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PGA capping off a tough year in the majors

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Follow the 90th PGA Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
 
2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Justin Leonard is among 11 players who have made the cut in all four majors this year, but he holds one dubious distinction among such a select group.
 
He is the only player who has never been under par after any round.
 
Leonard has been steady, although not spectacular. Going into the third round of the PGA Championship, he had played 14 rounds in the majors this year and was 30-over par. He has matched par only four times.
 
Welcome to the new world of majors.
 
Steve Flesch might have summed it up best Friday night after he battled for an even-par 70 that put him in the mix at Oakland Hills going into the weekend.
 
The only noise I heard was somebody getting hit by a golf ball. And they were grunts, he said. No birdie cheers.
 
For those who complained that Augusta National had taken the fun out of the Masters, that might be the major this year that produced the most birdies. Trevor Immelman won at 8-under 280 for a three-shot victory over Tiger Woods.
 
And that U.S. Open reputation as being the toughest test in golf? It very well could be the easiest. Woods shot 30 on his back nine of the second round, made two eagles over the final six holes in the third round and forced a playoff with Rocco Mediate at 1-under 283.
 
Padraig Harrington won the British Open ' survived might be the better choice of words ' at 3-over 283, but only after producing a 32 on his final nine holes at Royal Birkdale to pull away from Justin Rose.
 
J.B. Holmes was the sole survivor to par at Oakland Hills after 36 holes, at 1-under 139. Unless the PGA of America uses the tees from the club championship, empties the Detroit River onto the greens and borrows every lawn mower in Michigan to shrink the rough, no one expects the winner to be in red numbers.
 
This tournament is not going to be won by 1-under par, Sergio Garcia said.
 
If thats the case, it will be the first time since 1956 ' and the first time that all four majors were stroke play ' that a score of 280 or higher won every major.
 
So much for that theory of the PGA Championship being the one major that invited good scoring.
 
Its such a tough golf course that they dont need to trick it up, Robert Allenby said. The fairways are running 30 to 40 yards. The greens are like concrete. Its not enjoyable to play. Theyve taken an OK golf course and turned it into a lot of crap.
 
Like anything else, whether this is enjoyable depends on ones taste. Some people like to see the best players in the world struggle. Others would rather see superior skills on display.
 
What most would prefer is variety, and with scoring, that appears to be missing.
 
If we had it like this once a year, OK, Ben Curtis said. But it seems like we have this 15 times a year.
 
Before he arrived at Oakland Hills, but after seeing the course, Geoff Ogilvy was asked to rank the majors on degree of difficulty.
 
Nothing is ever going to get as tough as Royal Birkdale. You could put an asterisk next to it, he said, laughing at his double entendre. Some asked whether the claret jug deserved as asterisk because Tiger Woods wasnt there.
 
What made the British Open so beastly was relentless wind that topped 40 mph in the third round, along with healthy rough. Thick grass is not unusual on a links course; it depends entirely on whether the growing season was wet or dry. Wind is the primary defense.
 
Oakland Hills is tough. Any course with a nickname The Monster wont be mistaken for Indian Wells.
 
But the PGA of America only accentuated its toughest features with a series of peculiar decisions. The rough already is so dense that it doesnt need to cover shoelaces to be penal. Golf balls sink to the bottom, and the penalty is even more severe because workers have been dragging rakes through the grass away from the hole, making it stand even taller.
 
The rough is unavoidable because the fairways are tilted and firm, nearly impossible to hold. Phil Mickelson began his tournament with two good drives, both of which bounded off to the right and into the bunkers.
 
And after all that, players reach greens that have slopes so severe they at times have to putt sideways to get the ball curving toward the hole. The putting surfaces have been so firm and crusty that some players said they could see footprints.
 
Heres a scene from the 17th green on Friday ' Mike Weir fixed his pitch mark on the front of the green, then walked to the back of the green to find his ball nestled in thick rough. He had no chance. Later that day, with the pin on the shallow side to the right, Flesch posed over a 4-iron. It landed 10 yards short of the hole and wound up in the rough.
 
When youre playing a par 3, you should have a chance ' if you strike a good shot ' to get it somewhere within 15 feet, Flesch said. The only way to keep it on the green is to hit 75 feet away.
 
Such complaints have become common this year, maybe because all the major courses have become the same.
 
Hard.
 
Really, really hard.
 
We are not used to seeing this kind of major at a PGA Championship, Garcia said. But its still a major, so youve got to realize it and just keep playing hard. And hopefully, youll be there on Sunday.
 
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