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Why are we surprised that it's hot in Tulsa in August?
Hailing from Alabama, XM Radio's Doug Bell knows hot. That's why he's amused to hear everybody in Tulsa this week talking about how hot it is at Southern Hills for the 89th playing of the PGA Championship.
By Doug Bell, XM Radio
TULSA, Okla. -- My home state of Alabama is not first in many categories -- although University of Alabama football fans are hoping Nick Saban will help change that this year -- but one area in which we don't take a back seat to anyone is summer heat. Just ask any player or spectator who attended the PGA Championship in Birmingham, Ala., at Shoal Creek in either 1984 or 1990, and he or she will certainly tell you "Sweat Home Alabama" in August is one of the hottest places on the planet.
That's why I'm a little amused by all the fuss surrounding this week's forecast in Tulsa, Okla., for the 2007 PGA Championship. The local meteorologist on the late news has been making it sound somewhat ominous, predicting a high temperature of 101 degrees every day of the tournament. But that shouldn't come as much of a surprise for this time of year, especially when you consider the 1970 PGA Championship contested at Southern Hills was the hottest major venue in history. That week, when Dave Stockton took home the Wanamaker Trophy, the average temperature was a sizzling 100.3 degrees.
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No. 2 on the hot list was the 1963 PGA Championship at Dallas Athletic Club, which averaged 99.3 for the week. At the awards ceremony that Sunday, Jack Nicklaus -- who won the first of his five PGA Championships that year -- found the trophy too hot to handle, because it had been sitting outside all afternoon in 103-degree heat. That simmering Sunday remains the single hottest day in PGA Championship history, and Nicklaus would eventually wrap a towel around the handles of the trophy just so he could hoist it in victory. Dave Ragan, who finished second to Nicklaus by two shots and is currently the director of golf at Pine Tree Country Club in Birmingham, told me last week it was so hot you had to run in from the parking lot, because if you stood in one spot too long, your spikes would melt into the blacktop.
I find it ironic -- or maybe sadistic -- that the PGA of America chose to return to Southern Hills to commemorate the 20th anniversary of what many consider the hottest major championship in history, the 1987 PGA Championship at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. It remains the last major on the PGA TOUR held in South Florida, and for good reason.
The average temperature was "only" 94 degrees that week, but the brutal combination of the South Florida sun and horrible humidity nearly wilted the field. Larry Nelson and Lanny Wadkins were tied at the end of regulation, with the highest 72-hole score in PGA Championship history (1-under par 287), and eventually Nelson -- an Alabama native, by the way -- survived the heat and won in a playoff. Earlier that week, Arnold Palmer was sweating so profusely, he asked a nearby spectator to run to the tennis shop and buy him some sweatbands. As far as I know, Palmer became the first golfer to wear sweatbands in a major championship.
Certainly those golfers in the best physical condition should have an advantage this week. In the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, Pa., 300-pound amateur champion Chris Patton lasted only eight holes before withdrawing because of the oppressive heat. That same week, Colin Montgomerie left the course with heat stress. (Montgomerie would later bounce back and wind up in an 18-hole playoff with Ernie Els and Loren Roberts, which Els eventually won for his first major championship.) Amazingly, Monty showed up for the playoff that Monday in a dark blue shirt and pants, explaining afterwards that he had run out of clothes. (Couldn't he have bought a white shirt in the pro shop?) Montgomerie eventually wilted in the heat and shot a 78.
There has been talk for years that players should be allowed to wear shorts, but I'm glad they don't. There are some things that should never change, and one of them is the rule of a professional golfer's wardrobe. But one golfer who isn't bothered by the sultry conditions is 2007 Open Championship winner Padraig Harrington, who explained to me earlier this week that once you've played a few tournaments in Malaysia, everything else pales in comparison.
I've never been to Malaysia, but if it's hotter than Tulsa or Birmingham, I don't want to go.