A PGA Championship At Atlanta Athletic Club Does Not Begin Until The 18th Hole Sunday

Looking for that excuse not to get up close and personal with the CBS fall lineup? Now you have it. Shockingly, everyone has just discovered that the already difficult finisher at AAC has been narrowed and is now simply strange. (But it has that lone blooming nursery tree, flower beds and of course, the pièce de résistance, a fountain!)

Steve Elling runs us through today's horror stories along with player quotes that suggest we could see more David Toms-like layups over the weekend. In fact, that seems to be the only smart way to play the hole. Just ask the one sweater folder who had a chance to make the cut.

Once Sowards opened the door, the last hole in a stretch that Phil Mickelson described as "calamity," became outright chaotic, setting the stage for what could be one memorable, massive pileup on the weekend at the 93rd PGA Championship.

Soward was the lowest club pro in the field as he played the 18th in the second round on Friday, but he plopped a ball in the water on the last and made a triple bogey to miss the cut by a stroke. Denied a hefty paycheck, he was spotted seated on the curb outside the AAC clubhouse with his head in his hands for several minutes.

Elling does a nice job cutting down the post round comments to the essentials, so go there if you only have so many hours in your day. But here's Phil's exchange with the sweaty scribblers after making double bogey Friday. He's getting good at understanding architecture. The role of distance advances in leading to this nonsense, not so much.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I mean, the last hole, the landing area, doesn't move if the tee goes up or back. By moving the tee up, it doesn't mean you can hit the ball further down the fairway because there's no fairway to hit to. You have to carry the water and the fairway angles away, it goes right in the bunker.

So if you want to go for the green, you have to be in the fairway, you have to play back. So they can move the tee box back 60 yards or up. It wouldn't matter; the landing area stays the same.

So the second shot is a challenge. You know, it's a good, hard challenging shot over water of 230 yards or so.

I'm detecting sarcasm!

I think this was the most telling comment:

Q. Do you feel like your experience in majors can help you make up some ground over some of the guys at the top of the leaderboard that have not won a major yet?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if past experience is going to make a difference or not. I just think that you've got to hit the shots and make some putts. It's pretty obvious how you have to play the holes.

There's no options to play the holes different ways. It's pretty obvious you are going to play it this way, so it doesn't take experience to know that. You just have to execute. And there's some guys out there executing and making some birdies, and you can do that out here.

For 17 holes, I played well and then it was just the last hole I didn't.

Shockingly, Rees Jones told WSJ's John Paul Newport that it was the opposite: experience is key at AAC.

Why does this matter? Because the course, as green as it is, plays faster and firmer than the world's modern pros are accustomed to, except on the sand-based, seldom-watered British Open fairways.

Whoa, if AAC is firm and fast and second only to Open Championship firmness, we are doomed!

Anyway, go on...

Rees Jones, who oversaw the course's remodeling, believes that shorter hitters may enjoy an additional advantage, because fairway bunkers, most of which were relocated to catch drives in the 290-yard-to-320-yard range, are often out of their range.

"A lot of the young guys know just one way to hit approach shots, which is very high and straight at the pin. The older guys remember when you used to have to work the ball into the pins," says Jones. "And you can release the balls on these greens because they are firm. You can hit a low-spin shot in there that will roll up to the hole," he said. The young bombers aren't used to having to do that.

Adam Scott's experience tells him there is no point in hitting driver or in going for the green with a second shot.

Q. That tee is all the way back on Sunday, which I would guess that would be where they would be leaning, do you have any option other than driver? Can you hit 3-wood and be way back?

ADAM SCOTT: Yeah, you can. It's an easier tee shot the further the tee goes back definitely.
I mean, today, really, the best play would probably be to have hit a 3-iron or a hybrid off the tee. But then you're faced with 250 yards to the green. That's where the wide part of the fairway is back hitting it short off the tee.

So if the tee goes back, it's I think an easier tee shot.

Q. Just not an easier second shot?

ADAM SCOTT: Easier to lay it up from the fairway 250, too. Not a bad way to play the hole.

Q. Last couple of times they have played here, Jerry Pate won a U.S. Open on that hole memorable shot and Toms laying up. Seems pretty much that it's going to come down to that thing, somebody quite possibly losing it on that hole, too.

ADAM SCOTT: It's very possible. You know, even yesterday, I stood there in the middle of the fairway with a 3-iron, and didn't feel great about hitting a 3-iron at that green. There's a lot of things that can go wrong doing that. In all likelihood, if I needed 4 to win, I don't know whether I would be going for the green with a 3-iron on Sunday. I would probably lay up even if I was in the fairway, because I could lose it by hitting a 3-iron.

All risk and no reward. The ultimate insult to an architect. Well, most architects!