Quick Round with Kerry Haigh

By Randall MellJuly 30, 2010, 3:03 am

For so long, it seemed, the PGA Championship struggled for an identity that set it apart from the other majors.

Then, at the turn of the century, the players came up with an answer.

They made it the most exciting major championship in golf.

In ’99, we crept closer to our televisions for a better look with Tiger Woods holding off Sergio Garcia at Medinah. In 2000, we were riveted watching Woods beat Bob May in a playoff at Valhalla. In ’02, it was Rich Beem holding off Woods, who closed with four consecutive birdies at Hazeltine. In ’03, Shaun Micheel hit that spectacular final shot to win at Oak Hill and in ’04 Vijay Singh won in a playoff at Whistling Straits . . . The theme carried into last year, with Y.E. Yang’s memorable finish in upsetting Woods at Hazeltine.

Through it all, there’s a common denominator. There’s Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director of championships, the man in charge of course setups.

In a Quick Round, Haigh talks about course setup and the PGA Championship’s return to Whistling Straits in two weeks:

The PGA Championship has a reputation as the fairest major championship. What’s your philosophy in course setups?

We look at the golf course playing the way the architect intended it to play. For us, it involves not being a part of the story, letting the golf course and players who are the PGA Championship be the stars of the show.

From a philosophical standpoint, it’s about making the course as challenging and as fair as it can be so the players are challenged both mentally and physically, so they are able to show their skills. As a general philosophy, that is our aim. Every day, every round, you have to be very careful and consider all the factors that will come into play.

With the PGA Championship just two weeks away, how is Whistling Straits shaping up?

Overall, the course is in excellent condition, though we had an awful lot of rain over the past weekend, but we’ve got a few days of drying weather.

A lot of rain isn’t good for the way you want those fescue grasses to look and play, is it? Even the fairways are fescue at Whistling Straits. Aren’t they supposed to have a brownish hue and play firm and fast? Will we see that?

There are fescue grasses on the fairways. They continue to mature and improve. Ideally, they are meant to play a little firm, but obviously Mother Nature has a big bearing on how the course plays, as it always does. With the 4 or 5 inches of rain we had last weekend, they wouldn’t be as firm as we would like, but we have two weeks to go and we are optimistic the weather will pick up and dry out. The course plays better with a little bounce in it, but you don’t want it bone hard.

Will we be looking at penal, chop-out rough or the kind of rough that will entice players to try to go at the greens?

As it was in ’04, the intent is to allow the players to play out of the fescue rough. It is quite long, and again, a lot depends on how much it dries, or how wet it is down in the roots. In ’04, it did dry out a little bit, which helped it play well and allowed the players to play shots out of it, but with very little control over how the ball would react from it. That’s certainly our aim in the planning again. The rough will be 4 to 6 inches, depending how dry it is down in the base of it.

Architect Pete Dye and Whistling Straits founder Herb Kohler changed the 18th hole, creating a risk-reward element to the final hole that wasn’t there in ’04. This 500-yard par 4 now opens up left with a shortcut to the dogleg, but it’s a high-risk play with a nearly 300-yard carry over bunkers to a narrowing fairway. There are multiple tees. Will you bring that new element of the design into play?

We certainly are not opposed to what they’ve done. Pete’s created that avenue down which players could go if they so choose, but to get there, it’s a significant carry. That (part of the fairway) is pretty narrow and has challenges on both sides if you were to miss. In all honesty, it’s a high-risk shot. But we’ll see in the practice rounds, how players do.

As I understand it, depending on the wind, a player could have as much a 5-iron or 6-iron into the green playing safe on the right but only a wedge taking the short cut because there’s a downhill kick. You can dictate how tempting an option the shortcut is by choosing the forward tee boxes, correct?

There are two tees down there that we are planning on using, both are lower tees. It is somewhere near a 300-yard carry from the back of the first tee and probably 270 or 265 from the front of the second tee. So much of Whistling Straits depends on the wind and the strength of the wind. In truth, it’s the wind that makes it so challenging, along with everything else.

The wind’s not so predictable off Lake Michigan, is it?

The wind has been known to change directions, not only day to day but in the same day. I’ve been there when the wind switches from off the lake to into the lake. So that, as much as anything, will be the biggest factor on how the golf course plays and how each hole plays. We will do our best to listen to the weather forecast each morning and go out and set up accordingly.

There’s another big change from ’04 at the sixth hole, a short and drive-able par 4. Dye moved the bunker in front of that green so it now runs up into the middle of the green. Will you use forward trees to tempt players to try to drive the green?

In 04, we played it as a drive-able par 4 on two, if not three, of the days, if I remember rightly. Certainly, the bunker that is now there, and almost in the middle of the green, is a very interesting addition to the hole. It’s an extremely deep and extremely penal bunker if you are in it. It certainly makes you think on the tee how you want to play. Last time there, the hole clearly played differently with left-hand hole locations as opposed to the right-hand hole locations. We plan to split it up a couple times. The left-hand side is more appealing for players to go for the green. How players will play it pretty much is determined on where the hole locations are.

Thanks, Kerry.

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Davies headlines field at Senior LPGA at French Lick

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2018, 10:40 pm

Laura Davies will be looking to win her second senior major championship this year when she tees it up in Monday’s start of the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Davies, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July, will join a field that includes fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson, who was announced last week with Peggy Kirk Bell as the Hall’s newest members. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy are also in the 54-hole event.

