Rough and the PGA

You may recall that before the PGA I suggested that we would find out this year whether the clever, low rough setup at Southern Hills was an abberation or whether the less nuanced, high-rough hackout nonsense seen at Oak Hill and Oakland Hills was more typical of the modern PGA Championship.

I think Hazeltine provided an answer.

John Huggan fleshes out the complaints of Geoff Ogilvy, first reported in Monday's papers.

Anyway, last week followed the usual pattern and was pretty much summed up by the shots Tiger Woods hit to the last two greens in the final round. Both were beautifully struck and both missed the putting surface by inches. And both left the game's best-ever player, a man possessed of a wondrous touch, playing the same shot every 15-handicapper would attempt: the "hacking hit and hope."

I loved Y.E. Yang's win and it's wonderful for the game. In no way is this meant to take away from his courage down the stretch. But like past high rough majors, this one will always have that taint of "what if" they had simply topped off the rough Wednesday, or even just trimmed it enough on the weekend after it became so obvious that the greenside rough was not adding to the test, but instead, injecting chance. As Huggan writes...

This, folks, is not what golf is supposed to be about. As Ogilvy pointed out in the wake of what was a generally disappointing personal performance, "the difficulty of your shot should be dictated by the position the ball is in, not the lie that the ball is in."

Of course that is a tricky one since you are talking about a course that has almost no strategic reward for being on a particular side of the fairway. Still, Ogilvy's point should guide the PGA when it comes to how they treat their rough. We've seen how Mike Davis and the USGA keep their roughs uniform throughout tournament play just to prevent the lie of the ball becoming such an overriding factor, as it was for Tiger on the last two holes.

More of Ogilvy on the rough and the places where it's length made no sense:

"Some shots that bounce next to the green, yet don't get into a bunker, are in this," he continued, his hands about six inches apart to indicate the depth of the grass. "I think you should have hard shots from good lies, not easy shots from bad lies. So if your greens are not good enough to defend themselves without six inches of rough, then your greens aren't good enough. You don't need six-inch rough at Augusta or Oakmont, although they grow it. You don't need it at Pinehurst or Royal Melbourne or Shinnecock Hills. And if you don't have greens like that, then let the guys make birdies."

The PGA of America seems to acquiesce to Midwest clubs where the hard=good mentality overwhelms all rational decision making. So I suppose in that sense it's a miracle that Haigh was able to pull off what he did at No. 14, where the driveable par-4 setup produced some of the tournament's lone risk-reward decision making.

But I still marvel that a setup as flawless and praised at Southern Hills does not continue to be looked at as a model for the PGA. Particularly as the USGA has shown the last few years that nothing is lost by keeping rough as a 1/2 shot penalty where recovery play is seen as more than acceptable, but in fact, necessary to the overall "test" of golf.