ST. LOUIS — Let’s start with the bad news here at Bellerive Country Club, site of this week’s PGA Championship.
The weather isn’t cooperating so far. With steady rain throughout Tuesday and more expected Wednesday and later this weekend, expect mushy, soft conditions which could render this track a glorified pitch-and-putt throughout the tournament rounds.
Hey, nothing the PGA of America or anyone else can do about halting Mother Nature. It happens.
But then there’s this: These greens — all of which hadn’t been used by members for the past few months in an effort to keep them alive — are slow all over and fuzzy around the edges.
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What does this mean? Tourney officials will likely have to set most hole locations more toward the centers of these greens than they would have preferred in an effort to avoid those edges.
So, let’s review: We’ve got a soft golf course with holes potentially cut near the middle of the greens.
All of which, in a roundabout way, leads to the good news.
As much as we’ll discuss the course during pre-tournament disseminations of what might occur, major championships are almost unanimously remembered by the leaderboards they generate, not the conditions.
If you could draw up a perfect scenario for Rory McIlroy (13-1 odds) to win his fifth career major championship, this is the one. I have a feeling there will be more than a few comparisons this week to Congressional in 2011, when he ran away with an uncharacteristically soggy U.S. Open.
But it’s not just McIlroy.
These are perfect conditions for Dustin Johnson (8-1). And Justin Thomas (15-1). And Jason Day (18-1).
Basically, any elite player who can mash the ball down the fairway, then hit a towering wedge that plops down next to the hole each time.
Unlike at the U.S. Open, where the USGA is trying to protect par and forge the toughest test in golf, the PGA of America seems at peace with letting conditions dictate the scoring.
“I don’t think the PGA of America really cares,” said Jordan Spieth, who’s trying to claim the career grand slam this week. “They want a really, obviously, a stern, tough test, but if conditions like we’re getting [Tuesday] are going to dictate a championship, then they’re not going to go out there and try and prove anything or mess up a course, in other words, or try and do too much to bring a score somewhere.”
This should serve as a sign that Bellerive won’t just play into the hands of the world’s best players, it might serve as the most scoreable major in recent history.
It took 157 years of major championships for the first 18-hole score of 62, posted by Branden Grace at Royal Birkdale last year, but it’s not inconceivable, based on these early reports, that the new record might last only 13 months.
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Meanwhile, as a par-70, it’s doubtful this course could yield the lowest score in relation to par in tournament history, a 20-under posted by Jason Day at Whistling Straits three years ago, but the record for total score could be in jeopardy. Right now, that number belongs to David Toms, who shot 265 at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001.
Can somebody post four rounds of a 66-or-better average to set a new mark? It’s certainly possible.
Don’t be surprised if the players who go low are some of the world’s best. If it happens, the bad news at Bellerive could wind up being good news for this tournament.