The 2007 PGA Championship at Oklahoma’s Southern Hills was so hot it melted Adam Scott’s brain. Well, at least his memory.
Tiger Woods won that PGA, the last Major held at Southern Hills, when temperatures exceeded 40C every day and the humidity made it feel like high 40s. More than 260 people were treated for heat related illnesses.
The 41-year-old Scott – the only Australian at this week’s PGA Championship who played the 2007 edition at Southern Hills – does not even remember where he finished that year.
This writer reminds him he tied 12th, 10 shots behind Woods.
“Did I? I’ve been telling everyone I finished like 35th because I can’t even remember,” Scott told Australian Golf Digest at Southern Hills on Tuesday. “Well, tied 12th was not a bad effort. It was so bloody hot. It was the hottest Major I’ve ever played in.
“It was also a completely different course,” adds Scott about renowned architect Gil Hanse’s restoration of the Perry Maxwell golden age course in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It’s been opened up a lot and they are really good improvements, I think.”
World No.39 Scott is the second best-ranked Australian of the eight who are contesting this PGA Championship, behind No.4 Cam Smith. Scott has been in solid form, with four top-10s across the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. But lately, he’s finished 32nd at the Byron Nelson and 48th at the Masters.
Scott’s ball-striking has suffered while adjusting to several equipment changes, such as new TaylorMade driver and woods. He is ranked 75th on the PGA Tour for driving and 56th for approach play. But Scott is confident he’s grooved the equipment changes to a level where he’s ready to strike the ball close to his brilliant best.
The Queenslander is chasing a second Major victory to go with his 2013 Masters win at Augusta. Scott feels it could come this year. Even if it doesn’t come at the PGA, there’s the US Open at Brookline and the Open at St Andrews. Scott has his eye on St Andrews particularly given he held a share of the lead on Sunday at the 2015 Open at St Andrews.
“I think so,” Scott said when asked if he could win Major No.2 this year. “You want to feel confident and arrive at the Majors with some consistency in everything, from putting to the way you’re training to how you’re seeing all the shots you need to hit.
“I feel there’s been a few moving parts in my bag and game this year, but it’s ironed out and in a comfortable spot now. I generally feel really good. I just need to find out how to get the best of myself at the Majors, and not just play average.”
The PGA Championship has had a reputation among the four Majors as the big hitter’s championship – the Major usually won with a bomb-and-gouge approach. But not this year. It’s architecturally exquisite and the challenging approaches and green complexes require a golfer to think. Southern Hills is also a brut; it measures 7,556 yards as a par 70.
“Hitting greens will be so crucial this week, because there are some slopes to the greens and I’m not comparing it to Riviera (Country Club in Los Angeles) but it’s similar in that you have to hit good shots to get it close,” Scott said. “If you’re not close, two putts are tough. It’s a demanding course even from the fairways.”
The greens are boldly contoured, making long putts tricky. But Scott welcomes the challenge given putting is the strongest part of his game; he ranks 21st on the PGA Tour for strokes gained in putting.
“The short game and the putting are in a really good spot and that helps the confidence because I don’t really have bad rounds,” he said. “They are there to back up any bad days with the full swing. Hopefully, everything is firing this week.”
Scott will be joined in the field at the PGA by seven other Australians, including in-form Smith, Cam Davis, 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day, Lucas Herbert, Matt Jones, Min Woo Lee and Marc Leishman. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox is in the field, fresh off finishing third at the DP World Tour event in Belgium last week.
AUSTRALIAN TEE TIMES RD 1:
Cam Davis, Matt Kuchar, Rikuya Hoshino: 7.55am Thursday/10.55pm AEST
Cam Smith, Viktor Hovland, Will Zalatoris: 8am Thursday/11pm AEST
Matt Jones, Richard Bland, Garrick Higgo: 8.28am Thursday/11.28pm AEST
Min Woo Lee, Ryan Brehm, Wyatt Worthington II: 12.30pm Thursday/Friday 3.30am AEST
Adam Scott, Shane Lowry, Brooks Koepka: 1.03pm Thursday/Friday 4.03am AEST
Marc Leishman, Martin Kaymer, Keegan Bradley: 1.20pm Thursday/Friday 4.20am AEST
Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Harold Varner III: 1.25pm Thursday/Friday 4.25am AEST
Lucas Herbert, Chad Ramey, Austin Hurt: 2.15pm Thursday/Friday 5.15am Friday AEST