openingThe final major championship of the 2013 golf season, the 95th PGA Championship, is set to kick off from historic Oak Hill Country Club this week, and there are plenty of storylines and intrigue heading into the tournament.

Below is a combination of historical information about the event, as well as what we can expect to see this week at Oak Hill in the Fanatico A-Z Guide To The PGA Championship.

A Is For Angel Cabrera

REU_1850629

By all logic, we shouldn’t be talking about 43-year old with two PGA Tour wins, but those two wins happen to be major championships and Angel Cabrera might be the most entertaining player in the world. Those major wins were in 2007 and 2009, but El Pato (The Duck) nearly won the Masters earlier this year, and was in contention for most of the week at the Open. His super aggressive style and over the top reactions even made our own Dustin Parkes a fan, which might be the most impressive thing about him.

B Is For Brutal Rough

The USGA is known for their ridiculously thick rough during the U.S. Open, where the players absolutely need to find the fairways, and this week at Oak Hill, it’ll certainly feel like a USGA event. Oak Hill head pro Craig Harmon said there will be no concept of graduated rough, and that the length will be at least four inches everywhere, which will surely make the players think of Merion a few weeks ago. At Merion, the length never got above five inches, so it’s going to have a very similar feel. Graeme McDowell was at Oak Hill a couple of weeks ago, and tweeted out this picture from just off of the 12th green.

C Is For Championships

Oak Hill doesn’t have the mainstream recognition of some other venues in the United States, but it has a rich championship history, dating back to the 1940’s. Below is a list of the major events held at Oak Hill.

  • 1949 U.S. Amateur: Charles Coe def. Rufus King 11 and 10.
  • 1956 U.S. Open: Cary Middlecoff (+1) wins by one over Ben Hogan. Hogan missed a 30-inch putt on 17 that would have forced a playoff.
  • 1968 U.S. Open: Lee Trevino wins first professional tournament, and at 5-under par, becomes the first man to fire four under par rounds at a U.S. Open.
  • 1980 PGA Championship: Jack Nicklaus dominates the field to win by a record seven shots for his 17th major championship.
  • 1984 U.S. Senior Open: Arnold Palmer whiffs on a short putt at the 15th and despite nobody seeing him do it, Palmer called a penalty on himself. Palmer would lose by two shots to Miller Barber.
  • 1989 U.S. Open: Curtis Strange becomes the first man since Hogan in 1950 and 1951 to capture back-to-back U.S. Open titles, winning by one over Ian Woosnam, Chip Beck and Mark McCumber.
  • 1995 Ryder Cup: Team Europe was down two points heading into Sunday singles, and won for the first time from behind. Irishman Philip Walton secured the victory by defeating Jay Haas by one hole.
  • 1998 U.S. Amateur: Hank Kuehne bombed the ball all over the course, defeating Tom McKnight in the finals on the 35th hole.
  • 2003 PGA Championship: Unheralded Shaun Micheel outlasts Chad Campbell to win by two shots.
  • 2008 Senior PGA: Only twelve rounds were under par for the entire week in brutal conditions, and Haas was able to avenge some bad Oak Hill memories to win with a final score of 7-over par, shattering the previous record for highest winning score in tournament history, set by Sam Snead’s 2-over par in 1970.

C Is Also For Club Professionals

Every year, the PGA of America puts together a field of 156 players for the PGA Championship, and 20 of those players are club professionals. These club pros are the top-20 finishers of the PGA Professional National Championship, held every year in late June. Most of the club pros will miss the cut, but it’s a chance for them to play one of the best courses in the world against the top players. The best finish in the last decade was a tie for 31st from Chip Sullivan back in 2004.

D Is For Donald Ross

Donald Ross is arguably the most influential course designer in American golf history. Born in Scotland, Ross studied under Old Tom Morris before moving to America in 1899 and ended up designing some of the most renowned courses in the United States, including Aronimink, Seminole, Pinehurst No.2 and Oak Hill. The course has undergone some changes since the original Ross design back in 1926, most notably by the Fazio’s in the late 70’s, but it still plays as difficult as ever and is considered by some to be Ross’ finest work.

