tournament will have plenty of room to roam and scenic vantage points to watch the competition, they will do so with effort.
A pebbly path strewn with hay weaves through the course, but to get closer to the golfers - and appreciate the misery they will face - fans can trudge up and down the hills, through the long wet grass and an occasional bunker that straddles the ropes, amoeba-like.
To walk around the course on Wednesday was to witness several slips and one man, half-intentionally, dropping to his bottom to slide down a hill for a better view of the 18th fairway.
'You've got to be careful,' said Jill Stimach, who came up for the day from Waukesha with her husband only to have her umbrella upended by winds of 10 to 20 mph. 'It's not for everybody, that's for sure.'
How about playing it?
'It would be a little tough for me,' she said.
'I think it's going to be a little tough for them, too,' her husband, Dale, said with a nod toward the golfers.
Stands selling ice cream and frozen lemonade on Wednesday were doing little business. 'Evacuation vehicles' stood by in case of lightning; with the four-mile layout, it's even more important at Whistling Straits to get the players from the farthest reaches of the course quickly.
'We picked the worst weather day,' Jill Stimach said.
'You don't know what it's going to be like tomorrow,' Dale said.
Compared to tailgating at a Green Bay Packers game in December, though, this day near the beach was a day at the beach.
'We're pretty hearty in Wisconsin,' Jill said. 'We can handle it.'
Dye built Whistling Straits on an assignment from bathroom fixture magnate Herb Kohler with the goal of making it challenging for the pros but still playable for the weekend duffer. The course's success, he said, convinced him that a little piece of Ireland wasn't out of place here at all.
'You don't have to worry about the golfers of Wisconsin,' he said. 'They have been climbing these hills for five years and they are going to climb all over the place.
'They don't know if it's raining or snowing. They play out here and they keep coming back.'
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
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    Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

    Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

    Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

    Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

    The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

    One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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    O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

    DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

    The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

    David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

    Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

    Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.

    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters

    ''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

    ''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

    Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

    But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

    ''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

    The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

    Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

    In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

    Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

    The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

    “It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

    Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

    “Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

    ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

    “There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

    ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

    “It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”