An Interview With: Skip Kendall

JULIUS MASON: Skip Kendall, ladies and gentlemen, at the 86th PGA Championship. Skip, if you would not mind giving us some thoughts on Whistling Straits and we'll go to Q&A.

SKIP KENDALL: Some thoughts on Whistling Straits. I've played it twice now, I played it yesterday and today, and I think it's going to require a lot of great shot-making to especially get to some of the pins on the greens with how the greens are.

I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great challenge.

Q. Is it as long as advertised on the card or does it play maybe more to 7,200? Is that an overwhelming characteristic of the course?

SKIP KENDALL: You know, as cold as it was today -- it would be one thing if we were playing it in 85 degrees. As cold as it was today, it was playing awfully long. Even the short holes like No. 6, I hit 3-wood -- I think on the card, it's 355. I was hitting 3-wood, 8-iron as hard as I could. Even that hole played, even though it was left-to-right across, it was still playing long. I thought it was playing extremely long today.

SKIP KENDALL: Other than lack of trees, I think that might be the only thing that might be similar. I think I've heard, I'm not really quite sure of what a links course is. I haven't had much experience playing them. I just think of the heather and the fescue and lack of trees and think of a links course, and being able to bump-and-run shots, use a lot of imagination.

Here, I've heard this called an Americanized links. If that's what it is for being able -- you have to play the ball onto the green; I think that's more so the case here. So, you know, call it what you want, I'm not really sure again what an actual links course is, other than what I've played in the British Open and being able to bump?and?run it and maybe use a little more imagination with shots, playing different kind of shots into greens.

Here, it still requires the ball to be flown about the correct distance and flying it out to the green.

Q. But as far as your game goes, the things you did well over there, can that be brought here, as well?

SKIP KENDALL: Well, I think playing well, I think that's the main key. Again I think the shot?making of being able to control your distance, being able to hit a right-to-left shot, left-to-right shot into the certain pin locations that we are going to have is going to be vital, is going to be key.

There won't be too many bump?and?run shots this week, not that I can see out there, anyway.

Q. Did you drop a couple balls in the bunker in front of 6 green and try to play out of it?

SKIP KENDALL: I did yesterday.

Q. What was the experience like there?

SKIP KENDALL: Well, you know, I had the ability to drop it right in the center of the bunker, and it's only, you know, about half this table wide anyway. And that's with a perfect lie. I think if the ball certainly rolls up against the back side of the bunker, I don't think you'd be able to get it on the green. I mean, it's a good, six, seven, eight feet up in the air that you've got to fly it out. The only advantage, I guess saving grace that you might have, is that the bunker slopes up right in the front, and if it happens to stay in the front of the bunker, you'll be able to get it out and it shouldn't be a problem.

But, obviously, what are the chances of that happening? You'd have to get extremely lucky if you hit it in that bunker. Avoid it at all costs.

Q. How are you planning or hoping to play 18 both downwind and if it should happen to play into the wind?

SKIP KENDALL: I played it the last two days into the wind, could not reach the green in two. I did not play the up tee. I played it back both days. I don't think half the field could have reached the green from the back tee today. So, I'm sure the PGA of America will set up the course accordingly. I'm sure they will see which direction the wind is going to be coming from, and certainly they had tees also on the further up tee today.

I dropped a ball from probably where I thought I would have hit it from that up tee today, too, and I still had to hit 3-wood and tried to hit it on the left center side of it and I still could not carry the green over there.

It's going to be extremely difficult. That hole, especially the way the green is, you know, again you've got to get it in the right quadrant, I guess, and 4 will be a great score there. I don't care if there's no wind, 4 will be a good score there.

Q. I don't know if anybody's ever seen a day like this in August. With the conditions today, is it hard to get a sense for how the course is going to play? If you're playing in these conditions today, it might not be like this in a couple of days.

