SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Add mosquitoes to the list of life’s certainties when it comes to summertime in the upper Midwest.
Some players practicing for this weekend’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits were swatting as often as they were swinging during their rounds on Tuesday. And you can bet golf bags will be packed with bug spray all week.
“They were out this morning in a big way,” Hunter Mahan said. “It was quite shocking. Especially when you went by the few holes right by the lake there. I mean, it was, they were incredible. They were swarming, in fact.”
Surrounded by bug-breeding water on hole No. 5, Tiger Woods hit his tee shot into the right rough. Instead of hitting another ball, he jogged off the tee box and said, “It’s all yours.”
Mahan hit his drive, ran off the tee, and Sean O’Hair did the same.
“We can’t do anything about it,” Mahan said. “They seemed to kind of go away during the last nine holes or so. But yeah, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun out there.”
PGA club professional national champion Mike Small said the bugs seemed to be at their worst early in the morning and late at night. Not that he minds.
“It’s a major,” Small said. “I mean, I’d putt on gravel and play in a mosquito-infested jungle if it’s a major.”
With a breeze blowing later on, players who came off the course in the early afternoon didn’t report as many problems. Dustin Johnson said it didn’t bother him. Of course, he is from South Carolina.
“I’m used to mosquitoes where I’m from,” Johnson said.
Unless the wind whips up – which presents challenges of its own at Whistling Straits – there’s not much players can do about the bugs.
“Except put on a lot of ‘Off!,”’ Mahan said.
TOUR VOID: Wisconsin sports fans might put football first, but Gov. Jim Doyle says the state also is crazy about golf.
That said, Doyle acknowledged that having Wisconsin lose its yearly stop on the PGA Tour creates a void for what he considers a state with an enthusiastic golf scene.
“We would like to have a regular stop,” Doyle said. “As you all know, getting a date has been a great challenge for us in Wisconsin. We had a great tournament played at a great course, we just over the years couldn’t get a date that really worked for us.”
Facing a shortfall in corporate sponsorship and lukewarm fan interest, the tournament once known as the Greater Milwaukee Open ceased operations and was dropped from the PGA Tour schedule. Recently, it was held opposite the British Open, sapping it of star power.
But with top players appearing at Whistling Straits this weekend, Doyle said about 200,000 fans are expected to attend the tournament.
“I think we will prove with these majors that are coming here that we will have great fans and we can put on a great tournament,” Doyle said. “So we are going to continue to work on this.”
Whistling Straits will host the PGA Championship again in 2015 and the Ryder Cup in 2020. Nearby Blackwolf Run will host the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. And Wisconsin’s Erin Hills will host the 2017 U.S. Open.
“Would you rather have a major every two or three years, which this state will have for the next 20 years, or would you like a tour stop every year?,” Kohler chairman and CEO Herb Kohler said. “Answer that question yourself. I think Wisconsin is taking the right course.”
C’MON GET HAPPY: Paul Casey hopes Sergio Garcia brings a smile back from his post-PGA Championship break.
The Spaniard plans to take two months off after playing Whistling Straits this week. He hasn’t won in almost two years, and said he hopes the break will rekindle his love for the game.
“If you don’t have stuff in the right place, or if you’re not happy away from the golf course, then you’re not going to find it on the golf course,” said Casey, who had his own struggles about five years ago. “When I was playing my worst golf, I was also very unhappy off the golf course, and vice versa.
“I want to see the happy, smiley Sergio again,” Casey added. “I don’t know what’s going on with Sergio inside, but it’s the same thing. As soon as I see him smiling again, I think the great golf that we’ve seen from Sergio will come back.”
NO PRESSURE, PAL: As a close friend and former University of Illinois teammate of Steve Stricker, Small knows Stricker wants win in his home state this week.
“We spoke about a week ago, and I know this is a big deal to him and I know he’s under maybe some self-imposed pressure, maybe because he wants to win a major and being in his home state,” Small said.
So Small plans to give his old buddy some space.
“I’m sure we’ll run into each other and have a Coke or something and talk, but I’m not going to go get in his kitchen,” said Small, currently the men’s golf coach at Illinois. “I’m going to let him be and do his own thing and root him on.”
DIVOTS: Louis Oosthuizen went back to South Africa after winning the British Open, and was surprised to find out how much people in his home country appreciated his victory. “I think it was a nice thing coming at a good time for South Africa after the World Cup,” he said. “The country was still on a big high after everything and my friends and everyone just said it was amazing.” … The PGA of America touted a study, based on 2008 data, that said the game of golf has an annual economic impact of $2.4 billion and provides more than 38,000 jobs in Wisconsin. … To honor defending PGA champion Y.E. Yang, the First Lady of South Korea arranged to have four of the top chefs in Yang’s home country flown in to Wisconsin for Tuesday’s champions dinner. The menu included japchae, a colorful dish made with glass noodles, carrot and spinach seasoned with soy sauce, and modeumjeon, assorted pan-fried delicacies including halibut, mushrooms and zucchini with vinegar soy sauce.