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Oak Hill Country Club plays host to its 3rd US PGA Championship in August 2013 and it has to be said that the PGA of America should be congratulated for selecting the famous Donald Ross designed Par 70 as the host course for its 95th PGA Championship. Oak Hill - in rural New York State - might be difficult to access for players and fans alike, but the famous East Course is regarded as the fairest but most challenging test on the United States Major circuit. That's why Ernie Els described Oak Hill as "the best, fairest and toughest championship course I've ever played in all my years as a professional” after finishing 5th in the 2003 PGA Championship.
Oak Hill is a slight departure from recent PGA host courses, all of which have been long formats. Hazletine, which witnessed Y.E. Yang famously stare down Tiger in 2009, was a bruising 7,674 yard Par 72. A year later Pete Dye's Whistling Straits, on the banks of Lake Michigan, was a replica links course which played as a 7,507 Par 72 on the scorecard. Keegan Bradley shocked the golfing world by capturing his first Major Championship in his Rookie PGA Tour season at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. The Trent Jones designed Lakes Course was a rarity as in it featured Bermuda grass putting surfaces (the first time since Southern Hills PGA 2007) and was a 7,400+ yard Par 70 to boot; and last year Kiawah Island on the Atlantic coast played as a 7,676 yard Par 72 - the longest course in Major Championship history.
The US PGA Championship is always played in August, but its scheduling has been tweaked of late. Traditionally there were always 4 weeks between the Open Championship and the final Major, but 2012 saw the PGA Tour move the Greenbrier Classic forward into early July leaving only the RBC Canadian Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational tournaments as the meat in the Major sandwich. This situation remains the case in 2013 and the ramifications are that a number of high profile players will play 4 weeks straight including the RBC sponsored player stable of Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk, plus Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
The beautiful but tough Oak Hill plays host to the 2013 US PGA Championship
East Course, Oakhill Country Club, Rochester, New York State.
Designer: Donald Ross 1926 with McDonald re-design 2011.
Course Type: Classical, Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,163 yards; Bunkers: 84; Water Hazards: 2; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass 3"+; Average Green Size: 4,500 square feet; Greens: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Stimpmeter: 13ft.
Recent Champions List: 1968 US Open: Lee Trevino (-5/275); 1980 PGA Championship: Jack Nicklaus (-6/274); 1989 US Open: Curtis Strange (-2/278); 2005 PGA Championship: Shaun Micheel (-4/276).
2013 Course Scorecard with 2003 PGA Championship Hole Averages
|Hole||Yards||Par||2003 PGA||Eagles||Birdies||Pars||Bogeys +||Hole||Yards||Par||2003 PGA||Eagles||Birdies||Pars||Bogeys +|
One look at the course data from the 2003 PGA Championship highlights the true test that will face the world's best golfers at Oak Hill from the 8th August. Back then, only the 2 Par 5 holes namely the 4th and the 13th plus the short 439 yard Par 16th played under par. The front and back side play equally as tough, but in all likelihoods the tournament will be won or in many cases lost on the closing stretch. The 17th and 18th holes at Oak Hill in 2003 played respectively as 495 yard and 482 yard Par 4s. Over the tournament they yielded 43 birdies versus 248 bogeys or worse, with the 17th almost playing half a stroke over par. 10 years on, Tom Fazio's 2011 course re-design has seen both holes lengthened by a total 29 yards, so expect plenty of heartbreak as players desperately hold on to whatever score they have.
Across 2003, Oak Hill played at 72.69 or +2.69 shots above par per round. Expect more of the same in 2013, but in essence Oak Hill won't play as incredibly tough as Merion did in June but any red scores come Sunday afternoon will be in serious contention.
A look at Shaun Micheel's winning scorecard from 2003 highlights just what will be required to win the 2013 running. Rounds of 69-68-69-70 produced a -4/276 winning total. Micheel shot 8 straight pars across all 8 visits to the Par 5s but shot 21 birdies across the rest of the course. The tournament was won on the Par 4s which the Tennessee man played in an incredible -5. On the deficit side, 13 bogeys and 2 double bogeys (one each on Thursday and Friday) highlights that Oak Hill has serious teeth, but ultimately 3 birdies on 14, 16 and 18 coming down the stretch was enough to distance him from runner-up Chad Campbell by 2 shots. Tee-to-green, Micheel hit 55.37% of fairways, 66.67% of greens in regulation and his average driving distance was 287 yards.
Kerry Haigh, the PGA Managing Director for Championships who oversees course modifications and conditioning for PGA Championships, is looking forward about returning to Oak Hill in 2013. "It's a beautiful test of golf which is steeped in history and presents all sorts of challenges. There's not a weak hole on the golf course." he said.
Donald Ross' design was opened in 1926 and features trees on every single hole. The course remains pretty much as Ross intended 87 years ago, with a course that features uneven fairways, doglegs that shape both ways, and tough green complexes that feature bentgrass/poa annua putting surfaces. It's clear that the tight, almost claustrophobic nature of the course will favour patient players who will only attack pins when they are accessible. Bogeys though will be inevitable at Oak Hill, so the winner will be the player that gets the right balance of attacking iron play in combination with minimising mistakes.
Let's close with this telling statistic: In the 5 Majors played on the East Course to date, only 10 players have finished under par. Nasty!
Our US PGA Championship Tips will be published on the Tuesday teatime before the event on this page.