By Andrew Both
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Long hitters should enjoy a decided advantage at the PGA Championship at Bellerive, where plasticine-like greens and wide fairways will allow for attacking golf and a blitz of birdies.
Torrential rain on Tuesday softened an already damp course, which will have the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy eagerly awaiting the start on Thursday, although the PGA of America tried to put a positive face on the course condition.
“Certainly the rain has softened things up, but I look at that as very positive, because I think we could have one of the most exciting PGA Championships ever,” said Kerry Haigh, the man in charge of the course set-up.
“If you put 98 of the top 100 golfers in the world on a beatifically manicured course, with soft greens and little or no wind, I certainly hope and expect to see a lot of birdies.”
Defending champion Thomas agreed there would be plenty of low scores, but warned the course was not exactly a pushover.
“You’re going to see some high scores too, because of the length of the course and the rough,” said the world number two, who is attempting to become the first back-to-back champion since Tiger Woods in 2007.
Hot but not scorching conditions with high humidity are forecast on all four days with only an outside chance of rain and Thomas said he thought Johnson is probably the man to beat.
“He has no weaknesses in his game,” Thomas said.
“His distance control with his wedges is up there with some of the best on tour and he’s a very, very underrated putter.
“When you hit it that close, that often, you’re going to miss (some putts). That’s just how it works, percentages.”
Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, said a victory and chance to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday would turn a good year into something else.
“I can still make it a great year,” he said.
Masters champion Patrick Reed has already had a great year and said he was also raring to go on a course where many holes should favour a right-hander who hits a draw (a shot that curves from right-to-left).
“It’s hard to remember a course I’ve played that has so many doglegs left,” he said.
“Being a drawer of the ball, it fits my eye really well.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)