News & ToursAugust 7, 2008

Angry Golfer: The Toughest Course This Week

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- You would have thought the 90th PGA Championship was being played at San Quentin, given all the dread being spread about how Oakland Hills is a maximum-security penitentiary disguised as a golf course. It has become common kneejerk procedure for players to arrive at a major, play one practice round, then declare it "the toughest I have ever played" and predict some apocalyptic winning score.

Last week's award for Best Take on an Overwrought Trend goes to Geoff Ogilvy, who pointed out that the U.S. Open may prove to be the easiest of the four big titles this year. He'll likely be right, and though Ogilvy deserves 50 bonus points for seeing the irony, Torrey Pines was heavily hyped as the new standard for tour-pro brutality before the USGA decided to trim the rough and, ahem, make the thing playable.

In the last 26 months, majors have been held at some of the game's most notorious bullies: Winged Foot, Oakmont, Carnoustie and, of course, the bulked-up, underachieving version of Augusta National. Oakland Hills is tough, a worthy host to a premium tournament, but mainly because its greens are borderline silly, having maintained their original contours from an era when you had to crush a 15-footer just to get the ball to the hole.

At 11 on the Stimpmeter, these babies are outdated, a detraction and a distraction. Still, the toughest of all the recent majors was held last month at Royal Birkdale, where Padraig Harrington played the last six holes in three under to win with an overall score of four over in 40 mph breezes that hung all week. If you tasted the coffee over there, you'd know just how difficult the British Open really was.

-- John Hawkins

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