ST. LOUIS – History suggests Bellerive is kind to shortish plodders.
Not at this year’s PGA Championship. Not after Tuesday’s downpour.
According to the on-site rain gauge, 1.1 inches had fallen through midday Tuesday on top of a golf course that was already lush but not wet. Any hope of control players getting a fair shake against the bombers went right out the window.
While Bellerive is a stout 7,316-yard par 70, past championships here have quietly favored straight drivers, well-known par machines and players who pride themselves on precision.
Gary Player and Kel Nagle battled it out here. Tim Clark and Gene Sauers had a shot to win tournaments at Bellerive. Jeff Maggert was low man for the week in 1992 when Nick Price, legendary tee-ball man, won the last PGA played here.
Couple Tuesday’s rain with already lush zoysia grass fairways featuring almost no roll and anyone not in the 320-yard carry club might as well start dreaming about the 2019 Masters.
To his credit, British Open winner Francesco Molinari, who plotted his way around Carnoustie in one of the finer, understated final rounds of all time, is not writing off his chances yet.
“I think if I can play my A-game, if I can play as good as I want to, I can compete on most golf courses.” he said.
Obviously, big hitters will have an advantage, but that was true at Carnoustie with the bunker positioning and many other things.
Jordan Spieth, a member of the sneaky-long club but likely on the permanent waiting list for the silly-carry club, was trying to keep an open mind. After all, it’s just Tuesday.
“The course itself has a lot of – it has a great mix of longer and shorter holes that dogleg both directions,” said the holder of every major title but the PGA Championship. “You’ve got to hit different clubs off the tee, different shots into the greens, and I don’t think it necessarily favors any one kind of player.”
Sorry Jordan. But after the rain moved track conditions from good to sloppy, Bellerive features a bias. With the slow-running fairways and heat-weakened slower greens capable of holding a 737, expect only the bomb and gougers to thrive at Bellerive.
Even a cutting of the rough on Monday to a very kind 2 1/2 inches will further encourage aggressiveness and strip away a few advantages for the precisionists.
“The rough’s a little interesting to me,” Spieth said. “They mowed down grain for a couple yards and then into the grain and then down grain and then into the grain. I’m not sure if it was for aesthetics or what, but that makes it a bit luck-based when you hit the ball into the rough.”
Then again, with enough width, slow-running fairways and plenty of tight turf around the greens, rough will only be a factor for a few wayward tee shots. There should be plenty of those when the bombers start launching their way around Bellerive in what figures to be an all-out assault on par.
Blame Mother Nature.