Updated: August 12, 2010, 6:55 PM ET

Looks can be deceiving at Whistling Straits

Harig By Bob Harig
ESPN.com
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- If you didn't know any better, it would be easy to think Whistling Straits is on the coast of Scotland.

[+] EnlargeWhistling Straits
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesBesides the views of Lake Michigan, the bunkering at Whistling Straits will be the most noticeable feature at the 92nd PGA Championship.

Lake Michigan is the body of water that borders the course, not the Atlantic Ocean. And those sandy dunes and wispy rough give the appearance of a British links course, with the single-file nature of the holes very much in keeping with the style of play over there.

But this is Wisconsin, and we're here for the PGA Championship.

"It definitely looks more like a links than it plays," Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy said. "Especially with the overnight rain that we had, the course is still very soft, and you wouldn't find a links course in Ireland playing that soft.

"Aesthetically and visually, it does look very much like a links course, but it just doesn't play like one."

Famed golf course designer Pete Dye got his marching orders from owner Herb Kohler: Make it look like Ballybunion.

He moved considerable amounts of dirt to make it happen, and the look is impressive.

But how it plays is very different than a links course in the United Kingdom.

Unlike at St. Andrews, for instance, running shots along the ground simply won't work. Not with much success. The turf is too soft to allow for that kind of game. So in that way, the course plays much like championship courses in America, requiring high iron shots and exact yardages to get the ball close.

"It looks like we're playing overseas somewhere playing in a British Open," Wisconsin native Steve Stricker said. "I feel at home, but when I get out on the course, I don't. It's a little different style than we're accustomed to."

Ryder Cup prospects

For the good part of this year, the U.S. Ryder Cup team has been shaping up as a decided underdog against the Europeans in October. When you consider that Colin Montgomerie could field a pretty strong team from Great Britain and Ireland alone (the way it used to be), it is a pretty scary prospect for U.S. captain Corey Pavin. At the moment, four Europeans ranked among the top 20 -- Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey and Edoardo Molinari -- have yet to even qualify for the team.

But all is not lost for the Americans. Despite the unclear status of Tiger Woods, Pavin has plenty to be encouraged about after a nice showing by Americans at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Hunter Mahan, who has played on the past two Presidents Cup teams and the winning 2008 Ryder Cup team, locked up a spot with his victory. Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar, although potential Ryder Cup rookies, have been playing some of the most consistent golf of any players this year.

And veterans Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk each finished in the top 10 at the Bridgestone.

If Anthony Kim can regain his form after missing three months with a thumb injury and if Woods can bounce back, the U.S. team would not look nearly as vulnerable. Certainly an underdog, but the Ryder Cup has an interesting way of evening out such deficiencies.

Harig's head-scratcher of the week

As he is wont to do, Colin Montgomerie raised more than a few eyebrows over the weekend when he did not shy from the idea of making Bernhard Langer a captain's pick for his European Ryder Cup team.

Perhaps Monty is showing respect to a former captain who picked him in 2004.

And there is no doubt Langer is having a terrific year on the Champions Tour, winning three times overall, including back-to-back majors -- the Senior Open Championship and the U.S. Senior Open. Those back-to-back majors were an impressive feat.

But does it really warrant consideration for a loaded European team?

It would be one thing if the European side lacked experience or firepower.

But Monty already is faced with leaving some significant names off the team. As it stands now, Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington and Edoardo Molinari are not qualified for the team, based on the world points list and European lists used for the team.

All four players are ranked among the top 20 in the world. And that doesn't include Sergio Garcia, who although he is having a tough year, might be in the mix for consideration, too. A pretty prominent player will be left out.

It is hard to believe that Langer even has a chance.

So you want to play ...

Whistling Straits. The site of this week's PGA Championship is open for public play and offers some spectacular views of Lake Michigan and a true links feel -- if not a real links experience.

The Straits course goes for $340, and caddies are required (no carts). The complex also has another course called the Irish with rates of $170.

The Straits first hosted the PGA in 2004 and had the 2007 U.S. Senior Open. The PGA of America has become so enamored of the place that it already has scheduled the return for the PGA in 2015 as well as the Ryder Cup in 2020.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

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