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Strait shooting with TNT's EJ, Clampett and Kratzert

TNT's Ernie Johnson Jr., Bobby Clampett and Billy Kratzert, who will lead TNT's daily coverage of the season's final major, sat down with PGA.com on Wednesday to discuss the 86th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. And while the three might not agree on everything, they all said the real star of the show will be Pete Dye's acclaimed creation hugging the shores of Lake Michigan.

PGA.com: Of all the storylines this week -- Tiger's major slump, Ernie's close calls in the majors this year, no-name winners of majors -- obviously, the course here at Whistling Straits is No. 1. What are your thoughts about the course and do you expect to see this week?

Kratzert: I expect that the guys' biggest concern is where they position the tee shot. I mean, if you don't position it off the tee, you can't play. So I think the players' biggest concern is how they approach each hole off the tee. If it requires a 3-wood, a 5-wood or an iron off the tee to put it in the short grass, I think that's impreative.

Clampett: Well, I disagree with Billy from the standpoint that I don't think there's going to be a lot of irons off the tee. (Laughter) I think it's a driver's golf course, and he's absolutely right on the mark there. I also think the guys are going to be thinking about where to place their second shots on these par-4s. The fairways are very tight, but the rough is very playable. And I think what that's going to do is it's really going to favor the longer hitters. So the guys who are playing these 500-yard par-4s... yeah, so they hit it in the rough but they're still hitting a 7-iron into the green as opposed the regular hitters who get stuck in the rough and all of a sudden they have a 3-iron or 4-iron in.

Kratzert: A 7-iron to these greens out of the rough? Yeah, that's exactly what I would want -- I would want a lot of that so I could go ahead and make bogey on every hole.

Clampett: No, seriously, I think the greens are going to be soft enough with the rain; I don't think they're going to be terribly hard, and the weather is going to warm up as the week goes on so the ball should carry a little farther than it is right now. Obviously, I think it's going to fall into the hands of the real good drivers in both length and accuracy, the guys who continually hit the ball into a 25-yard-wide space.

PGA.com: During the Media Day event, Billy, you said that double-digit over par could win this thing. Do you still stand by that?

Clampett: Well, they've changed the golf course considerably since then. They've moved some of the tees up and it's not anywhere near the golf course we played on Media Day. The rough is all chopped off -- we were playing 6-to-8-inch rough right off the fairway, and the fairways were 20 yards wide. So it's not that kind of scenario at all. But still, the golf course is going to play plenty hard.

PGA.com: Does the PGA need to be careful this week with the set-up? I mean, is there a fine line where this thing could get away from them?

Kratzert: I think they're very concerned on a couple of holes. I think they're going to be concerned about No. 11, the par-5. Ernie and I were following Parnevik, Singh and Pernice, and Pernice and Parnevik, their tee balls pitched into the fairway by just two or three paces. And 18, obviously, if they have the wind they had yesterday, they'll have to move the tees up 40 yards or so.

Johnson: In fact, I was out there this morning on 18 and guys were hitting from the regular tees and then hitting another set of tee shots from the up tees, so they're fully prepared for that eventuality because there's no way -- you've got this massive green at 18, if the wind is blowing and you're playing it back, there's no way you can put the pin anywhere but in the front. Because if you put it in the back, there's no way anyone's gonna get anywhere close to it. Guys are hitting driver-3-wood and just getting to the front edge. So don't be surprised if they move to the front tees so they could be able to place pins somewhere else on that green. You've seen that green ...

Kratzert: Oh, it's huge. That would be five Hilton Head greens.

Clampett: At least.

Kratzert: No, five. I see five Hilton Head greens out there.

Clampett: I think with the set-up, the PGA is going to have to take each day as it comes. They're going to have to look at where are the winds, what's the forecast, and they're going to have to look at the temperatures. The cooler the temperatures, the longer the golf course is going to play. And certainly if there's rain, the course is going to play longer.

Kratzert: I don't think the coolness and the temperature and the rain have anything to do with it. It's all about the wind direction.

Clampett: Yeah, the most important thing is the wind direction, but the other factors do come into play.

Kratzert: Well, if you're gonna have the wet, that just makes it easier to put the ball in the fairway, Bobby.

