“Glory’s Last Shot' gains potentially more spectacular meaning starting Sunday at Whistling Straits.
That’s the day the Wisconsin resort course closes to the public and the world’s best players are expected to begin parading in for scouting trips for the PGA Championship.
Count Whistling Straits head professional Michael O’Reilly among the curious spectators eager to see how the significant design changes at the 18th hole will heighten drama if players go for glory with their last full shots in a round.
While a small hand full of club professionals have visited this summer, O'Reilly hasn't been able to see how the game’s elite plan to play the 18th because so few have made scouting trips, but that promises to change beginning this weekend.
“Glory’s Last Shot” may never be a more appropriate moniker for the championship if the new test at the 18th plays out the way Whistling Straits founder Herb Kohler and architect Pete Dye hope.
Kohler and Dye overhauled the 500-yard finishing hole since the last time the PGA Championship was played there in 2004. Dye opened up the left side of this slight dogleg to entice a bold play to cut the corner and shorten the hole.
With a little gorge running across the fairway, the safe play is a layup to the right, leaving players anywhere from 180 to 200 yards for their approach shots. The new shortcut offers a giant reward and giant trouble. The choice can mean the difference between a 6-iron and a pitching wedge, depending on the winds.
“It’s about 290 to 295 yards to carry the bunkers on the left, to where the ball can kick and run downhill to a flat area about 120 yards from the hole,” O’Reilly said.
With deep bunkers and deep grasses, a miscalculated gamble can leave a player pitching out sideways.
Much will depend on the wind direction, where PGA officials set the tees, but nobody’s quite sure if the world’s best will ultimately deem the gamble worth the heavy risk. That’s what will make the practice rounds so interesting beginning Sunday. Even Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director of championships who’s in charge of course setups, is curious to see what players conclude about the risk in practice rounds.
Imagine this, though. Imagine Phil Mickelson on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship one shot off the lead. What would he do? “Glory’s Last Shot” might find a new golden moment.