By Barry Pump, Special to PGA.com
KOHLER, Wisc. (PGA.com) -- While the temperature at Whistling Straits barely broke 60 degrees on Wednesday, the reception has been more than warm for Madison's Jerry Kelly and former Wisconsinite Skip Kendall, who was born in Milwaukee.
"The crowd support and what I've received just in the last couple of days has been really -- I wasn't expecting it," Kendall said. "I've got to be honest there. It's been incredible.
"Walking up to every tee, every green, walking down the fairways, it's been amazing."
For Kelly, the Wisconsin crowd support has been important for his mental game.
"I really have just enjoyed coming and playing in Wisconsin, with the Wisconsin people, for the Wisconsin people," he said. "I can't explain it to you because I know a lot of the other guys from Wisconsin put some pressure on themselves to perform in front of these people. I get a chance to have fun with them, where in some of the other tournaments, I kind of melt into my own misery sometimes, and they don't let me do that here."
With a season that's seen five top-25 finishes, including ties for 11th and 17th at the British and U.S. Opens, respectively, Kendall says that playing on another links course in his home state all comes down to adrenaline.
"If I can't get the adrenaline flowing for a major championship in my home state, I don't know what it's going to take," he said. "So I'm going to go out there and play my heart out."
Considering Whistling Straits has never hosted a major before, golf writers, analysts and players alike are wondering how the tournament will pan out when competition starts Thursday at 7 a.m. ET. With so many courses consistently on the roster, storylines could easily be written days ahead in most cases -- but not in Kohler.
"I think it adds certainly to the suspense, and it might be good for the experienced players because they say, 'Hey, we don't know what's going to happen.' So we are just going to go play and not have any target score or expectations in our head, just go play and do the best you can," 1998 PGA Champion Davis Love III said.
"I've certainly talked to [sports psychologist] Bob Rotella a lot about that yesterday: how do you approach an unknown like this? Do you throw par away? Certainly, 18 is not a par 4, so you can't get hung up on, 'I have to make 4 there every day or I won't win the tournament,'" added Love.
Love says he's predicting a winner with a lot of experience and "the total package."
"You have to be a pretty good shot-maker, and then you're also going to have to chip and putt and scramble really well," he said. "That's not asking much. That's why majors are hard to win. You have to do it all."
Ryder Cup Captains Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer fielded questions Wednesday about who they are going to select as the final "wildcard" players.
One place on the European team is virtually assured to be filled by Colin Montgomerie, if he doesn't qualify in his own right with good finishes through the next three weeks. But Langer is not about to give the final go-ahead.
"I've seen a lot of good stuff from Colin," Langer said. "He was in contention at the British Open probably the first time in quite a while if I'm correct. He's had a lot of other good finishes. So his form is very steady, and he's extremely close to being the Colin we know."
The second captain's pick is far less clear.
Langer mentioned Fredrick Jacobsen (11th on the European Points List), Paul McGinley (14th), Luke Donald (58th), Justin Rose (45th), Thomas Bjorn (31st), and even Alex Cejka (77th) and 115th-placed Jesper Parnevik. But Langer is happy with his choices.
"The great news, and that's the way I look at it, 25 years ago, I wouldn't have had these guys because we didn't have the depth," the captain said. "We struggled, we had probably a good five to seven players on the front, and then we really struggled to get the other end of the team, and certainly didn't have 20 to 30 guys to choose from."
Two American players on the top of everyone's mind for possible captain's picks were 11th-ranked Jerry Kelly and John Daly, who's sitting at No. 20 on the standings.
But Sutton tempered any talk of his picks until after the PGA is completed, saying that he wants people who "finish strongly."
Kelly, though, is still fighting to qualify in his own right, and Sutton says that he likes the fight he's seen in the journeyman.
"I liked his comments in the paper where he said that he felt like 11th was even a better position than being in 10th because he had something he had to go for," Sutton said. "You know, my advice to everybody that is outside that top 10 and to those that are in probably eighth, ninth and 10th, is you'd better go after it this week because there's a bunch of guys right behind you that are going to be going after it."
When Daly's name was mentioned, Sutton said that he's looking for players who can perform on par 3s and par 4s, considering there are only three par 5s at Oakland Hills. And so far, Daly is ranked 159th in the world in par 3 performance, with a 3.13 stroke average, but the former PGA champion is ranked 49th in the world on par 4s with a 4.04 stroke average.
"Go look at everybody's stats for par 3s and par 4s for the year," Sutton said. "You'll find out what I think is important and what's not important."
Defending PGA Champion Shaun Micheel gave out guitars to past PGA winners at the Champions Dinner held on Tuesday night, but last week Micheel got a guitar lesson from two members of the rock group Kiss.
Tommy Thayer, a longtime friend of Micheel's, and Paul Stanley helped the champ learn a few chords in Atlanta. Micheel said that while Thayer has helped him on the guitar, he's been helping Thayer learn the game.
"Tommy and I are going to exchange services, but I think it is going to take him a lot longer to teach me to play guitar than me to teach him to play golf," he said.
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