On the eve of the seasons second major, the top professionals in the world, are days, even weeks, into their preparation. Southern Hills, the Perry Maxwell gem, which was magnificently updated in 2018-2019 by Gil Hanse, is ready for playing PGA Championship host, for the 5th time in its history.
The players face a mighty challenge with large and undulating greens, a signature of Maxwell. Before Hanse’s renovation, the putting surfaces had edges that would save wayward shots from rolling off…today, that is a thing of the past. Short game, like in most major championships, will be one of the biggest deciding factors this week.
In addition, through the Hanse update some 3 to 4 years ago, the rough was basically removed, and it’s now short grass throughout. At first, that may seem to be to the players advantage, however, many of the creeks that once ran throughout the course, only to have been filled in over the years, were reopened during Hanse’s remastering. The combination will cause crooked tee shots to run out, and potentially find these rejuvenated water features.
This is definitely not the same course Tiger won on in 2007.
The course is ready, all be it, in a slightly different way from years past, but make no mistake, most of the field is ready as well.
What are the things the pros are focusing on during their prep, and what you can learn from it?
Much like I spoke of back in April, at The Masters, each player has a unique and specific way that they lay out their practice schedule. In general terms however, we see many follow a playbook similar to below…
Two range sessions, each day, with one usually in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Work in those sessions checking data from a radar of some sort
Work on hitting shots required for that week based on layout, how susceptible greens will be, what type of weather they may face, wind direction, etc.
Extensive short game sessions
Working on chipping, pitching and bunker play in terms of technique
Working on chipping, pitching and bunker play in terms of how the ball will react on the greens that week
Extensive putting sessions
Working on technique
Working on getting a feel for how the greens will roll that particular week
On course/Practice Rounds
Typically play 9 or 18 holes at least two times total, Monday through Wednesday (some have played the course a few times in the weeks leading up to the event)
Not typically playing for score, but rather, hitting a variety of shots based on potential situations that may arise during tournament rounds (Example: dropping balls around greens hitting short game shots to pin positions for the week)
Getting yardages, from various spots on each hole, to use as intel during tournament play
While this is a job for the professionals teeing it up this week, there is still much you can learn from how they prepare. With this knowledge, on how they prep, you can pick out bits and pieces and adapt it to your own routine. Playing great golf, like those in the field at the 104th PGA Championship hope to play, is all about the preparation.