E Is For Exemptions

People often like to think of professional golfers as a group of rich athletes who’ve got it made, and when it comes to certain guys, say Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, that’s true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Winning a tournament like this is a massive deal for a guy like Micheel who pretty much nobody had heard of prior to the ’03 PGA. A win at Oak Hill grants the player a five-year exemption on both the PGA and European Tours, invites to the other majors for the next five years and a lifetime spot in the PGA Championship. That kind of security is tough to beat.

F Is For Fan’s Choice

Ahead of this year’s PGA Championship, a surprisingly interactive element was added to the tournament, as the fans will have the ability to pick the hole location for the 15th hole on Sunday. Four options are currently listed on PGA.com for the par-3, with three bunkers on the left and a pond protecting the right side. Jack Nicklaus came up with the idea, and when they decided on the 15th because it has always played a big role in the outcome of the tournaments held at Oak Hill.

G Is For Glory’s Last Shot

This actually used to be an official tagline for the tournament a few years ago, referencing that it was the last chance to win a major for the year. It’s not heard as frequently anymore, but the thought is still valid. After the PGA, it’s another eight months until the next major and that means a lot, especially to those older players who haven’t won a major to this point in their career.

H Is For Hagen Centennial Open

It was the 20th anniversary of Rochester native Walter Hagen’s U.S. Open triumph, and also the centennial year for the city, so in 1934, Oak Hill staged the Hagen Centennial Open. It was the first real tournament held on the East Course, with Leo Deigel coming away victorious with a four-round total of 276. For his win, Deigel walked away with $600.

H Is Also For Hill of Fame

REU_1850205

The 598 yard par-5 13th has the nickname “Hill of Fame”, and the course claims that the hole has never been reached in two shots in tournament play. It’s probably because of the lake that bisects the fairway, which is placed right at 300 yards, forcing most of the field to lay up, and leaving them a shot of over 300 yards into the green. Considering the average distance off the tee from 2000 to 2012 jumped over 16 yards, I think that at least a few players will be reaching the green in two this week.

I Is For Interesting Pairings

As always when it comes to a major, there’s significant interest in the pairings that are released for the first two rounds before the players are paired based on score. Here are some of the most interesting groupings:

  • Former PGA champs with no chance: Micheel, Rich Beem and Mark Brooks
  • 2014 Ryder Cup captains: Tom Watson, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke
  • Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Webb Simpson
  • Former PGA Champions: Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Vijay Singh
  • 2013 Major Winners: Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson
  • Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler
  • Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III

J Is For Jim Barnes

Jim Barnes is one of those names in golf that has been forgotten over the years, but he is one of the most prolific champions that the game has ever had. Why is he on this list? He won the first two PGA Championship’s in 1916 and 1919, as the tournament wasn’t held in ’17 and ’18 due to World War One. All told, he won 21 times on the PGA Tour, and was one of the original twelve inductees into the PGA Hall of Fame.

J Is Also For John R. Williams

Williams was a member at Oak Hill when Ross finished designing the two 18-hole courses that became known as Oak Hill East and West, and it was the conclusion of Dr. Williams that the East course had potential, but needed trees to fill out the relatively barren landscape. So, Williams started planting seeds and as the story goes, he lost count at 75,000 seedlings. It was a combination of oaks, elms, maples and evergreens that were planted, and have been growing now for nearly 90 years. Those trees are the main reason why the players will have trouble if they are wayward off the tees, as they are now so big and majestic that most are nearly impossible to clear depending on the angle.

K Is For Kohki Idoki

USPW_803660

Idoki has pretty much the same chance of winning the PGA as I do this week, but he does have an interesting story. The 51-year old has played his entire career on the Japanese Golf Tour, picking up two career wins, with the last one coming in 1993. In his first ever tournament in North America, he won the Senior PGA Championship, which got him into the regular PGA Championship. He probably doesn’t have much of a shot this week, but the story is pretty amazing, and I defy anyone to find me a better name in professional sports.

