Preview: The 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol

The Associated Press

Farmer Roll and his wife wanted to live out the rest of their days in peace and tranquility on the farm he built and maintained in the countryside of New Jersey. Instead, he was dragged from his bed one cold February evening and murdered by two brigands.

Such is life!

The killers were looking for rumored treasure Baltus kept hidden in his farmhouse but he never gave up the hiding spot so they killed him. Man’s man, I have to admit. I would have given up the hiding spot pretty quickly. Probably right after they pulled the covers off me while I lay sleeping. I probably wouldn’t have even gotten out of bed.

“It’s buried to the left of the stove, take it and be on your way.” But not Baltus Roll—he held out to the bitter end. If you’re wondering if Baltus’ wife did anything to thwart the killers (knocking them out with one punch, roundhouse kicking them into oblivion) you’ve been watching too many butt-kicking babe dramas on NBC. She fled and hid in the woods. And good for her, what the hell was she going to do? She weighed 90 pounds soaking wet.

Anyway, when a golf course was built in 1895 on that farmland they named the course after Baltus Roll. Because back then, they showed respect!

Play begins Thursday at the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Country Club. This time it will be collar-popping golfers looking for treasure instead of bloodthirsty marauders in search of it. The treasure is the Wannamaker Trophy, the largest in golf. Baltus’s farmland was turned into a very long but fair golf course.

Baltusrol boasts two 18-hole courses—the Upper and Lower. The Lower is where the PGA championship will be contested. Although never known as one of the great courses in America like Oakmont, Merion, or Pebble Beach, Baltusrol is a straight-forward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get course that usually identifies excellent champions.

And that’s really what you want out of a major championship golf course. As the great USGA executive Sandy Tatum said after critics complained that the set up at the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot was too difficult leading to high scores, “We’re not trying to embarrass the best players in the game, we’re trying to identify them.”

Baltusrol will identify the best player in the field this week. Phil Mickelson won the last major played here in 2005 (PGA Championship) and Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open there in 1967 and 1980. As an aside, you can really tell the affluent country clubs from the more working-class ones by how many holes they have. If you have 36 championship caliber holes, the members roll in dough. Being just an hour outside of New York City, there is probably a lot of ill-begotten Wall Street money at this club. I’ll look into it….

The course is set to play par 70 for the Championship, so if it is playing soft there is a distinct possibility of a 62 being shot for the first time in major championship golf. Thomas Bjorn shot 63 in the 2005 PGA Championship and he’s really not even all that good.

Here are a few of the key holes that will come into play during the week:

The 377-yard, par-4 second hole:

The tees will be moved up at least once during the week to make this a driveable par 4. That should make for early entertainment as the players decide risk/reward of going for the green on their drives.

The 196-yard, par-3 fourth hole:

This is Baltusrol’s signature hole and one of the best par 3s in all of golf. There is a pond that stretches all the way to the front of the green; making for a do or die tee shot. After Robert Trent Jones re-designed this hole in 1952, a number of critics called it too hard. To rebut their criticism, Jones took them out to the fourth hole where he promptly knocked in his tee shot for an Ace! Jones calmly explained, “Gentleman, as you can see, this hole is eminently fair.” All the best stories are golf stories.

The 501-yard, par-4 seventh hole:

This plays as a par 5 for the members but will be a monster par 4 for the pros. There is out of bounds on the left and multiple fairway bunkers on the right.

The 230-yard, par-3 sixteenth hole:

This was the site of Lee Janzen’s dramatic chip in to help win the 1993 U.S. Open holding off Payne Stewart. It’s a brutal par 3 that plays every bit of 230 yards with the green surrounded by several deep bunkers.

The 649-yard, par-5 seventeenth hole and the 554-yard, par-5 eighteenth hole:

This is an interesting facet to the course—closing with two par fives. The seventeenth is a monster at 650 yards, so only a few players will attempt to reach it in two shots. The eighteenth is more manageable and will provide eagles and birdies for the week. This will make for some great drama on Sunday as players try to finish strong down the stretch. Remember the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay closed with a par 5 that led to Jordan Spieth’s birdie to take the lead and Dustin Johnson’s 3 putt to miss out on the playoff. Mickelson made birdie from the rough in 2005 to edge out Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn, who both failed to birdie the eighteenth. In 1967, Jack Nicklaus’ epic 1-iron from the fairway on 18 is now commemorated with a plaque on where the shot was struck. The shot led to birdie and also disproved Lee Trevino’s quote, “If you’re caught on the golf course in a storm, hold up your 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”  Trevino was an expert on lightning as he was struck by it during the 1975 Western Open. Actually, that may not make him an expert.

Check in daily with Breitbart sports as I will be onsite all week reporting from Baltusrol.

Dan Redmond can be found on twitter @danfromdc and will be in the comments section of this article if you’d like to discuss the PGA championship. 


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