Ernie Els tied for fifth place in the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. (Martin/Getty Images)
By Ernie Els, Special to PGATOUR.COM
To be honest, there’s not much to say about last week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. The course was in great shape, but I felt mentally a little tired and it showed in the pattern of my scoring. That’s forgotten now, though. We went straight to Oak Hill on Sunday and managed to play a few holes in glorious late afternoon sunshine and just being back at this wonderful and historic golf course has really got me fired-up for this week’s PGA Championship.
There are very few courses in the world that have a championship pedigree to match this place. Winners at Oak Hill include Snead, Nicklaus, Trevino and Hogan, who shot a 64 here in 1942, which is pretty incredible!
When we were last here for the PGA in 2003 this Donald Ross-designed golf course was a new look for me, but as soon as we’d played the first practice round it had a big impact. At that time I remember saying it was the best, fairest and toughest championship golf course I’d ever played as a professional. It’s still right up there. It is truly a wonderful layout and one where you have to hit every shot and every club in the bag. You have to drive it solid, hit great iron shots, putt well and think smart. It’s the complete test.
The key visual feature, as the name suggests, are the majestic oak trees that line the fairways and that makes it a great looking golf course. When you combine it with some juicy rough there’s obviously a premium on accuracy off the tee and when you do hit the fairway you’ve got to make it count and make your share of putts. No one’s going to hit every fairway, though, so you’ve got to be able to scramble well, too. Those are the essential qualities that helped me win two U.S. Opens. Trust me, they stand you in good stead in this championship, as well.
Getting here nice and early, and enjoying the luxury of playing a few holes on Sunday afternoon, was a blessing in some ways. It means there’s enough time for me to pace myself – basically, put in the necessary work so that my game is sharp, but also get sufficient rest to make sure I’m mentally fresh for Thursday’s first round. That’s where a good bit of experience can really help you.
OK, I’ll write again soon, but in the meantime you can keep in touch with the latest news through my regular postings on Twitter @thebig_easy
Bye for now.