History has shown, however, that some of the best golf in the world might be seen this week at Brown Deer Park even without Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
The par-70 course with notoriously thick rough measures 6,759 yards, one of the shortest on the PGA Tour, so it puts a premium on iron play and putting. Brown Deer includes doglegs, thick rough and a creek that dissects four of the par-4s, all of which serve to neutralize long hitters'Woods finished 60th here in his pro debut in 1996.
Yet, golfers have to attack the fairways because there are so many birdies to be had, especially with the rainstorms that drenched the course Wednesday.
The public course attracts old-school golfers who prefer the thinking mans game of golf, as well as those who consider Milwaukee an even-playing field with some of the Tours top money winners staying home.
Its an old-style golf course that has a lot of Northeastern feel to it, Brad Faxon said. I dont think its a bombers paradise that you see so often on Tour now. Tough rough around the greens. I just kind of like it. A lot of these tournaments that have a homespun, I hate to say small town because Milwaukees not a small town, but theres a lot of personality to it, the fans really get behind it.
Faxon even spoke up for the rough, which he said was the thickest on tour last summer.
It was off the fairways, too. You just kind of hacked it out with a wedge, he said. Typically, Im not a big fan of that on the big courses we play on. But when you have courses like this, lets make it important to hit them down the fairway or decide. Decisions are gone in the modern game now.
Thats the other thing Milwaukee offers: rewards for strategy and skill, not just strength and length.
Faxon said too often on the Tour today, its pull a driver out of the bag and swing as hard as you can. Rather than, Boy, do I want to chance hitting the driver here because if I miss this fairway, its going to cost me. I would love to see strategy become a part of the game again.
Scott Verplank couldnt agree more. He loves the thick rough that keeps things interesting at Brown Deer Park.
It puts an absolute premium on hitting the ball in the fairway, he said. I enjoy that a lot more than standing up and having all these young guys hit it 340 yards in the air, bomb and driver every hole and being OK. Id rather play a course where you still have to have control of your golf ball.
Equipment and course conditions have conspired to drive out the strategist nowadays, not entirely but enough to bother players who honed their craft at places like Brown Deer Park, Verplank suggested.
Its taking a lot of the skill of shot-making out of it, not all of it, but its definitely changed a lot from when I started playing 20 years ago, Verplank said. So, yeah, its kind of nice to come to a place where theres a lot more yardage variance. A couple holes you hit driver and try to hit it as hard as you can; other holes you play to a position and try to get the best angle or the best yardage you can to the pin.
Verplank played Brown Deer last year to get Ryder Cup points. This time, hes here to earn Presidents Cup points. And he said hes just like the rest of the field: confident hell do well this week.
Ive got to be honest, almost every tournament Ive played in this year has got Tiger Woods and Vijay and Ernie and Retief Goosen, Verplank said. Not that this is not a competitive field ... but I thought if there was a place to add points for the Presidents Cup team, this place fits me.
Like I said, if I play well, I would expect that I would have some sort of chance at a high finish.
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