SKIP KENDALL: If it plays easier, great. I'm kind of glad we had these conditions. I remember a few years ago I played Royal St. George's. About the worst thing that could have happened, all the practice rounds I played, it was dead calm and about 80 degrees. Then all of a sudden the first day, it's changed to 55 degrees and blowing 30. So I would rather have practice rounds days like this to be quite honest, for me.

If it gets easier out there, that's great. I'm not going to have any problem with that. I don't think anybody else would.

You know, it's kind of nice seeing adverse conditions in the practice rounds, I think.

Q. Being a native of the area, you've had the pride and the pleasure to play in the GMO every year. Talk about what that's like, and then talk about what it's like being an area native in as something as major as this in your home state.

SKIP KENDALL: Well, the crowd support and -- what I've received just in the last couple of days has been really -- I wasn't expecting it. 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, you know, these last couple of days, and surprisingly so. I wasn't expecting it, I really wasn't. I know Jerry Kelly and, I think, are the only Wisconsinites playing, but I really wasn't expecting it to be so warm.

I know when I played the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee every year, that's where I grew up. I know a lot of the people. But it's probably not quite like this. I think the people just got behind both of us and really want to see us play well.

Being from this state and knowing the implications of this event being brought here, this is just going to be a big boom for the tourist industry here. They are going to showcase this place, like people are just going to flock here. Over 130 countries it's being shown worldwide. I think it's just going to have an incredible impact on the State of Wisconsin and everything that this tournament and a major championship brings to a community and a state.

I think it's going to be fantastic. It's going to look great on TV, I'll tell you that much. It's going to look great. I think a lot of people are going to want to play it.

Q. Setting aside your affection for the Wisconsin fans, could you compare what you've seen out there Monday, Tuesday Wednesday in terms of their support with what you've seen at other major championship venues? That's the first question.

SKIP KENDALL: For me or just in general?

Q. Just in general.

SKIP KENDALL: In general, I think it's pretty typical. To me, it almost seems like there's more people out at practice rounds than there are during the tournaments, during the actual -- when it starts Thursday. Now, I'm not sure if they sell more tickets for the practice rounds or not. There's a lot of people out there.

I remember going to the Masters on a Monday morning, and it was like going to Camp Randall at 8:00 in the morning; there's already 30,000, 40,000 people out there at Augusta. It was pretty amazing.

When you go to a major championship in a place that doesn't always have golf tournaments, or where they just absolutely love golf, I think Wisconsin would definitely fall into that category; people just come to see it. It's the best players in the world; you can't get any better than this.

Q. Going back to length off the tees, are there any holes that come to mind where carries and getting the ball off the tee might make for some uncomfortable situations in terms of getting it out there and in play?

SKIP KENDALL: I know like today, No. 11, at least from the back tee, I might have hit it five yards in the fairway. 618-yard par 5 into the wind, I don't know exactly how long the carry is from the back tee all the way back to the fairway, but I might have gotten -- I might have gotten it five yards in the fairway and I hit it as good as I could.

Certainly there's other holes. You get No. 4 into any kind of wind, No. 8 into any kind of wind, No. 7, the par 3, into any kind of wind, you know, those holes are going to play extremely difficult.

And what you're talking about, in carrying the ball, how far you need to carry it, those are 230-, 240-yard par 4s, and then into the greens you're going to have almost that distance. If, say, they have the pin in the back on 8 and they play the back tee, you're going to have that long of a shot into the hole, and you're talking probably into a wind or a left-to-right cross, extremely difficult.

Q. Can you envision where the weather, certainly combined with this course, could get into the head of a player out there this week?

SKIP KENDALL: Yeah (laughing).

I don't think anyone was expecting this. Certainly, I grew up here, I don't know if I ever remember a day like this in August. I certainly wasn't expecting it. I looked to see what the weather was before I came up here, and it was saying high 60s, 70s. I wasn't expecting high 50s, windchill -- I don't even know what the windchill is. It's hard to say windchill in the summertime, too.

Let me tell you, when it started raining out there, I thought there maybe might have been some flurries out there. It was brutal out there. I don't think anyone was expecting this.

