QA with Herb Kohler

By Rex HoggardAugust 6, 2010, 8:02 pm

For a man who has never played in a single PGA Tour event, manufactured a golf ball or club, or held a spot among the game’s power brokers at the U.S. Golf Association or Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland, Herb Kohler has become an unquestionable catalyst in the game.

Kohler, 71, is the president and chairman of Kohler Company, a plumbing fixture giant, which owns Whistling Straits, site of this year’s PGA Championship, the 2015 PGA and 2020 Ryder Cup. Also part of the Kohler portfolio is Blackwolf Run, site of the 2012 U.S. Women's Open, the five-star American Club hotel and the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews.

GolfChannel.com: How has Whistling Straits evolved since the 2004 PGA Championship and what might players and fans expect to see?

Herb Kohler: Something a little more exciting. No. 8 will be really interesting if players can avoid that really deep bunker in front of the green. I obviously can’t guarantee a playoff (like the one that highlighted the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits).

GC.com: The 18th hole has undergone a number of changes over the years. Is it where you would like it to be or do you envision more tinkering?

HK: The 18th hole has two fairways, the left fairway requires a big drive. You could end up with a wedge or sand wedge in your hand and could throw a real dart. We’ll see how it plays, if it plays as I describe it will be a great finishing hole.

(Designer) Pete Dye is coming back on Aug. 20 and we will always tinker. We are trying to make this the best golf course in the world. (Dye) wanted to tinker in July. I had to talk him out of it. He said, 'Herb, I’m getting on in years.'

GC.com: With the Ryder Cup scheduled to be held at Whistling Straits in 2020, do you think it is a better stroke-play or match-play course?

HK: That’s a hell of a tough question. I feel it’s perfect for each because of all the options, five tees on every hole. In a match-play tournament you could make (Nos.) 13 and 14 drivable, you wouldn’t do that in stroke play. It is surprisingly flexible golf course.

Herb Kohler
At 71, Kohler remains one of the most powerful figures in golf. (Getty Images)

GC.com: You were at the Open Championship and with your connection to the Old Course Hotel, I would be curious why you think St. Andrews is such a great major venue, both inside and outside the ropes, and can you bring that vibe to an American venue?

HK: What St. Andrews has is incredible history that goes back 300-400 years and you walk the course and the town and that history is all around you. People were playing golf on that piece of ground before they knew the world was round. You sit there on the balcony of your room looking over the 17th fairway and it is amazing. I have looked at it 50 times and every time it gives me goose bumps.

You can’t translate that to an American venue. We have other things. We have a course with great color and great options and great flexibility. A community that’s filled with charm.

If you built a course like that in the U.S. they would laugh you out of town. Imagine asking a pro to hit their driver on the second-to-last hole over a building?

GC.com: I ask this in the context of a man who has built a 7,500-yard golf course to host major championships and in light of the ongoing debate on Tour for more equipment rollbacks, do you think it is time for a bifurcation of the Rules of Golf between the professional and amateur games?

HK: The magic of golf is that we all play under the same set of rules. It’s the greatness of this game. So no, I hope the R&A and USGA never try to sort out a different sets of rules.

It is not the length of a drive that has won this championship. Louis (Oosthuizen) is a very good driver, but not a very big driver. He beat his opponents because of his ability to control his emotions and control his mistakes.

GC.com: With the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup scheduled on the Straits Course through 2020 it would seem to preempt the resort from hosting a U.S. Open in the foreseeable future, but you have hosted a U.S. Women’s Open and would fill an apparent Midwestern hole in the U.S. Golf Association rotation. Can you envision hosting a U.S. Open?

HK: We are very comfortable and pleased with the PGA of America. The PGA ends up with the greatest number of the best players in the world, and that is really something.

The other thing is the time of year in Wisconsin. All the fescues, as they wave in the wind, it is an extraordinary sight. You can’t get that in June.

I don’t long for anything. If one day my successors thought a U.S. Open would be a good test for this course, fine. But I am delighted with what I have and hope to keep going.

GC.com: In 2004 the PGA Championship was decided in a playoff between a long-hitter (Vijay Singh) and two relatively short hitters (Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard). Is that the ultimate compliment for a championship venue?

HK: Yes, Vijay was a power hitter, Chris was good all around, Justin had a good short game, but the key was they were all on their game.

The key for Vijay he was able to drive almost to the green at the 10th hole (in the playoff). That was the deciding shot in the playoff. He wasn’t sinking many putts, but he did sink that one.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.