Even before the opening round of the PGA Championship, we were hearing the moaning and groaning. In a continuing effort to make golf's major tournaments more challenging, officials made Medinah C.C. longer, stretching it to 7,401 yards, the longest of any major tournament in history.
Some of the participants, though, are saying it is too long.
This, of course, is not unexpected. Players griped about the difficulty of the course at the U.S. Open and the British Open. The slope of Pinehurst, they said, was too sloped. The rough at Carnoustie was too rough.
In fact, John Daly got so frustrated with Pinehurst and its sloped greens that he threatened not to play next year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, saying "the courses are set up too unfair."
So far, nobody has threatened to skip next year's PGA Championship. But, hey, it still is early.
"I don't think it's bad to lengthen a course a little ... (but) I would like to see more creative ways to make a course more difficult," said Justin Leonard, who lost the British Open in a playoff. "Do it more strategically, with a bunker here and there, and with the greens instead of just adding 40 yards. Some of the hardest holes we play are short with two precise shots needed."
Who knows what PGA of America officials are telling these guys behind closed doors, but their response to the complaints ought to be this: "Yeah ... and ... ?"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the very essence of a major tournament, to be a supreme test of a competitor's skill? If not, then they might as well play the next PGA Championship at Mangrove Bay in St. Petersburg.
"You want (the course) to be fair under the rules and challenging to the players," PGA official Lee Patterson said. "But that's part of being a PGA Tour professional, handling the challenges that you're confronted with."
If you ask me, the PGA of America is onto something good here. Just think about the past two majors. Can you remember more engrossing and dramatic golf?
Hey, golf can be boring to watch on TV, but it wasn't on those days.
The U.S. Open was pure theater. Only the slightest of errors separated the top four finishers.
The British Open was the same. There can't be many more nerve-wracking final rounds than Jean Van de Velde's. His collapse on the 18th was one of the greatest spectacles in history.
It's no coincidence the U.S. Open's final-round TV rating of 6.8 equaled the second-best for a U.S. Open final round this decade. The final Sunday of the British Open pulled one of its best ratings (4.8) in the past four years despite ongoing coverage of the JFK Jr. tragedy.
Granted, a lot of the success had to do with the competitors' skill. But a lot of it was due to the treachery of the courses, which entailed more innovation than just growing high rough.
"When you have great players in a great setting," NBC official Ed Markey said, "that's what makes for great championships."
We can get too wrapped up in seeing birdies and eagles, in marveling at guys reaching 580-yard par 5s in two shots. We like the flash of sports, the goals, the touchdowns, the home runs.
But by juicing the courses and testing every inch of a pro's ability, we get so much more. We can identify with their struggles on the course _ some of us more so than others. And we can see the kinds of tight, captivating golf we've witnessed the past two majors.
But if you just have to have guys shooting 40 under with 32 birdies and four eagles, then bring next year's PGA Championship to St. Petersburg. Just tell Tiger and Duval and Justin to be patient after their rounds because they only can make so many turkey sandwiches on rye at Mangrove per day.