BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Robert Allenby got the ball rolling, downhill, Thursday at the PGA Championship when he lashed into the PGA of America and its first round course set-up at Oakland Hills.
They have taken an OK course, Allenby hissed, and turned it into a lot of crap.
Many players agreed with Allenby. Many longtime observers considered Allenbys remarks heresy due in part to the layouts Donald Ross pedigree and Robert Trent Jones grooming.
Meanwhile, Lee Westwood piled on, saying the PGA of America had sucked the life out of the golf tournament.
Friday was another day and by the end of a long rounds journey into gathering darkness, nobody had carded a 36-hole total better than 1 under par.
We cant please everybody, said Rees Jones, the noted American architect who did the most recent re-design at Oakland Hills. Rees Jones father is Robert Trent Jones, and he had every reason to be offended by the comments of Allenby and Westwood.
But Rees Jones also has a sense of humor. In conversation Friday he told a story on himself that he had heard attributed to Paul Goydos. According to Jones, Goydos said he would never allow Rees Jones to work on his lawn because when he went out to get the paper the next morning it would be 20 yards farther away than it was the day before.
Back at the controversy, Jones pointed out that 7 over was the winning score in 1951 when Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open at an Oakland Hills course that had been touched up by Robert Trent Jones.
With the equipment the players have today, I think this course is easier than it was when Hogan won in 1951, Rees Jones said. This is the way a major championship golf course should be set up.
David Toms, who jumped into contention with a Friday 69 that left him two shots off the halfway lead, was decidedly more realistic about the conditions after his Friday round.
Toms has the word monster plastered all over his golf bag. Its a reference the word Hogan famously used to describe Oakland Hills after his 1951 triumph.
You kind of had to know what you were getting into here, Toms said. Weve been reading about it all year. You have to embrace it.
Justin Rose needed just 25 putts on Oakland Hills diabolical greens Friday ' only 11 on his last nine holes. The resultant 67 tied him with Ben Curtis with the low round of the championship so far.
I quite like the tough greens, Rose said. I think if your speed is good, sometimes its easier to read the big breaks rather than if its just quite subtle.
Just about everybody agrees that theres not a whole lot of subtlety at Oakland Hills. It was the same way last year at Oakmont where Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open.
In fact, more than a few players are saying this years PGA more resembles a U.S. Open than the U.S. Open. Oddly enough, many of those same players were saying the June U.S. Open at Torrey Pines more resembled a Masters than the Masters because of all the risk reward opportunities.
You almost feel like youre being tested on every shot that you hit, Rose said of Oakland Hills. Theres no let-up.
Funnily enough, Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones and Rees Jones, would all probably take that as a compliment.
Jack Nicklaus used to say he loved hearing players whining about conditions at major championships. He said he knew he didnt have to worry about the whiners. The list of players Nicklaus, in his prime, did have to worry about at majors, by the way, was short enough.
So we have arrived at the mid-point of the years final major championship. The opinion here is that Toms has it right. The player who will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy late Sunday afternoon will be the one who embraces this latest edition of Oakland Hills.
And, Rees Jones said, The winners never complain.
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