Temperature and Tiger Hot Topics at PGA

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- High noon at Southern Hills looked more like a ghost town.
 
Wednesday before a major championship usually is bustling with activity, especially at the PGA Championship, the last chance for players to win a major until the azaleas bloom in April at Augusta National.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh tries to stay cool near a large fan on the practice putting green Wednesday. (Getty Images)
But it's particularly quiet at Southern Hills, so quiet you could almost hear drops of sweat sizzling on the sidewalk.
 
'My guess is a lot of guys are playing practice rounds at 4 a.m.,' Paul Goydos said.
 
British Open champion Padraig Harrington was among the brave. He teed off shortly before noon to play 18 holes as the temperature climbed toward 100 degrees, and it looked even hotter with a flame shooting from the top of a refinery on the horizon. An elderly gentleman approached to say he was from Ireland, and Harrington looked toward the blazing sun.
 
'You're a long way from home,' he said.
 
They are a long way from the gray skies and cold rain of Carnoustie, where Harrington won three weeks ago.
 
Heat figures to be as intimidating as anything defending champion Tiger Woods might do at Southern Hills, which has a history of hosting some of the hottest majors. Retief Goosen, who won the U.S. Open here in 2001, played nine holes and went through five bottles of water.
 
Not too many players went more than nine holes, if that much.
 
'I can't imagine anyone practicing a lot,' Chad Campbell said. 'You don't want to wear yourself out.'
 
Woods stopped playing a practice round on Wednesday at the majors a few years ago, and he must have been especially glad to have changed his routine at Southern Hills. He arrived about 8 a.m. and hit balls for an hour before heading for the putting green.
 
The world's No. 1 player has one last chance to add a major to his collection this year, and there are mixed feelings about his chances. Woods has not played Southern Hills particularly well in two recent trips, although he points out that he was an emotional wreck in 1996 with his father in the hospital, and didn't know where the ball was going at the 2001 U.S. Open.
 
And while Southern Hills has a history of wire-to-wire winners, there is nothing about the Perry Maxwell design that tends to favor a particular style, whether it's long or short, great irons or great short games.
 
'If Tiger wins this week -- if he can dominate on a golf course like this -- then we're all done,' Goydos said.
 
The Bermuda rough is only about 3 inches, deep enough that balls sink to the ground and can be hard to find, but not so much that players have no choice but to hack out onto the fairway. The greens are pure, but not linoleum slick like Oakmont.
 
The PGA Championship has earned a reputation in recent years as being the most fair major.
 
And given its spot on the calendar, the hottest major. That explained why it was so quiet on the eve of the final major.
 
Twenty minutes after Harrington teed off, the first fairway remained wide open. In recent years, the biggest problem with practice rounds at the majors is that they take up to six hours with so many players hitting putts and chips from every conceivable angle.
 
'There was no one ahead of us and no one behind us,' Kevin Sutherland said after playing nine holes with Goydos. 'We stood on the ninth green for five minutes telling stories and we never saw anyone in the fairway.'
 
Even a quick practice round was no picnic. Sutherland was in the clubhouse when someone passed by and slapped him on the shoulder, only to look down at a hand dripping wet.
 
'Just got out of the pool,' Sutherland told him.
 
For Stephen Ames, it brought back fond memories.
 
'I'm going to play nine holes and then find a nice mango tree,' said Ames, who grew up in Trinidad & Tobago. 'That's what we used to do on days like this. Find a nice mango tree and hit balls in the shade. We'd cut down the grass and hit balls. Very nice.'
 
Not so nice was Darren Clarke's wardrobe on Wednesday, in which he surely borrowed a chapter from Colin Montgomerie on how not to dress when the temperature hits triple digits. Monty famously wore navy blue slacks and a shirt in the 1994 playoff at Oakmont. Clarke wore black pants and a black shirt.
 
'Weight-loss program,' he said.
 
The heat is getting plenty of attention, and while it's true that players are going through bottles of water as frequently as John Daly goes through a pack of cigarettes, it is not terribly surprising.
 
The PGA Championship is in August. It's supposed to be hot.
 
The most recent exception was Whistling Straits in northern Wisconsin a few years ago, when it was so chilly in the third round that some fans brought Green Bay Packers jackets to the tournament. But it was stifling in Atlanta in 2001 and in New Jersey two years ago.
 
'Baltusrol was the worst,' Sutherland said. 'The cuffs of my pants were soaked because that's where the sweat was running.'
 
Goydos pondered the heat during a breakfast of cantaloupe, bacon and a Danish -- no need to check him for steroids -- and wondered what everyone was expecting.
 
'If you come to Tulsa for the PGA and are shocked to find it too hot,' he said, 'you might need to find a new profession.'
 
One only has to see the motorized fans, 50 inches in diameter, around most of the greens at Southern Hills. The tournament arranged for Precision Air Systems out of Pompano Beach, Fla., to deliver 21 of these massive fans for the PGA Championship.
 
They deliver air that is about 10 degrees cooler and will help keep the greens alive. The fans have been running 24 hours a day since Tuesday. Workers will remove them Thursday morning before the first round, replace them after the round and repeat the process until the PGA Championship has a winner.
 
'I wish they'd leave them on during the tournament,' Rory Sabbatini. 'And add some misting for us.'
 
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