Last shot at major glory for 2011
The USPGA Championship travels to the Atlanta Athletic Club this month – a venue many readers may remember as the site of David Toms’ PGA triumph in 2001.
Back then, Toms edged out Phil Mickelson by a shot – binning a par save from 10 feet on the 72nd green.
Adam Scott: One of our best hopes for a major title
Heavy Monday rains blunted the course’s teeth that year – both Toms’ and Mickelson’s respective totals of 265 and 266 were better than any previous aggregate in the event’s strokeplay history.
Rest assured there won’t be any scoring records broken this year.
Water is visible on nine of the holes, which will again be a key defence of the course.
The water is most overt on holes 11, 15, 17 and 18 – leaving the possibility of a drama-filled finish.
Club officials have tipped a much firmer and difficult course without sapping the enjoyment out of players.
“I think we’ll see below single digits (under par), I’m thinking maybe eight or nine-under par,” said Course Director at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Ken Mangum (AAC).
At 7486 yards and with a par of 70, it’s a brutally long proposition for players but they’ve grown accustomed to endlessly lengthened layouts.
However, this course has always been long by major standards and was only 273 yards shorter in 2001 at 7213 yards.
A fair chunk of those 273 extra yards come at the 260-yard par-three mutation that is the 15th.
It’s downhill, has a pond to the immediate right of the entire green and bunkers at the left and rear. Bunker changes dominate most par-four and five holes.
Bunkers on most of the longer holes now stretch from the 255-metre-mark from the tee to the 300-metre-mark to cope with increased ball carry.
The leading Aussie contingent is powerful enough to cope with these changes – Jason Day and Adam Scott are not only our best hopes but are among the most powerful hitters on Tour.
From there we go to Steve Elkington – the last Aussie winner of the event in 1995.
‘The Elk’ was inspired at last year’s PGA – victory was a genuine possibility until bogeys at the 71st and 72nd holes.
But seven missed cuts from 10 starts (at the time of writing) doesn’t scream Major glory this month.
Victorians Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby were equal top Aussies back in 2001 – tying for 16th.
Appleby won’t join Allenby this time around, despite having six PGA Tour wins to Allenby’s one since then.
Punters would be advised to stick with Day and Scott, not the Victorian contingency in Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley.
Allenby has three top-tens this year – well down on previous tallies while Baddeley has been quiet in recent months after igniting his year with a win in Los Angeles in February.
Meanwhile Ogilvy’s form has been uninspired since his fourth-place finish at the Masters.
Brendan Jones rounds out the Aussie challenge and may surprise.