Three Things to Know Thursday at Southern Hills
Yes, Tiger is Back!
Usually when the World No. 1, 2 and 3 are grouped together in the first two round of a Major Championship, it’s going to garner the biggest headline of the day.
And even though Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa (1 through 3, respectively) tee off at 1:36 p.m. local time, all of Tulsa may be on the tee at 8:11 a.m. to see Nos. 7, 8 ... and 818. That would be Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and one Tiger Woods, who returns to Southern Hills after winning his fourth PGA title here in 2007. It’s a terrific generational grouping. Spieth is 28; McIlroy is 33; Woods is 46. Between them, 22 major titles.
Woods, still in recovery from an accident in Los Angeles in February of last year that nearly cost him his right leg, has looked good in practice over the past few days. He made the cut at the Masters last month, and figures to be a little bit stronger this week, and walking a course not quite as arduous as Augusta National.
“I've gotten stronger since then,” Woods said Tuesday. “But still, it's still going to be sore and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It's going to be that way for the foreseeable future for sure.”
With a victory, Woods would tie Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus for most PGA victories, with five.
Get Ready for a New Southern Hills
This isn’t the original version of the gem off E. 61st Street in Tulsa. It’s refreshed and popping following a historic renovation from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, with lots of trees removed to open up the golf course.
New tees have been added, running the length to 7,556 yards. The best part? Holes that used to force players into laying up off the tee now are more open and offer many more options. Expect to see more drivers and 3-woods, which is more exciting for fans.
“If I’m a player, I’m going to enjoy playing what it offers,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s Chief Championships Officer.
Also making Opening Day at the 104th PGA extra intriguing? Winds are expected to blow 15-20 mph, with gusts forecast to 25 mph.
Southern Hills has hosted seven men’s majors, and six of those winners are in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Tommy Bolt (1958 U.S. Open), Hubert Green (1977 U.S. Open), Raymond Floyd (1982 PGA), Nick Price (1994 PGA) and Tiger Woods (2007 PGA). The one player who is not in had a pretty nice career, that being Dave Stockton, whose 11 victories included a pair of PGA titles, the first being in 1970.
So, who will join the incredible roster of champions at Southern Hills? Well, don’t sleep on Scottie Scheffler. The 25-year-old out of Texas has had a sensational season already, winning four times (including the Masters last month), arrives in nice form, and happens to love the golf course. He won a Big 12 Conference individual title here in 2015. Southern Hills offers a complete test. As several players have noted this week, a golfer cannot fake it around this place.
“I think in order to win major championships and beat these amazing fields, you've got to have faith in all aspects of your game,” Scheffler said. “You can't really be protecting against anything because you've got to put it all on display out here, and to get around this golf course it's not going to be just pure ball-striking or anything like that. It's going to take a variety of different things in order to play well out here.”