L Is For Length

One of the storylines heading into Merion for the U.S. Open this year was that the course was much shorter than most of the courses the pros see on a regular basis, and Oak Hill is pretty much in the exact same boat. At 7,134 yards and a par-70, Oak Hill is 542 yards shorter than Kiawah played at last year, and 410 yards shorter than the average over the last five years. Of course, Merion proved that it still had plenty of bite even though the length wasn’t there, and with the history at Oak Hill, I’m sure that a similar feel will be present.

M Is For Match Play

From 1916 to 1957, the PGA Championship was contested as a match play event, making it the only major that didn’t use the stroke play format. However, match play isn’t always the most television friendly format, as evidenced by this year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play, when the top two seeds, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were both knocked out in the first round. It was for this reason that the broadcasters requested a switch to stroke play, which in theory has a higher probability of a leaderboard filled with name brand players.

M Is Also For Money

Below is a list of the winner payouts at Oak Hill for the major championships held over the years:

  • 1956 U.S. Open: Cary Middlecoff ($6,000)
  • 1968 U.S. Open: Lee Trevino ($30,000)
  • 1980 PGA Championship: Jack Nicklaus ($60,000)
  • 1989 U.S. Open: Curtis Strange ($200,000)
  • 2003 PGA Championship: Shaun Micheel ($1,080,000)
  • 2013 PGA Championship: ??? ($1,445,000)

My favourite money related story from Oak Hill’s history though happened in 1941. The Rochester Times-Union newspaper put up a $5,000 purse to attract a star-studded field, and it worked, as Hogan, Snead, Hagen and Gene Sarazen all took part, with Snead coming away victorious in the 138 player field.

N Is For New Course

Oak Hill is by no means a new course, but for many of the best players in the world, they’ve never seen it in a competitive setting. With so many of the top players being under the age of 30, those guys have either never played at Oak Hill, or if they did in 2003 or at the 1998 U.S. Amateur, it was long enough ago that they have likely changed significantly as players. Does that give the older players a bit of an advantage? Perhaps, but these guys are all so good now that they should figure most of it out after a few days on the grounds. After that, it’s all about execution.

O Is For Oak Hill Country Club

Oak Hill Country Club was initially founded in 1901 on a small piece of land near the Genesee River in Rochester. When the club first came together, there was only enough room for nine holes on the 85 acres and the clubhouse was a converted farmhouse that was lit by kerosene lamps. More land was purchased in later years, allowing for extra holes to be built and for a new, grandiose clubhouse to be constructed on the grounds. However, the club had a decision to make in 1924 when the University of Rochester approached them with a land swap proposal. The university would build their new campus where Oak Hill was situated, with the club moving to nearby Pittsford and a much larger 355-acre plot of land. After much debate, the club decided to move ahead with the swap and the club has been there ever since.

P Is For PGA of America

The game of golf is confusing, especially when it comes to the rules and organizations that govern it, and no group embodies that more than the PGA of America. They are the organization that puts on the PGA Championship every year, and yes, they are different than the PGA Tour. Founded in 1916 to garner more interest in the game and to get more recognition for professional players, they currently have over 27,000 employees, all of whom are trained in the areas of teaching, tournament directing, rules and more. They aren’t as influential in the professional game as say the USGA or the R&A, but they are still a big player in the golf industry.

