By The Armchair Golfer
(Editor’s note: I had the opportunity to ask TNT analyst and former PGA Tour player Bill Kratzert a few questions prior to today’s start of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. TNT has 18 hours of coverage on Thursday through Sunday.)
ARMCHAIR GOLF: How are current course conditions?
BILL KRATZERT: The course is in great shape. It’s unusually hot right now and the golf course is not as bouncy and as fiery as you would think it would be. The greens are running as quick as they can, given the undulations in the greens. A lot of the greens have mounding and many of them are turtle back greens, where it filters off each way. As far as the rough is concerned, it was topped off Sunday afternoon after a huge amount of rain. I don’t think they’re going to touch it again. In my opinion, the rough isn’t all that penal right now. It’s very playable. I think there is ample room off the tee. I don’t think that driving the ball extremely straight is going to be a huge factor. Which plays into a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or a Geoff Ogilvy.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Will shorter hitters be able to compete on such an extremely long Hazeltine?
BILL KRATZERT: A lot of people think the longer player has the advantage. But given the fact that of the par 5 holes where a player like [Tiger] Woods or [Phil] Mickelson should capitalize, only one that is reachable — the 7th hole. The other three are not reachable so the long hitters are not going to have any more advantage on those. When you’re looking at a guy hitting with a 7-iron or a 5-iron, a Tim Clark or Brian Gay or Jim Furyk might be as effective with a 5-iron as the longer hitters are with a 7-iron. I’m not discounting the length of the course, but I’m not placing the shorter hitters off to the side.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Other than Tiger, which players are on your radar this week?
BILL KRATZERT: Jim Furyk or Steve Stricker, or I would also look at Lee Westwood. His name keeps coming to mind. He’s never won a major championship, but he has the game. Look at the way he played the Open Championship. He’s out of the playoff by a shot and he bogeyed on the last four holes. Yes, had a birdie in there on the 71st hole, a par 5, but he should have a major championship on his resume already. He’s one guy we should take a good, hard look at. Or, maybe it’s a young guy — a [Camilo] Villegas, Sean O’Hair, or Anthony Kim.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: If you were still playing, what would your game plan be this week?
BILL KRATZERT: I would really concentrate on distance control and, by that, I am referring to the par 5 holes that you can’t reach. Also, the par 3s that are over 200 yards. The 8th hole and 17th hole, they are in the 175, 180 range. Because the rough isn’t that penalizing from what I’ve seen, a lot of it would be distance control. The more times you can put it flag high or just underneath the hole, you’ll benefit from it.