Bloomfield Township, Mich. Rich Beem stood over his tee shot on the 18th hole during his final practice session for the PGA Championship, trained his eye down the narrow fairway squeezed between bunkers, waggled his driver and then backed off.
"This is the hardest hole I've ever played," he said Wednesday.
Then he smoked his tee shot with the slightest draw and saw it hop to the left on a canted fairway and disappear into the bunker.
"And it just got harder," he said before walking off.
That was just the 498-yard closing hole at Oakland Hills.
Beem and the rest of the field at the final major of the year haven't found other parts of the course to be much easier.
Indeed, "The Monster" is more than a nickname at this PGA Championship, which starts today.
"This is as tough of a setup as I've ever seen," Steve Stricker said.
The PGA Championship has been getting positive reviews over the last several years as the most fair of all the majors, particularly among the three in the United States. Phil Mickelson last week described the PGA as the major without an ego.
Now, the toughest test in golf could be the last one.
"The usual setup for the PGA is more like a tough U.S. tour event," British Open champion Padraig Harrington said. "It's nearly more U.S. Open-type that the U.S. Open is at the moment, if that makes any sense. It's actually like they switched the two of them around this year."
What makes it so difficult?
It starts with sheer length. The course has been stretched 318 yards since the 2004 Ryder Cup, measuring 7,395 yards, the longest in major championship history for a par 70. Two of the par 3s are over 235 yards, so long they have fairways.
"This little pitch-and-putt?" Chad Campbell said, rolling his eyes. "It's brutal. The added length is very difficult."
But length is nothing new at majors, for just about every course is longer than it was. The trouble at Oakland Hills is the shape of the greens, which only look large. The Donald Ross design - since worked on by Robert Trent Jones for the 1951 U.S. Open and most recently by Rees Jones - have more contours than just about any course, including Augusta National. And on the way to the green is uniform rough that doesn't look that terrifying until a ball lands it in and sinks to the bottom.