Yeah, I think it could, if it stays like this tomorrow, certainly depending on how they set up the course, I don't even really care, there's going to be some high scores, real high scores.

Q. It seems like around here there's been so much attention to this course and seeing how it's going to play out. Nationally there's been a lot of that this week. Are we paying more attention or is there genuinely that much interest in this course for you players?

SKIP KENDALL: I don't know if I've -- well, I don't know if I've played anything like it in the States in that respect. I think it almost could be one-of-a-kind, I guess. It's got a links feel to it, but it's not really a links course. I'm not really sure what you'd call it, really.

I mean, there's certainly no trees out there. You have certainly the heather, the fescue, everything that a links course would have, but again, it's kind of taking away, I think, the bump-and-run shot. You still have to fly the ball onto the green and to different portions of the green, the way the greens are setup. There's a lot of slope in them and there's different parts of almost every green, and sometimes you can use the slope on the greens to get to those parts.

So, I guess, yeah, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it, really. I kind of wish I would have played it beforehand, before I got here this week. That's okay. I'm ready. Different. Different. I like it. It's going to be a great challenge, a great challenge.

Q. The four par 3s out here could collectively be considered the four best par 3s Pete Dye has put together on one course. Which one of the them do you think will present the most difficulty for the players?

SKIP KENDALL: Well, certainly the way No. 7 has been playing the last couple of days -- I think they all are.

I've got to say, I could just see them putting the pin back in that little finger on No. 12. I could be there all day. You've really just -- there's no place to bail out there, either, because if you hit it left, you have no putt at where the hole is. So you actually have to take a shot at trying to get it back there. Any miss could be disastrous. And you're only talking about a shot of 160 yards to that back finger.

No. 7, playing extremely long the way it's been playing the last couple of days.

And then you have 17 coming down the stretch. You hit it anywhere left of the green, and you might want to think about taking an unplayable, even though you might have a shot to try to get back on the green and going back to the tee and hitting it because you could be there forever. You may not ever get it back up on the green. They are all difficult.

It's just a matter of sucking it up and hitting a good shot, it really is, on all of them.

Q. When I talked to you at Milwaukee you said you had played the Irish course next door. Can you draw any comparisons? Obviously you didn't play it in conditions like this or 7,500 yards. Did playing there and then coming here seeing the Straits course hit you like a ton of bricks?

SKIP KENDALL: Yeah, that was like, oh, gosh, maybe five years ago, too. When I played the Irish course, it was a lot more tame, where this is definitely -- any little mistake on the Straits course and you're going to pay for it. It's a little easier. Although it's a very good golf course, what I remember, it certainly is no comparison I don't think to the Straits course and potential of a big number on any particular hole.

Q. Has your mindset changed in terms of preparing for majors as compared to a year ago after the success at the British and the success at the U.S. Open? Is it different this week?

SKIP KENDALL: Are you a reporter, by the way?

Q. Used to be in my other life.

SKIP KENDALL: You know, I had a pretty good U.S. Open, I had a pretty good British Open. They were two links golf courses.

For me, if I'm playing well, I know I can compete. Coming off two pretty good majors that I've had so far consecutively, I feel pretty good. I've been working hard, I took last week off, I'm well rested, and I'm going to go play my heart out this week. Whatever happens, happens.

But certainly my confidence level is pretty high. And, you know, here I am. 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. So I'm going to go out there and play my heart out.

Q. Tiger came in yesterday and said that this is the first course he's ever seen where you could make double?bogey on every single hole. He said usually there's courses where a couple holes you worry about making double, but this one every hole is a potential double-bogey. Is that what you feel and does that sort of describe the difficulty of the course?

SKIP KENDALL: I think he was being kind in saying double-bogey.

Every hole has potential disaster on it. Bottom line, no question. There's no easy holes that you think, oh, a little letup. None. I don't care what the yardage is, doesn't matter. There's no letup holes.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Jules Kendall, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

SKIP KENDALL: From one Jules to a Julius.

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