Forecasted wind may wreak havoc
By David Kraft
CHASKA, Minn. -- Forecasters expect severe thunderstorms over Hazeltine National on Friday night. And in the aftermath, they expect 30-40 mph winds on Saturday.
A serious storm front moved into the Chaska area Friday evening, and it will likely affect Saturday's play as well.
That could turn the PGA Championship upside down.
"Even par could lead this tournament (Saturday)," said Greg Norman, who shot 74 on Friday in relatively calm conditions. "You never know with winds up to 30 miles per hour. This golf course is not designed to play in 30 mile per hour winds, I can tell you that. It's going to be an interesting day, if the weather forecasts stand true."
Justin Leonard, who won his only major in the wind and weather of the British Open at Royal Troon five years ago, can't wait.
"I'd rather see par be a good score," said Justin Leonard. "If the course stayed like it was this morning, it would be more of a shootout. And while I think I can compete, my game and temperament is better suited to par being a good score. And for that to happen this weekend, I think the wind needs to pick up and the golf course needs to dry out a little bit."
The wind is one big weapon Hazeltine National has at its disposal, though usually in smaller doses. The course is the fifth-longest in major championship history, but it plays much shorter, thanks to the prevailing breezes (and the fact that much of the distance is in the par-5s).
"I think par will be about 78,'' leader Fred Funk said Friday of Saturday's forecast.
"People like seeing train wrecks,'' Funk said. "You're going
to see some train wrecks when you have this. Everybody is going to
be struggling in it.''
Thursday, Woods said the wind blew in different directions on parallel holes.
"It's so tough out there to figure out," he said. "It's changing its intensity, but also it's direction."
Woods knows all about wild weather and how it can affect a major championship. He played his third round at the British Open in July amidst wind and rain, and shot an 81, taking him out of contention for the Grand Slam. Ernie Els, playing a little later that day (and missing some of the worst of the weather), shot 72 and went on to win.
In the second round of the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine, the wind blew and scores soared (more than 40 percent of the field couldn't break 80), prompting Dave Hill to make his famous assessment that the course was a "cow pasture."
Hazeltine has matured since, with bigger trees and more protection. But if the wind really blows?
"It affects everything," Leonard said. "It affects what clubs you hit from off the tee. The golf course starts to try out, so it adds a whole lot of factors into your decision-making process. You know, you can hit some good shots and not be rewarded for them when the conditions get difficult."
And from all indications, they will be difficult.
"I hope it blows 50 (mph) tomorrow, so I have a chance," said Chris DiMarco, who's 1-over through 36 holes.
"I'm fine with it if I'm one of the early birds," said Nick Faldo, who's 3-over and will be in the early half of the pairings. "I'll shoot a 59 and I'll be leading by six."
"We'd all like to see a little wind," Norman said. "I think it's better for the better players. It keeps the better players focused and concentrating better."
Apparently, they'll have to.