Oak Hill lowers its defenses


PITTSFORD, N.Y. – One of the game’s most feared major venues was soaked into submission on Friday by a morning deluge and a field that attacked the Donald Ross gem as if it were hosting the Humana Challenge, not the PGA Championship.

On a scoreboard littered with red numbers, the highlights included Jason Dufner’s course-record 63 – he left a 12-footer for birdie and 62 a foot short at the last – and a staggering 27 players under par through two rounds.

In contrast, in the five previous majors played at Oak Hill, only nine players (10 times) have finished under par. The two-day scoring average this week is 71.88 compared to a 74.31 four-day average at the 2003 PGA, the last major played on the upstate New York layout.

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“I didn’t expect this. The hard holes are playing hard; 17 is hard, 18 is hard,” said Robert Garrigus, who is tied for seventh at 5 under following one of 32 sub-70 rounds on Friday. “You can hit iron on a bunch of them and spin it right next to the hole. It’s crazy, it feels a little like Congressional (site of the 2011 U.S. Open). It’s surprising to me how low the scores are. The rough is so thick, if you hit in there you’re lucky to advance it.”

Much of the damage was done by a morning rain that dumped nearly an inch of precipitation on the already wet layout, effectively widening fairways and mitigating what otherwise would have been challenging hole locations.

“The defense of this course is the rough and, if we had them, firm and fast greens. Without the latter its guard is down,” said Paul Casey, who is tied for 22nd at 1 under. “I was surprised by the scores the guys shot this morning because that weather looked absolutely horrific.”

Perhaps the best measure of how vulnerable Oak Hill is this week was the 36-hole cut. In ’03, anyone at 8 over or better advanced to the weekend. Friday’s cut this year fell at 3 over.