99th PGA Championship
Credit: Montana Pritchard/PGA of America/PGA

Kerry Haigh may be making more audibles than he typically does setting up the PGA Championship with San Francisco’s marine layer and heavy air surprising more than the players with its effect on shot making this week.

With TPC Harding Park originally set to host the major championship in the spring, Haigh, the Chief Championships Officer for the PGA of America, is seeing the impact three months can make, with thick, cool air unexpectedly changing the nature of play. 

“The ball is not traveling quite as far . . . That's certainly an interesting twist to what we will all see this week,” he said.

Haigh is learning a lot watching practice rounds.

“I've been looking out there seeing where balls are landing,” Haigh said. “I'm surprised that some of the clubs that the players are having to hit into some of the greens. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.”

Haigh said some of the par 4s are playing “significantly longer” than he anticipated.

“We will make adjustments each and every day during the championship, be it easing up on a hole location, turning a hole location, moving a tee up or not,” Haigh said. “That's all part of the fun and the mystique of trying to set up a golf course for the best players in the world.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Haigh minds seeing players hitting longer shots into greens. He just wants to make sure the challenge remains within the vision of what makes TPC Harding Park worthy of hosting its first major championship.

“I think, as we do for every year at our championship, we just try and set the golf course up so it is a fair test of golf, that it's a stern test of golf, that the good shots are also rewarded, and birdies, eagles are available,” he said. “But, also trouble and bad shots can and should be punished.”

Like a good baseball umpire, Haigh said he doesn’t want people to notice his team’s work. He wants the competition to be the story. He doesn’t care what the winning score is.

“It could be 20-under; it could be 2-under,” he said. “That doesn't matter. It's more important that it is a fair and challenging test of golf for the best players in the world, because they are so unbelievably good at playing the game. It's just going to be a pleasure to see them play a course like Harding Park.”

Rory McIlroy, a two-time PGA Championship winner who won the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park in 2015, has faith Haigh will get it right.

“I've always liked how PGA Championship setups have been for me,” McIlroy said. “I think they're fair. You look down a fairway at a PGA Championship, and it's sort of the same width the whole way down to the green. A lot of courses, they try to pinch it in at 320, and try to handcuff the longer hitters, whereas here the courses just let you play, which I like.

“I think Kerry Haigh and his team do a great job. I think Kerry is one of the best in the business at setting courses up. I've always said that."

Latest News