PGA Championship lacking courses the common man can play

By Doug Ferguson, AP
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daily fee golf courses missing from PGA rotation

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Anyone wishing to take on the Whistling Straits course where Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship and Dustin Johnson was buried by a bunker ruling need only to make a reservation and have $340 handy, along with $100 for the caddie.

That’s still not as much as Pebble Beach.

Even so, there is a difference in public play between resort courses, such as Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, and true public courses, such as Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines.

The PGA Championship is lacking in the latter.

This came to mind last week during the PGA of America’s annual news conference, in which president Jim Remy shifted the focus to public golf. He noted there are more 9-hole courses than 18-hole courses in America, and that 75 percent of the rounds played in the country are on public courses. He cited the average fee at just under $30.

“There are availability of reasonably priced golf courses, and I think that we need to get the message out that there is a real value to a family to be involved in a sport,” Remy said.

So why isn’t the PGA Championship going to such a course, which can provide a proper test and have room to stage a big event? It has been more than two decades — 1989 at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago — that the PGA Championship was held on a daily fee course.

“We’ve had discussions with a number of daily fee facilities, along with traditional clubs,” PGA chief executive Joe Steranka said. “We’ll step out of the box every now and then and try something. And right now, the USGA is doing a great part in taking it to the Bethpage Blacks and Torrey Pines.”

Also on the U.S. Open rotation is Chambers Bay outside Seattle in 2015.

The PGA Championship is booked through 2016, and this would be a good time to look at a public course anyone can play. Steranka said that is a good possibility, although such a public course might first go through a rehearsal at a smaller event, such as the Senior PGA.

“The challenge we have short-term is we are booked out so far in advance,” he said. “When looking at adding a new site, we want to be able to predict with a degree of certainty that it will be able to stand the test of the top players.”

Steranka said the recession has caused the PGA of America to think anew about the model it uses in finding courses and running a major championship. He noted that going to private clubs gives the PGA access to influential business leaders who might be members of the club, which helps build corporate support. That’s not as easy when dealing with state or municipal governments.

“Our investment in government relations is laying the groundwork to show us a model of how to build community support outside of relying on the old model,” he said. “This latest recession is making us all look at the old business model. The daily fee course can help us from a marketing perspective of the game.”

The USGA has done its part.

PLAYOFFS AWAIT: Michael Letzig is on the bubble this week in North Carolina.

Letzig is at No. 125 in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 after this week advancing to the first round of the PGA Tour Playoffs the following week at The Barclays.

Former Masters champion Mike Weir is at No. 126, followed by Jeff Quinney, George McNeill, Brett Quigley and Tom Pernice Jr.

Everyone from No. 100 to No. 125 in the standings has entered the Wyndham Championship this week except for three players — Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin (No. 107), who is playing a Champions Tour major this week; Tiger Woods (No. 108), and Ben Curtis (No. 109).

BEN THERE, DONE THAT: Twice this year, a player had a three-shot lead going into the final round of a major and watched it vanish before reaching the third hole. Dustin Johnson made a triple bogey on the second hole of the U.S. Open, and Nick Watney took a double bogey on the opening hole at the PGA Championship as Johnson made birdie.

For Johnson, it was surreal to watch Watney take three shots to reach the green with a wedge from the fairway.

“I felt his pain, having just been through it,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to explain what you’re going through. It wasn’t like he ever hit a god-awful shot. He got in a terrible lie, and it keeps on multiplying.”

More disturbing to Johnson was to hear the shutter of a camera in Watney’s swing on the par-3 seventh, where he hit into Lake Michigan and took triple bogey to fall out of the lead for good.

PHONE CALLS: Eleven players who were invited to Corey Pavin’s barbecue during the PGA Championship and did not earn an automatic spot on his Ryder Cup team are guaranteed a phone call from him on the night of Sept. 6.

Pavin announces his four captain’s picks the next morning in New York.

“Everyone there will get a call,” Pavin said. “I was with Tom (Lehman) when he made the calls (in 2006), and I just think it’s important to be in touch with everyone.”

Pavin invited the top 20 on the point standings to the informal cookout, along with Ryan Palmer when he cracked the top 20 after his runner-up finish at Firestone.

Just as Paul Azinger did a year ago, Pavin has asked the PGA of America to continue a points list through the next three tournaments. Instead of using statistics, however, Pavin said he was more likely to use his instincts for his picks.

“It will not be based on the standings,” he said. “A lot will be a gut feeling.”

LOOKING AHEAD: The PGA Championship returns to Whistling Straits in 2015, but it’s never too early to start planning. Herb Kohler says architect Pete Dye plans to be at the course on Friday to start getting ready.

“He has a date — by his own wish — and he’s going to start tinkering,” Kohler said Sunday evening after the tournament was over. “I walked the back nine with him. He has a dozen ideas.”

Is one of them to change the bunkering? Apparently not.

“We may add a couple,” Kohler said.

DIVOTS: Golfweek magazine reported that Matt Every, who was arrested during the John Deere Classic for possession of a controlled substance, has been suspended by the PGA Tour for three months for conduct unbecoming a professional. The PGA Tour does not comment on discipline. Every’s management company said he would next be eligible to play at Disney, the final tournament of the year. … Wyndham has signed up for another two years as title sponsor in Greensboro, putting it through 2012. It will remain the final tournament before the FedEx Cup playoffs. … Foreign-born players have won the PGA Championship the last three years, the longest streak since the championship began in 1916.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut in every major except the British Open, which he won by seven shots.

FINAL WORD: “I was in the final group in two majors on Sunday. Obviously, I’m playing good golf.” — Dustin Johnson.

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