Whistling Straits: A True Test Of Golf

It may not be a "true" links course but this magnificent layout along the shores of Lake Michigan is clearly inspired by Ireland and Scotland.

The place is simply majestic and the 7,507 yard, par 72 layout presents the sternest of challenges.

The course is crafted beautifully hugging two miles of uninterrupted shoreline on Lake Michigan, eight of the holes at Whistling Straits play on the coast mingled amongst some of the most intimidating bunkers you will ever come across.

Holes are aptly named to reflect the nature of their characteristics. The first, a brut 408 yard, par 4 heading out to Lake Michigan is named "Outward Bound", the 11th a par 5 at 618 yards is titled "Sand Box" reflective of the many bunkers that swallow errant drives and poorly struck approach shots. The 17th hole, a 223 yard par 3, has the reference as "Pinched Nerve", in another classic reflection as to the nature of this course.

To say patience is a necessity to play Whistling Straits is an understatement. You need your "A" game all the way here to have any chance of scoring.

It's unlikely that we will see this week a "59", firstly because the PGA of America doesn't want scores like that being done at its event and secondly, the course is just too hard, even for the world's best. Anything in the high 60's would be a great round, even par, a solid round.

The young guns like Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are set to challenge against the more seasoned and players, including Davis Love III, Steve Elkington and Stuart Cink. This contrast of the young and the tour journeymen sets the stage for a thrilling last major.

"There's going to be a lot of guys here thinking that it's the right time for them to break through, and I'm definitely one of those guys," said 21-year-old McIlroy this morning as he seeks his first Major.

"But you can never write the likes of Tiger and Phil off. I definitely think guys have a lot better chance coming into this event with those two guys not playing great and Lee (Westwood) obviously not playing."

Westwood is injured and the word going around the course this afternoon was that Phil Mickelson is not 100% fit either, taking medication for arthritis troubles. That and Tiger Wood's current run of form following last week's Bridgestone Invitational sets the stage for an intriguing season ending Major.

The 7-under-par 65's fired by Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland (first round) and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain (second round) in the 2004 PGA Championship are the low competitive rounds here at Whistling Straits.

With eleven former winners in the field this week, including Mark Brooks (1996), John Daly (1991),Steve Elkington (1995), Padraig Harrington (2008), Davis Love III (1997), Shaun Micheel (2003), Phil Mickelson (2005), Vijay Singh (1998, 2004), David Toms (2001) and Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007), it sets the stage for an interesting contrast of the young guns of golf and the season professionals as they do battle, not just among themselves, but the brut that is Whistling Straits.

Miss the fairway continually here and it does not matter whether you have won a PGA Tour title or a Major. To have any chance to win the 92nd PGA Championship you have to keep it straight at Whistling Straits.

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