PGA Championship : Whistling Straits Diary - Kaymer, Spieth and Lowry

Mention has been made in these parts of Martin Kaymer’s irritation at his PGA Championship victory at Whistling Straits back in 2010 being framed as the major Dustin Johnson threw away, yet imagine how annoyed you’d be if you were Johnson?

The American star’s costly error five years ago saw him ground his club in a sandy area at the 18th hole he had not realised was a bunker. The penalty was two strokes and his chance of a play-off was gone.

Asked on the eve of the yesterday’s opening round how often he had thought about what happened there on the 18th in 2010, Johnson left the questioner in no doubt as to his feelings on the subject when he replied: “About as many times as I’ve been asked the question,” and that is so many times he has lost count.

Still, the 32-year-old was grateful that his chances of repeating the error are now pretty slim indeed.

For one, the players’ locker room at Whistling Straits is peppered with notices advising competitors that all 1,012 bunkers on the course are in play.

“I haven’t looked at them but I don’t need to,” Johnson said of them. “After what happened, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on.” Secondly, the infamous bunker on 18 is now partially covered by a spectator grandstand. Graeme McDowell had given Johnson the good news on the range at Firestone Country Club last week during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, much to both golfers’ amusement.

“I was like, yeah, I didn’t care at all,” the American said. “So, we were laughing about it though.

“But this year I don’t have to worry about it, there’s a grandstand there. Thank you, PGA. I appreciate that.”

 

Tournament favourite Jordan Spieth expressed surprise on his arrival at the shores of Lake Michigan that championship venue Whistling Straits was not the “bomber’s paradise” he had expected, yet his original impression, formed from afar may have been more accurate than he imagined.

Of course, strictly from a golfing standpoint, the Masters and US Open champion was entirely correct when he said: “That’s what’s changed significantly from my impressions coming in before I had played, I thought it was going to be more of a bomber’s paradise. The fairways are very narrow here and the rough is thick enough to where it affects these approach shots where you really, really do need to be in the fairway.”

Yet the ground on which Pete Dye created this monster golf course in 1998 under instruction from owner Herb Kohler to recreate a classic Irish links was actually a bomber’s paradise. Because back in the late 1940s, a half century before Dye went to work, moving more than a million tons of earth and importing 80,000 cubic yards of sand onto the site, Whistling Straits was known as Camp Haven, an anti-aircraft training facility for the US Army.

Soldiers at the camp were trained to bombard moving targets being towed by aircraft along the lake.

 

The knock-on effects of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victory were still being digested by Shane Lowry as he got his opening round of the PGA Championship under way last night.

The famous win at Firestone Country Club, his first on the PGA Tour, brought him the biggest pay cheque of his career, a cool €1.45 million, his PGA Tour card for the next three years and guaranteed him an exemption into next year’s Masters as well as a berth in January’s PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Perhaps less significant, though poignant, came the news yesterday that Lowry had been awarded honorary membership at Lee Valley Golf and Country Club, the site of the Offaly man’s final victory at an amateur event back in 2009.

It was six years ago and a month before Lowry would win the Irish Open at Baltray, that he went down to Cork and won the Lee Valley Scratch Cup.

Now ranked 19th in the world and with greater things surely ahead of him, Lowry’s reward from Lee Valley has taken him full circle.


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