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Nic Ladds 9th Aug 2009 - 12:15

PGA Championship - a look at hellish Hazeltine

The US PGA Championship gets underway at the Hazeltine National Golf Club which is an absolute bruiser of a course length wise, coming in at 7674 yards making it the longest course ever to host a Major.

The PGA Championship is the last Major of the year and is nicknamed 'Glory's last shot' due to its positioning in the golfing calendar.

This tournament was won last year by Padraig Harrington and all eyes will on him as after a disastrous start to the year, he finally looks to be coming in to form at the right time to make a good fist of defending his title.

The fact that the course is long does not mean Tiger Woods has it automatically all sewn up with his colossal power off the tee as if the 2002 PGA Championship held here tells us anything, it is that shorter, accurate hitters can be better off than the monster drivers when it comes to shooting low.

In 2002, Tiger was the only player who could be described a big hitter who finished in the top five, as the winner Rich Beem is an average hitter, while Chris Riley, Fred Funk and Justin Leonard are short and straight hitters and it is they who filled the next three places.

Due to the length of the course, long driving will obviously have its advantages on certain holes but with a host of hazards to negotiate including strategically placed bunkers, water lined holes and long rough, often the best chance of attacking the pin is by laying up safely on the fairway.

The pick of the holes to look out for during the tournament looks to be the signature 16th where those may remember Payne Stewart started his impressive revival on the way to winning the 1991 US Open here.

To get to the green the ball has to carry 220 yards right over Hazeltine Lake but along with the distance, accuracy is needed with unforgiving falls on all sides of the raised green which is poised, ready to humble even the mightiest of golfers.

Looking through the history books at Hazeltine, low scores would appear to be very much the exception rather than the rule and while Beem finished on -10 and Tiger on -9 in 2002, they were two of only eight players to finish under par.

What little course history there is to go on suggests that it is American players that fare better at Hazeltine suggest local knowledge could be key.

In 2002 the highest placing European finishers were Sergio Garcia and Pierre Fulke who both finished in distant share of tenth on +1 (incidentally both are shorter hitters) and eight of the top nine finishers were American with Fijian Vijay Singh coming eighth although he plied his trade almost exclusively in the States.

This should be an absolute treat to behold with Harrington coming to form at the right time, Tiger still striking fear in to fields every time he tees up but with three unexpected Major winners so far this year it could well again be the turn of a lesser-known or less-fancied golfer to make his mark on the world scene.

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