Q Is For Qualification

It’s hard to imagine it these days, but about a hundred years ago, golf was pretty much run by wealthy amateur players. This is part of the reason that the PGA of America was founded in the first place, and to this day, the PGA Championship is the only major that does not leave a spot open for amateur players. Amateurs can still get into the tournament, but they would have to win one of the other majors to do so, or have a high enough world ranking. Below is the list of criteria for getting into the PGA Championship, courtesy of PGA.com:

  • All former PGA Champions
  • Winners of the last five Masters (2009-2013)
  • Winners of the last five U.S. Opens (2009-2013)
  • Winners of the last five Open Championships (2009-2013)
  • The 2013 Senior PGA Champion
  • The 15 low scorers and ties in the 2012 PGA Championship
  • The 20 low scorers in the 2013 PGA Professional National Championship
  • The 70 leaders from the PGA Championship Points list from the 2012 World Golf Championships- Bridgestone Invitational through the 2013 RBC Canadian Open ending July 28, 2013.
  • Members of the 2012 United States and European Ryder Cup Teams providing they remain within the top 100 of the World Golf Rankings as of July 12, 2013.
  • Winners of tournaments co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour from the 2012 PGA Championship to the 2013 PGA Championship (does not include pro-am and team competitions).
  • Vacancies will be filled by the first available player from the list of alternates (those below 70th place in the PGA Championship Points list from the 2012 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational through the 2013 RBC Canadian Open, ending July 28).

Q Is Also For Quotes

The PGA Championship might not have the prestige of the other majors and the courses might not be as renowned, but there’s no shortage of quotes about the tournament and Oak Hill from previous years. Here’s the best, courtesy of Golf Today:

“It is the best, fairest and toughest championship golf course I’ve ever played in all my years as a tour professional.” – Ernie Els on Oak Hill

“The knack for scoring can go at any moment. It can go while you’re walking from the second green to the third tee. But it’s like worrying about an atom bomb hitting you. You can’t worry about it.” - Howard Twitty in 1980 – he finished in a tie for fifth.

“This course is certainly one of the finest I have ever seen, fit for either an Open or PGA.” – Sam Snead after winning at Oak Hill in 1941

“Where can you go to have a good cry?” – Mike Reid, after blowing a three-stroke lead on the last three holes of the 1989 PGA

“You can describe my round as having moments of ecstasy and stark raving terror. I looked like I knew what I was doing at times and at other times I looked like a twenty handicap player.” - Arnold Palmer at the 1968 PGA, where he tied for second. He never won the PGA.

“It’s the hardest, fairest golf course we’ve ever played.” – Tiger Woods after the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill

“Which one of you is going to be runner-up?” - Walter Hagen, to Leo Diegel and others on the eve of the 1925 US PGA. Hagen won.

R Is For Rory McIlroy

This time last year, McIlroy was expected to be in the thick of it on Sunday at Kiawah. He had an up and down year to be sure, but nobody was shocked when he came away victorious at the end of the week, winning by a tournament record eight strokes. Fast-forward to today, and you can’t find anyone who thinks that he’s going to be near contention at any point this week at Oak Hill. Bookmakers have got him as high as 33-1 right now, a completely unfathomable number based on his skill level, but that’s what an underwhelming season does for a player, regardless of talent.

S Is For Shaun Micheel

Micheel won the PGA Championship the last time it was held at Oak Hill back in 2003, holding off the charge of Chad Campbell on Sunday. His 7-iron approach on the 18th in Sunday’s final round has been called the best shot in tournament history, and to date, it is Micheel’s only win on a major tour. Coming into the week back in 2003, Micheel was ranked 169th in the world. The closest guy in the field to that this week is Jason Kokrak, ranked 175th in the world. His odds to win range from 250 to 600-1, with Micheel coming in around 1000-1. If you want to watch that 7-iron approach, check out the video below.

T Is For Tiger Woods

So, Tiger Woods is pretty good, right? Last week, Woods went out and dominated a world-class field at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for his fifth win of 2013, and eighth at Firestone. That win included a second round 61 where he was pretty much perfect all day, save for a couple of loose tee shots with the driver. Look, at this point, we all know what he’s looking for and that’s another major championship victory, and until he wins one, the questions will remain about his ability. Those questions are ridiculous of course, but hey, that’s what the golf media seems to specialize in.

