WHEN golf fans think of Baltusrol Golf Club, host of the US PGA Championship from July 28-31, they tend to associate it with the U.S. Open.
That’s because Baltusrol has hosted seven U.S. Opens and just one PGA Championship in 2005.
So what can players and fans expect?
Will a U.S. Open-style course – which is traditionally set up as golf’s toughest test to challenge a player’s shot-making ability, course management skills and composure under pressure – greet the players?
The answer is possibly yes because in 2005 Phil Mickelson won with a four-under par total and just nine players finished under par.
All you have to do is take a glance down the first fairway to realise that this is going to be a tough test of golf.
Yes, the opening fairway looks decidedly inviting but don’t be fooled because this is a challenging opening hole.
The hole plays as a par-5 for the members but it’s a par-4 for championship play. There is out of bounds down the left while new bunkering pinches the landing zone.
Of, course, there is that smallish green 478 yards (437m) away that is tightly bunkered.
Welcome to Baltusrol.
The 378-yard (346m) second hole offers a breather where a birdie will keep players in touch.
After that the holes, especially the par-4s, are unrelenting including the 503-yard (460m) par-4 third (index one).
The four par-3s are no pushover and measure between 199 yards (182m) and 230 yards (210m).
Players looking for a little par-5 relief where they can pinch a birdie or eagle will have to wait until they reach the 17th – the first of only two par-5s on the course.
The 18th hole is another par-5.
Mind you, reaching the 650 yards (594m) 17th in two shots will take some muscle.
At the 1993 U.S. Open, John Daly became the first player in championship history to reach the 17th with two mighty blows.
At the time, it was considered almost impossible, but Long John thought otherwise and launched his 7-degree driver into the left half of the fairway.
He had 287 yards (262m) to the pin.
The hushed gallery watched as he pulled his one-iron from the bag and swung the club harder than he’d ever had before.
History tells us Daly’s 305-yard (279m) one-iron reached the unreachable with a few lucky bounces and the ball rolled 15 metres past the pin and settled just short of the right fringe.
Now fans can’t wait to see defending champion Jason Day and the other big guns tackle the par-70 course measuring 7462 yards (6823m).
The 18th at 553y (506m) is more manageable but miss the green in two and it will need some Mickelson short-game magic to make birdie or eagle.
In 2005, Mickelson’s approach came up short and in grass that covered the tops of his shoes.
“He executed the flop-shot perfectly and fist-pumped the air when the ball settled a metre from the hole and the birdie was a formality.
Lee Janzen, too, birdied the final hole to win the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.
Of course, trying to forecast the winner of the PGA Championship is a lottery.
It will either be one of the best three or four players in the world or an outsider as so often happens with the PGA Championship.
Of the unexpected winners that come to mind include Keegan Bradley (2011), Shaun Micheel (2003), Rich Beem (2002), Mark Brooks (19960 and Wayne Grady (1990).
For the record, Englishman Jim Barnes won the first and second US PGA Championships in 1916 and 1919 (no event in 1917-’18). Since then, Americans have dominated the championship except for the past 10 years.
Five Aussies have won the U.S. PGA – Jim Ferrier (1947), David Graham (1979), Wayne Grady (1990), Steve Elkington (19950 and Jason Day (2015).
Other “foreigners” who have lifted the Wanamaker Trophy are: Gary Player (1962 and 1972), Zimbabwe’s Nick Price (1992 and 1994), Vijay Singh (1998 and 2004), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (2008), South Korean YE Yang (2009), German Martin Kaymer (2010) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (2012 and 2014).
Major winners at Baltusrol
US PGA Championship
2005 Phil Mickelson
1903 Willie Anderson
1915 Jerry Travers
1936 Tony Manero
1954 Ed Furgol
1967 Jack Nicklaus
1980 Jack Nicklaus
1993 Lee Janzen
US Women’s Open
1961 Mickey Wright
1985 Kathy Baker
Top contenders’ past PGA Championship results
Player 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Jason Day Win T15 T8 MC MC
Jordan Spieth 2nd MC MC DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy 17 Win T8 Win T64
Bubba Watson T21 T64 MC T11 T26
Rickie Fowler T30 T3 T19 MC T51
Henrik Stenson T25 T3 3rd DNP DNP
Adam Scott MC T15 T5 T11 7th
Dustin Johnson T7 DNP T8 T48 MC
Danny Willett T54 T30 T40 DNP DNP
Justin Rose 4th T24 T33 T3 MC
Branden Grace 3rd T46 MC MC DNP
Sergio Garcia T54 T35 T61 MC T12
Patrick Reed T30 T58 DNP DNP DNP
Louis Oosthuizen T30 T15 DNP T21 MC
Hideki Matsuyama T37 T35 T19 DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka T5 T15 T70 DNP DNP
Brandt Snedeker T12 T13 T66 MC MC
Phil Mickelson T18 2nd T72 T36 T19
Zach Johnson MC T69 T8 70 T59
Matt Kuchar T7 DNP T22 MC T19
Player 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Marc Leishman MC T46 T12 T27 DNP
Lee Westwood T43 T15 T33 MC T8
Charl Schwartzel T37 T15 MC T59 T12
JB Holmes 24 T64 DNP DNP DNP
Paul Casey T30 MC T33 MC T72
Jason Dufner T68 WD Win T27 2nd