Eubanks: Who's the Fairest of Them All?
It’s a double-edged sword being known by the players as the overseer of the "fairest" major.
If they like you too much, you could be perceived as a pushover, a “buddy” who won’t commit to pushing the limits and drawing blood from the best in the game.
Some people will never suffer that problem, no matter what. There is no kinder person in the world than Sandy Tatum, but when he was in charge of the USGA he was accused of being a masochist. Tatum is the man who, when asked why he would want to embarrass the players, famously said, "We’re not trying to embarrass the best players; we’re trying to identify them."
Kerry Haigh, the managing director of championships for the PGA of America, doesn’t flinch at being called the "fairest of them all." In fact, he considers it the ultimate compliment.
"We look at every golf course for the PGA Championship and try to set it up in a way that we think is fair but challenging," Haigh said prior to the first shot of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island.
This course was considered the hardest in the world when it hosted in the 1991 Ryder Cup. At the time Nick Faldo said, "If we had to play this place with a pencil and a scorecard, we might never finish." But when the Senior PGA Championship was held in 2007, nine-under won.
Now Haigh is under some criticism for the fact that all sandy areas - on what is, by any measure, a very sandy golf course - will be played as “through the green.”
Even though everyone assumed the move was a reaction to the Dustin Johnson debacle at Whistling Straits in 2010, Haigh was quick to point out that being able to ground your club, take practice swings, and remove loose impediments in areas most golfers would call bunkers was a local rule for the Ryder Cup in 1991 and the Senior PGA in 2007.
"We think it’s the fairest and the best way to play," Haigh said. "It’s certainly a unique golf course, which warrants this. As those of you who have been out on the course have seen, there are some areas of sand that start at the green and literally go the entire length of the hole, and in some cases all the way down the paths and all the way out onto the beach. To try to ask players to determine which would be bunkers and which are not – this is how we feel is the best way to play it."
No one thinks this golf course will be easy. But Haigh doesn’t get caught up in those kinds of descriptions.
"I was at Oak Hill last week for next year’s PGA Championship and we had a trial run there, started looking at the rough heights and green speeds," he said.
"That’s what we do at every PGA Championship. We try to plan ahead and think about how we can test the greatest players in the world. Our aim is just to showcase the golf course, work with the architect, and hopefully provide a great test for the players so that they can enjoy the challenges that the golf course offers."