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Archive for Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Driving for show’ could be handy

Medinah checks in at record 7,561 yards for this week’s PGA Championship

August 15, 2006

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— Tiger Woods held a yardage book in his left hand and a putter in his right hand, casually rapping a dozen or so putts on the 18th green at Medinah Country Club and stopping every so often to jot down notes.

The PGA Championship features the longest course in major championship history at 7,561 yards.

Woods offered a reminder Monday morning that the shortest distances - those found on the reshaped greens of Medinah - usually go a long way toward determining the winner.

The yardage is daunting, but ultimately it's just a number on the scorecard.

"This is the longest ever?" Stephen Ames asked with an incredulous look. "Geez, I must be hitting it miles."

Maybe it felt short to Ames because he played only 13 holes on Monday, so he saw only 5,471 yards of Medinah. Then again, the longest club he had into a par 4 during his brief journey was a 6-iron on the 471-yard 12th hole.

"And that was slightly into the wind," Ames said.

Not everyone feels that way.

Arron Oberholser, who has average length off the tee, played the back nine, and it was about all he could handle.

"It felt like 4,000 yards," Oberholser said.

He was close - the back nine measures only 3,822 yards.

"I wonder if they're trying to do that?" he continued, alluding to the PGA Championship having the longest major championship course three times since 1999. "If they are trying, they have accomplished it quite magnificently."

Then there's Jeff Sluman, the poster boy for short hitters, who was asked if he has ever played a course he thought was too long.

"Every week," he replied.

Once the laughter subsided, including his own, Sluman dissected the length at the No. 3 course and didn't find it all that frightening.

Unlike two years ago in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, or at Winged Foot two months ago at the U.S. Open, none of the par 4s at Medinah are over 500 yards. And remember, this is a par 72, so some of the length comes from the four par 5s, including the 605-yard 14th hole that Woods managed to reach in two during a practice round a few weeks ago.

"You guys place more emphasis on length than we do," Sluman said. "I don't look at a scorecard and say, 'Oh my God, it's 7,561 yards.' I look at the first hole, and it's 434 yards, and what do I have to do to hit on the green?"

Even so, it seems to be a game to see which course can be the longest.

It started seven years ago at Medinah when the 7,401-yard course was the longest for a major at sea level. Columbine Country Club was 7,436 yards in the mile-high air outside Denver for the 1967 PGA Championship.

Then came Bethpage Black. The U.S. Open doesn't usually have the longest course because it prefers a par 70, although Bethpage measured 7,214 yards and by one yard was the longest for a U.S. Open.

Whistling Straits became the longest for a major at 7,514 yards for the '04 PGA. Winged Foot broke the U.S. Open record by stretching to 7,264 yards.

And while the Masters is not breaking any distance records, it might be the toughest at 7,445 yards because most of the holes require the second shot to carry.

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