One last point on Woods: how much better is he than the competition right now? He’s got an average of 14.19 world ranking points right now, making him the number one player in the world, with Phil Mickelson next at 8.56. That difference of 5.63 is the same number between Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, who is ranked 36th in the world.

U Is For Under Par

In the five stroke play championships contested at Oak Hill, senior events excluded, only ten players have ever finished under par. Further to that, when the 2008 Senior PGA was held, there were only twelve rounds that were played under par, so Oak Hill has traditionally played as a very difficult course. Some people think that the course won’t be able to stand up to the length of the modern player, but I don’t buy that. Players who can get to Micheel’s winning number of 4-under par are going to be in the mix late on Sunday.

V Is For Variance

One of the interesting things about Oak Hill is how different the course is from hole to hole. A lot of courses, especially the more modern ones, will have some sort of defining hole type. Short or long par 3’s, drivable par-4’s, freakishly long par-5’s, things of that nature. Oak Hill though mixes just about everything into one course, with doglegs in both directions and massive variance in length for par-3’s, 4’s and 5’s. That means lots of different shot types and clubs for the players, forcing them to use everything in the bag to score.

W Is For Wanamaker Trophy

3613669

The story of the Wanamaker Trophy, given to the winner of the PGA Championship every year, is one of the best out there. Rodman Wanamaker, rich with family money from the department store industry, proposed the creation of the PGA of America in 1916, and put up $2,500 of his own money for a trophy. In the early days, the winner got to take the trophy home with him and was instructed to bring it back the following year.

Hagen, being the best pro in the world at the time and one of the most confident people on the planet, decided that he didn’t have to bring it back after winning in 1925. When asked why he didn’t have it ahead of the ’26 tournament, Hagen said that he had no intention of losing the tournament, which he didn’t. He won in 1927 as well, but when Leo Deigel upset him in 1928, Hagen claimed that actually had no idea where the trophy was.

The story goes that sometime after that win in 1925, Hagen wanted to go party, and he paid his cab driver to drop the trophy back in his hotel room. Did Hagen simply want to keep the trophy, or did he actually lose it? Well, two years after Deigel won, the trophy was found in a crate at L.A. Young & Co., who just happened to be the manufacturer of Hagen’s clubs.

These days, that original trophy is on display at the PGA Historical Center in Port Lucie, and a replica of the original, still weighing in at just over 27 pounds, is given to the winners each year. After a year, the champions are given another replica to keep for their own trophy case.

X Is For X Marks The Spot

There wouldn’t be a golf guide on Fanatico without the X Marks The Spot category, but this time, it might actually be the most applicable. Based on how thick the rough is going to be, and the height of the trees that are present on the entire course, players absolutely cannot be wayward from the tee. In most tournaments, you’ll hear people say cliché things about how the players must find the fairways and greens to win, which seems like the most obvious thing ever, but most of the pros are crazy good out of the rough these days. This won’t be regular rough though, nor are these standard trees. The guys who find the middle this week will have a significant advantage.

Y Is For Young Winners

The last three winners of the PGA Championship, Martin Kaymer, Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy, were all 25 years of age or under when they hoisted the Wanamaker. So far in 2013, we have seen established names win major championships in Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, but many of the best players in the world are now under the age of 25. McIlroy, Jason Day, Branden Grace, Matteo Manassero, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama are just a few examples of players who represent a sizable youth movement in the game.

Z Is For Zero Predictability

If there’s one thing that golf teaches us every week, it’s that predicting the outcome of tournaments can be very difficult. Of all of the majors, the PGA Championship has probably produced the most random winners. We’ve already talked about Micheel, but there was also Rich Beem the year prior at Hazeltine, and the ultimate story of unpredictability when John Daly came from nowhere to win at Crooked Stick in 1991. All of the focus is on the big names here, but remember that at this level, all of these guys are good.

The 2013 PGA Championship gets underway on Thursday morning at 7:10 AM ET from Oak Hill Country Club.