And that is precisely as it should be as the field which includes 98 of the top 100 players in the world tees off on Thursday at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. With 976 bunkers on the Pete Dye-designed golf course along the western shore of Lake Michigan, there is a premium placed on playing straight and smart, instead of simply driving long and damn the torpedoes.
Of course, all the talk ahead of the year’s final major is about Dustin Johnson blowing a chance to win the 2010 PGA Championship at the course when he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club twice in a sandy hollow far from the 18th fairway as he prepared to hit a shot.
The under-discussed sub-text of that talk is the fact that Johnson – and every other golfer – should have known that he was liable to such a penalty.
And everyone should know what lies in wait for them this year, with notices being posted wherever players might (or might not) see them: They read: “All areas of the course that were designed and built as bunkers, filled with sand, will be played as bunkers (hazards) whether or not they have been raked. This will mean that many bunkers positioned outside of the ropes, as well as some areas of bunkers inside the ropes, close to the rope line, will likely include numerous footprints, heel prints, trash and tyre tracks during the play of the championship.
“Such irregularities of surface are part of the game and no free relief will be available from these conditions.”
Everyone has been warned.
One person who will be glad of conditions and the way the course plays will be South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen. The winner of the 2010 Open Championship was runner-up at St Andrews this year after missing out in a play-off to Zach Johnson, and he was also runner-up to Jordan Spieth in the US Open at the fiendishly difficult Chambers Bay.
If there is anyone who gets how to play when the course and conditions require precision, it’s Oosthuizen. So, for him to be flying as far under the radar as he is ahead of the championship is a wonderful opportunity for him to play without the pressure of being a favourite.
Not that pressure seems to worry him much.