Trish Johnson is back to defend her title after winning the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship a year ago. Brandi Burton, Jane Geddes, Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann are also in the field of 81 players who will compete for a $600,000 purse, with $90,000 going to the winner.

Golf Channel will televise all three rounds live from 4-6 p.m. ET on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Langer (65) wins regular-season finale by six

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 10:07 pm

CARY, N.C. – Bernhard Langer ran away with the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the points lead into the PGA Tour Champions' Charles Schwab Cup playoffs

Langer shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 for a six-stroke victory in the regular-season finale.

''I just played very solid all day long,'' Langer said. ''Putted well, hit the ball where I was looking and did everything exceptionally well.''

The 61-year-old German star has 38 victories on the 50-and-over tour, also winning this year near Houston. He has a record four victories after turning 60.

''I don't have anything to prove, but I still have golf,'' Langer said. ''I still want to improve my own game. I still want to play to the best Bernhard Langer can play. I don't think I need to prove anything, but I love competing, I love winning or being in the hunt. As long as I can do that, I think you're going to see me out here.''

Langer finished with a tournament-record 22-under 194 total at Prestonwood Country Club, the tree-lined layout softened by heavy rain Thursday from Hurricane Michael. He opened with a 62 on Friday to match Gene Sauers and Tom Lehman for the lead, and had a 67 on Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard with Sauers.

Full-field scores from the SAS Championship

''The 10 under was amazing,'' Langer said. ''I couldn't believe there were two other guys who shot 10 under.''

The four-time Charles Schwab Cup winner also won at Prestonwood in 2012.

''It's always fun to go back to where you've won before because you feel like you know how to play the course and you're somewhat comfortable and that's certainly the case here,'' Langer said. ''I've been probably 50, 70 times now around this golf course and I know how to play every hole.''

Scott Parel was second, closing with a double bogey for a 65.

''Bernhard is just in his own world this week,'' Parel said.

Jerry Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 15 under, and Lehman followed at 13 under after a 71.

Sauers shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) at 12 under.

The top 72 players in the Schwab Cup standings qualified for the playoffs, the three-event series that begins next week with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va. Dan Forsman tied for 56th to jump from 74th to 72nd, edging John Huston for the final spot by $932. Huston tied for 46th.

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Pepperell captures British Masters, eyes Augusta

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 5:29 pm

WALTON HEATH, England -- Eddie Pepperell won his second European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the British Masters on Sunday and likely secured the even bigger prize of a place in next year's Masters at Augusta National.

The Englishman shot an even-par 72 and held off his playing partner, Sweden's Alexander Bjork (71), as the pair went to the 72nd hole at a wet and windy Walton Heath with Pepperell just a stroke in front.

Pepperell finished on 9-under 279.

Herbert Lucas (69) and Jordan Smith (73) were tied for third, another two shots behind Bjork.

English pair Sam Horsfield (69) and Tom Lewis (70) along with American Julian Suri (74) tied for fifth, one shot in front of tournament host Justin Rose (70).

The victory takes Pepperell into the world's top 35 and almost certainly secures a first appearance at Augusta in 2019. The top 50 at the end of the year are guaranteed a place in the first major of the year in April.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood (72) finished 2 under in a seven-way tie for ninth.

Full-field scores from the British Masters

A top-two finish on Sunday would have seen Rose reach the top of the world rankings for the second time this season, the 38-year-old having spent two weeks as No. 1 in September

Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the British Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite saying he had a hangover.

His three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke on Sunday when Bjork covered the front nine in 34 and Pepperell three-putted the ninth, the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday.

However, the 27-year-old Pepperell promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and a par save from off the green on the 14th looked to have sealed the win.

There was still time for some late drama, though, as Pepperell dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16 to see his lead cut to a single shot, but Bjork bogeyed the 18th after driving into the heather and Pepperell saved par from a greenside bunker.

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Disappointed Sharma fades to T-10 at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2018, 1:46 pm

For the second time this year, India's Shubankhar Sharma watched an opportunity for a breakthrough win turn into a learning experience.

Sharma burst onto the scene in March, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to fade to a tie for ninth. It was a similar story Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where Sharma started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead but struggled to an even-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for 10th.

"Disappointing, not really happy with the way I finished," Sharma told reporters.

Full-field scores from CIMB Classic

CIMB Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The 22-year-old was 1 over for his first six holes, but he battled back with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10 to get within three shots of eventual winner Marc Leishman. But his tee shot at the par-3 11th found the water, leading to the first of three straight bogeys that ended any hopes of victory.

"That was probably one of the worst swings of the day," Sharma said. "That 11th hole I think killed the momentum for me. A par there would have gone a long way, and I probably could have made more birdies after that."

Sharma remained optimistic this spring following his final-round fade in Mexico, and he retained a positive mindset despite a rough afternoon as he eyes upcoming starts at both the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

"Great experience. Very, very good to have two top-10s on the PGA Tour, so that's a good way of looking at it," he said. "Also, it pushes me to keep playing well. I feel like I have it in me to win out there on the PGA Tour, and I've given myself two opportunities. Game is in a decent place now."