Since the return to golf in early June, steamy conditions have been the norm, with above-average temperatures in places like Fort Worth, Texas; Hartford, Connecticut; and last week in Memphis.
That’s not the case this week at TPC Harding Park, however, as San Francisco’s chilly, foggy setting has given the PGA Championship a divergent backdrop from the Tour’s previous events. According to meteorologists, lows are expected to be in the mid-50s and high temps barely reaching 70, with light rains intermittently rolling through.
How will the world’s best handle these conditions at the year’s first major? Here’s what they’ve had to say.
On his impressions of the golf course and the weather being colder compared to previous PGA Tour events.
“I might be the wrong person to ask since I haven’t seen the golf course yet. It’s going to be a short answer. All I’ve seen is the chipping green and the range. I can tell you in a couple hours once I’ve played nine holes, but it looks like obviously this West Coast weather, a little bit cooler, chances of rain. Rough is going to be nice and healthy and thick, and it looks like fairways, from what I’ve seen, are decently narrow, right, so major championship golf, we just need to play good in every part of your game and have confidence in every part of your game and hopefully be the one standing alone on Sunday.”
On if the temperature being cooler and air heavier in San Francisco makes a difference and how he makes adjustments.
“No, there will be a difference. I think we all have our monitors, whatever we have, early in the week to see the difference. Especially being somebody who lives in Arizona, the difference is going to be significant. But at the same time, where I grew up in Spain is pretty much like this. Same weather year-round, same type of climates and — well, that’s the same thing.
“But same, let’s say, environment around, same type of golf course. It’s going to be pretty much like going back to Spain playing golf when I was growing up. Weather shouldn’t bug me, something I’m used to, and yeah, need to get used to how far the ball is going. For the most part, we’ll be able to predict most of it. It’s just when the wind picks up, knowing it’s that humid air, a little bit heavier, it will affect it more than it has in some places. Yeah, it’s almost closer to what we play on The European Tour, which I’ve done decently well on, so hopefully I can this week.”
On if the cooler weather in San Francisco makes a difference in his game.
“Yeah, I was anywhere from 10 to 13 yards shorter with a very similar swing and ball speed with the irons, and the driver is up to 20 yards shorter in carry, and that’s normalized on the TrackMan. Yeah, it’s very different. I mean, I played nine holes each day already, so I’ve seen the golf course, and I would say it’s been harder for me to hit — to commit to some of the clubs first time around, so I’m glad that I’ve played some holes and been able to hit in some crosswinds into the wind and really see how much of an effect it really has. But I’m used to playing the AT&T there at Pebble Beach every year in February, and we get very similar conditions to this.”
On how tough TPC Harding Park is playing and what the biggest challenges are?
“Yeah, it’s very tough. I played the back nine today. It was pretty meaty there. 11, 12, 13, 14 are tough, and then on the front nine you kind of get a mixture of a couple holes where you feel like you can get at them, and then you get two or three or four in a five-hole stretch where you’ve just got to kind of hold on. The rough is up around the greens. It’s not extremely difficult around the greens as far as leaving yourself short-sided. The bunkers are very playable. There’s not big lips and the sand is pure, so you don’t get in trouble if you miss shots in the sand out here.
“But with these conditions, if we get cooler weather and some wind picking up, then you’re looking at more of a 10 under. But if the wind dies down and it heats up a little bit, I think you’re in a situation where if guys are really controlling the ball tee to green, the greens are a very makeable speed and there’s not a ton of slope to them, so you could see some lower scores potentially. I think we’re kind of forecasted somewhere in between the two, and so my expectation going out is to try and — is not a hold on for dear life, par is a great score, but it’s also not a let’s fire at flagsticks. It’s kind of somewhere in between where a few under is a solid round.”
On his thoughts on the golf course so far and how it compares to other PGA Championships.
“Yeah, the fun thing about the PGA is that I feel like we play a wide variety of golf courses. All great golf courses, but I mean, I didn’t play Bethpage last year, but this is different than Bethpage. It’s way different than Quail Hollow. It’s different than — I’m trying to think — different than Bellerive, different than Baltusrol. Yeah, it’s just — they’re all different, but they’re all good tests for what they are. It’s interesting for that reason.
“But this course is great. It’s fun. It’s right in front of you. It’s not tricked up. You just have to hit the fairways. You have to have control of your ball. I mean, I’ve only played 18 holes, but it seems pretty difficult in my eyes. I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenge this week than maybe some in the past.”
On his impressions of the rough, and I guess how deep rough needs to be to be significant if he has a short iron or a wedge for an approach.
“It all kind of depends. The rough out here is pretty thick. You can get some pretty juicy lies and not advance it very far. But it all depends. Is it going to be wet? I think it will be, especially in the mornings, so it could be quite tough to control your distance, spin, things like that. But I don’t think it’s overly bad right now. Come Sunday, might be different. Might grow two inches, who knows, an inch. Anything could make a big difference. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen.”
On the rough at TPC Harding Park and how deep does rough needs to be to be effective from shorter range.
“Well, it’s definitely thick enough this week to be a factor. I played the back nine for the first time yesterday, and I think it’s about a 50/50 chance as far as the lie. I’ve had two lies yesterday on Hole 12 that were three feet apart. One I could easily get a 7-iron on and the other one I was just trying to hack out 40, 50 yards. It’s almost luck of the draw when you hit it in the rough. I think you’re going to see some guys get fortunate and hit it on to the green and I think you’ll see some guys hack it out and not hit it anywhere.
“The length I think is perfect, perfect length just to have it be tough. Again, I think it’s just luck of the draw. I think it’s a 50/50 show of having a shot at the green and having to lay up hitting it in the rough here on all these holes.”
On the weather in San Francisco and how it impacts swing preparations.
“I think that for me when it’s cooler like this, it’s just make sure that my core stays warm, layering up properly. I know I won’t have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida where it’s 95 every day. That’s just the way it is. Talking to some of the guys yesterday, they were laughing at their TrackMan numbers already. They don’t have the swing speed or ball speed they did last week. It’s just the way it is. It’s going to be playing longer. It’s heavy air whether the wind blows or not, but it’s still going to be heavy. The ball doesn’t fly very far here. I’ve known that from all the years and times I’ve had to qualify up in this area. It’s always 20 degrees cooler here than it is down there in Palo Alto. We knew that coming in. I think the weather forecast is supposed to be like this all week: Marine layer, cool, windy, and we are all going to have to deal with it.”
On how TPC Harding Park is different than his previous times playing.
“It’s not as long. It’s a par-70; it’s not as long numbers-wise, but the ball never goes very far here. It plays very long, even though it’s short on numbers. This golf course in particular, the big holes are big and the shorter holes are small. It can be misleading. They have; pinched in the fairways a little bit and the rough is thick; it’s lush. With this marine layer here and the way it’s going to be the rest of the week, the rough is only going to get thicker, so it’s going to put a premium on getting the ball in play.
“I’m still a bit surprised that the surrounds are not as fast as they are and they’re not cut short and tight, but they are grainy. Into-the-grain shots, where the balls are popping in and rolling out. Downgrain you can spin pretty easily and you can spin it either way. It’s going to be a test, with the overhang of these cypress trees and the ball — there may be a couple lost balls here; cut a corner and ball hangs up there, that could happen very easily here and has happened and I’m sure will this week as well.”
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