Beast of a Course Awaits at Baltusrol


2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Chad Campbell stood next to his ball in the middle of the 17th fairway at Baltusrol when a man behind the ropes called out, Go for the green.
If he could have heard Campbells caddie, he would have known better to say such a thing.
Youve got 349 to the hole, the caddie said.
The PGA Championship on paper offers a dramatic finish at Baltusrol, with the only two par 5s on the final two holes. But the 17th is not the garden-variety par 5.
17th Hole - Baltusrol GC
The 17th hole at Baltusrol will measure in at 650 yards this week.
It measures 650 yards, the longest in major championship history. Most players believe Tiger Woods and John Daly, perhaps even Vijay Singh, are the only players who can get home in two if the conditions are ripe. For everyone else, it will be a conventional, three-shot hole.
Or maybe even worse.
That the only hole that doesnt make a lot of sense, Davis Love III said. If you miss the fairway by like 4 feet, it becomes a (par) 6.
The 17th is difficult from the start, a drive that is slightly crimped by two trees that looks like goal posts. Thick rough and trees line both sides of the fairway, and players must hit their second shot over cross bunkers.
Stephen Leaney of Australia hit a good tee shot and used a 3-wood to lay up about 110 yards short of the elevated green. Walking down the fairway, he took another ball out of his bag and threw it down short of the bunkers, hitting a long iron toward the green.
Leaney wanted to practice that shot in case he hit his tee shot into the rough. Some players wont be able to clear the cross bunkers, meaning they would have to play short of them and have a 230-yard shot to the green.
We dont play many par 5s like that, Leaney said.
Love and Justin Leonard could only think of one other three-shot par 5 they play on the PGA Tour, and that would be the 667-yard 16th hole at Firestone. But even there, Woods has reached in two.
This might be different.
Asked if anyone could reach the 17th in two shots, Campbell thought long and hard.
Tiger, if anybody. But I dont think anybody can, not to put anything past Tiger, he said.
He paused again, then added, Put Daly in there, too.
Indeed, it was a short list of candidates for a long course.
Daly is the only player to reach the green in two, with a 1-iron for his second shot in the 1993 U.S. Open, a shot that scampered through the bunker and onto the green. But the hole is 20 yards longer than it was a dozen years ago, and the heavy air of August wont allow the ball to go as far.
Im going to play 17 like 99.9 percent of everybody else, Darren Clarke said. Try and hit the fairway and try and leave yourself a sand wedge in. Its 650 yards and not an awful lot of roll on the ball. Even for the longest guys this week, its going to be a pretty tough hole to reach in two.
The hole doesnt really favor anybody the way its playing at the moment, he said. Its going to be a three-shotter for everybody.
Woods didnt get the chance Monday morning during a practice round for the PGA Championship. He hit his tee shot well into the rough and played it as a conventional par 5. And if he had hit the fairway?
Its 650 yards, said his caddie, Steve Williams, as if the question was the most absurd he had ever heard.
What about a monster drive and a 3-wood?
A 300-yard drive, you still have 350, he said. And then he repeated for emphasis, Its 650 yards.
That one hole says a lot for Baltusrol, which is the longest course of the majors this year at 7,392 yards, but still not as meaty as Whistling Straits (7,514 yards) in Wisconsin last year at the PGA Championship.
It only seems that way.
The air was thick and heavy with clouds that threatened to burst open with showers on the first full day of practice for the final major, keeping the ball from going great lengths. Love doesnt profess to be an expert in math, but the Lower Course felt much longer than when he played the U.S. Open in 1993.
I dont think it adds up to 7,400 yards, Love said. Youve got 17 and 18 that are 1,200 yards, and 6 and 7 are 1,000 yards.
Small wonder that when a spectator asked him what he thought about the course as Love played the eighth hole, he called out over his shoulder, Hit it 300 yards and straight every time and youll be perfect.
Thats what awaits the 156-man field of professionals when the PGA Championship begins on Thursday, the final major of a year dominated by a familiar face.
Woods already has won multiple majors for the third time in the last five years, adding to his cache by capturing the Masters in a playoff and the British Open wire-to-wire at St. Andrews, winning by five.
He again is the prohibitive favorite at Baltusrol because of his sheer power, although he left the course just before lunch after sticking two tees in the turf the width of his putter and working on his putting, the same drill he used in the days leading to the British Open.
Still, Woods is no longer considered unbeatable like he was in 2000, when he won the final three majors and nine of the 20 tournaments he entered on the PGA Tour.
There definitely was a perception if he was in the field he was going to win'at that time, Lee Janzen said. I think the perception now is that hes the guy to beat, but I dont think guys think its a given that hes going to win. But hes definitely the player to beat. He just thinks differently than the rest of us do.
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