Clampett: Yeah, you're right, but ...

Kratzert: So what if you're hitting a 6-iron as opposed to a 7-iron. It's not a big deal.

Clampett: No, 6 or 7 isn't a big deal, but the longest drive when it's dry is gonna roll 30, 40 yards out there. If it's wet, it's not gonna roll at all.

PGA.com: Does a "no-name" have a chance to win this week?

Johnson: I don't see why not.

Kratzert: They always have a chance. But I would say that it would be less this week.

Clampett: I disagree. You look at 13 of the past 16 PGA Champions were first-time major winners. That sets a trend, and you see those types of trends continue. So I think it gives guys hope.

Johnson: You see Shaun Micheel win last year, Rich Beem the year before, Ben Curtis at the Open Championship, Todd Hamilton.

Clampett: Well, you've got guys out there who are really good players, whether it be a Jeff Ogilvy, a Bo Van Pelt, somebody like that who is a good ball-striker potentially could win because it is a ball-strikers golf course. It's not going to be somebody who's gonna scrape it around and win here.

Kratzert: Could we have a sidebar after this?

Clampett: Well, Billy likes Ian Poulter. (laughter)

PGA.com: Who does everybody like?

Clampett: Well, I'm gonna go out on a limb and I think my top four picks are Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.

Kratzert: You are so predictable. I mean, it is unbelievable how predictable you are.

Clampett: Can you mention four better players than that in the field?

Kratzert: Absolutely not. Why not take the top four ranked players in the world?

Clampett: Why not?

Johnson: I'm feeling Vijay.

Kratzert: Bobby, you were there at the Buick Open and saw Tiger. I think that was probably as well as I've seen Tiger play from tee to green all year long.

Clampett: I like Tiger from the aspect that he's been here for over a week, he's been practicing here every day, he knows the golf course. As has Mickelson. Those two, to me, are going to have a little bit of an advantage just because they've played more rounds. Els, for example, he was playing last week at Castle Pines, and he's going to be behind the 8-ball. I think this is a gold course that requires a lot of study. So, for Els to compete with Woods and Michelson, he's going to have to elevate his to even another level because he's not going to have the familiarity of the golf course.

Kratzert: And that's exactly why I like him, because he doesn't know a whole lot about the golf course. He can go out there and just play. He doesn't have to be concerned about what's out there. He can just go out there and play.

PGA.com: Specifically, what are the fans in for this week? The fans who are watching on TV, can they appreciate what they're going to be seeing? Just the sheer beauty of this place and what they've done.

Johnson: Well, you see Lake Michigan from all 18 holes, and lot of the holes run right along it. When Pete Dye designed this thing, and see what he had to work with here, you see the finished product and it's visually stunning. At the same time, you're going to see some guys in some predicaments that will be less than visually stunning for them.

Clampett: You know, what a lot of people don't realize is that all that land east of the golf course was all land and Pete Dye just dug a big hole out there to provide the dirt for the golf course, and that's how Lake Michigan was formed. Have you ever seen a golf course with more dirt moved on it than this one? Anyway near it?

Johnson: Another thing is when they see the wide, panoramic views of the course, just the sheer number of bunkers. When you read about it and it says anywhere from 1,000 to 1,400 bunkers, you think, "That's impossible." But you see them all over the place. I mean, some of them are the size of Bobby's head.

Kratzert: Only because of the hairstyle, Bobby. Only because of the hairstyle.

Clampett: And then you've got the size of the greens. Some of them are as long as Ernie's backswing. It's just phenomenal.

Kratzert: Seventy yards deep? Seventy yards deep?

PGA.com: How much fun are we gonna have this week?

Clampett: You know, I'm kind of excited to be in the broadcast booth -- as opposed to playing. I'm gonna feel like that NASCAR fan sitting on Turn 3 at Daytona just waiting for it to happen. Because it's gonna happen.

Johnson: It's one of those championships where all the talk in the weeks leading up to it is more about that course than they guys actually playing it. Just the unknown and how are these guys gonna react and how much is the wind gonna blow?

Kratzert: You know what's amazing, Bobby? We did this whole thing and you never once mentioned izobars. Now that's amazing.

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