It’s not long now until the second major of the golf calendar year, the PGA Championship, will get underway.
The players will head to Oklahoma from May 19-22 and the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, which hosted the PGA in 2005 as well as the US Open in 2001 and the US Amateur eight years after that.
Leading the way will be the world number one Scottie Scheffler and his nearest rival in the OWGR, Jon Rahm, who has been revealed as the favourite in the PGA Championship odds at 12/1. The Spaniard enjoyed a return to winning ways at the Mexico Open on May 1, and so he will head to Oklahoma in fine spirits.
Awaiting him, and the rest of the field, could be a devilish test. Tiger Woods won the 2007 PGA here with a score of -8, but he was just one of five players who finished the event under par – the cutline was a pretty sizable +5.
Conditions were even tougher at the 2001 US Open, where Retief Goosen overcame Mark Brooks in a play-off after the pair were deadlocked at -4 through 72 holes. A sprightly Phil Mickelson, aged just 30 at the time, finished in joint-seventh with a score of +2, and the cutline was as high as +6 as Southern Hills bared its teeth.
So what can the players expect in 2022?
When the Chips are Down
While the routing is yet to be confirmed, Southern Hills typically plays as a Par 70 when hosting major tournaments – the yardage will likely be around 7,000 yards, although it can play as long as 7,400 yards from the tips.
Originally designed by famed architects Bill Coore and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, Southern Hills was given a major makeover by Gil Hanse – the man who has restored the likes of Aronimink and Oakland Hills – in 2019.
He has proven, typically, to be a tough customer in his restoration work, although those who have sampled Southern Hills since his redevelopments have been completed have suggested that Hanse has been far more sympathetic this time around.
The dense tree lines have been thinned out, allowing fairways to be widened to something akin to their original 1936 measurements. But while there’s little danger off the tee – relative to the levels we might expect for a major host, the greens are protected by sand, false fronts and closely shaven edges, which means that hitting precise approaches (or at least having a reliable chipping technique) will still be mandatory for anyone hoping to enjoy success.
That was confirmed in a news story relating to Tiger, who visited Southern Hills for some preparatory work in April. He had the course’s director of golf, Cory Cazby, on the bag that day, and he revealed something that will be interesting to those plotting their PGA Championship bets early. “Whoever wins here is going to have to be a great chipper, and he [Woods] is still that,” Cazby said when interrogated about the all-time great’s warm-up round.
With room off the tee, it will be the green complexes that determine who will win the 2022 PGA Championship – will it be Rahm, Scheffler or, dare we say it, even Tiger himself?