Baltusrol (Photo courtesy the PGA of America)
Baltusrol (Photo courtesy the PGA of America)

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

 

US Open

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

 

OTHERS

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

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