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GOLF/ PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Hazeltine might be just long enough

Big hitters could lose their advantage on the par-fives, if they can't go for them in two.

August 13, 2009|Teddy Greenstein

CHASKA, MINN. — Hazeltine National will play so long for the PGA Championship, even Corey Pavin likes his chances.

It's true -- even though Pavin is the wimpiest hitter on the PGA Tour, with an average drive of 259.4 yards, an entire first down shorter than Brian Gay, who ranks 200th among the tour's 201 measured players.

Pavin loves that Hazeltine National could play to a major champion-record 7,674 yards, depending on the setup.

Why? Because three of the four par-fives are all but unreachable for the tournament that begins today, meaning players will approach the greens with wedges or nine-irons. And that favors scrappers such as Pavin.

"It will be the same boat for everybody," he said. "It's good. I think it does open the field, definitely."

At 7,674 yards, the par-fives would measure 633 (No. 3), 572 (No. 7), 606 (No. 11) and 642 (No. 15) yards.

Godzilla would struggle to get home in two on No. 3 or No. 15.

Rich Beem, PGA Champion in 2002, the last time the tournament was played here, made the only eagle on No. 11 that year. A bunker has been added short of the green to make the reach even more daunting.

Big hitters will go for No. 7 in two, but if they miss short or left they'll need a Speedo to retrieve their ball. Justin Leonard laid up four times in 2002 and made four birdies.

"The only one I really see a decent percentage of the field having a go at is [No.] 7," said Jim Furyk, who ranks 180th in driving distance. "A third of the field won't be going for any of those par-fives. That might be a little bit of an equalizer."

Hazeltine National has added 319 yards to its official length of seven years ago. That has rubbed some players wrong.

"This thing is just long," Beem said. "I mean, it's just excessively long, and it's nowhere near the same golf course that it was. But it's the state of the modern game, I guess. In order to make it harder, just make it longer."

British Open champion Stewart Cink described the course as "monster long," and added, "I'm wearing out the two-, three-, four- and five-irons out there -- and the driver, of course. When you look down the list on the back nine: 475, 642, 248, 518-yard par-four, 606. It just never ends."

Other players said it's a stretch to suggest that the course's length will harm the championship.

"I don't think the length is such a big deal from what it's been made out to be," defending champion Padraig Harrington said. "If we were playing this golf course in Ireland, it would be a long golf course. But in the heat, the ball goes a long way."

Besides, Colin Montgomerie said the longer hitters should have an edge -- even though he is not one of them.

"Length has always been a wonderful asset to have, a terrific advantage," he said. "[Like] Andy Roddick serving at Wimbledon."

Montgomerie said that if tournament organizers really want higher scores, they should shrink and firm up the greens.

Lee Westwood hopes it doesn't come to that.

"We're in the entertainment industry," he said. "I mean, I'd rather watch people make birdies rather than hitting into the rough and hack out and make bogey. Wouldn't you?"

That question elicited some chuckles from reporters.

"Maybe you're sadistic," he said good-naturedly. "I don't know."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

PGA Championship

When: Today-Sunday.

Where: Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minn.

Length: 7,674 yards; Par: 36-36 -- 72.

Defending champion: Padraig Harrington.

TV (all times PDT): Today and Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., TNT; Saturday and Sunday, 8-11 a.m., TNT; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Channel 2.

Today's tee times

HOLE 1 (all times PDT)

5:15 a.m. -- D.J. Trahan, Keith Dicciani, Briny Baird

5:25 a.m. -- Carl Pettersson, Mitch Lowe, Paul Goydos

5:35 a.m. -- Scott Verplank, Craig Thomas, Thongchai Jaidee

5:45 a.m. -- Rod Pampling, Anthony Wall, John Mallinger

5:55 a.m. -- Bo Van Pelt, Nick Dougherty, Nathan Green

6:05 a.m. -- Robert Allenby, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson

6:15 a.m. -- Chris Wood, J.B. Holmes, Richard Sterne

6:25 a.m. -- Chad Campbell, Mathew Goggin, Peter Hanson

6:35 a.m. -- Shaun Micheel, Michael Campbell, Mark Brooks

6:45 a.m. -- David Smail, Michael Miles, Aaron Baddeley

6:55 a.m. -- Brian Gay, Soren Hansen, Sean O'Hair

7:05 a.m. -- Michael Bradley, Brian Gaffney, Michael Sim

7:15 a.m. -- Brett Quigley, Todd Lancaster, Kevin Streelman

10:25 a.m. -- John Merrick, Grant Sturgeon, Woody Austin

10:35 a.m. -- Francesco Molinari, Lee Rinker, Ryuji Imada

10:45 a.m. -- Charles Howell III, Ryan Benzel, Darren Clarke

10:55 a.m. -- Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, Adam Scott

11:05 a.m. -- Miguel Angel Jimenez, Geoff Ogilvy, Bubba Watson

11:15 a.m. -- Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Steve Elkington

11:25 a.m. -- Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker

11:35 a.m. -- Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink

11:45 a.m. -- Paul Azinger, Phil Mickelson, David Toms

11:55 a.m. -- Justin Leonard, Retief Goosen, Jeev Milkha Singh

12:05 p.m. -- Jerry Kelly, K.J. Choi, Luke Donald

12:15 p.m. -- Ben Crane, Eric Lippert, J.J. Henry

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