Since the reopening of TPC Harding Park, I’ve had the pleasure to play it twice. What I love about Harding is the history I feel while playing it, and the vistas on the back nine of Lake Merced and The Olympic Club across the lake.
This will not be a 7500 yard course for the 2020 PGA Championship, but will provide a good test for the best players in the world. The first time I played the course I hit about half the fairways off the tee and struggled a bit with the deep and thick rough. But because the tees are well forward I was always able to get my deep rough second shots to the green with short iron shots.
On this Glorious Thursday last week it was warm (about 70 degrees) with light winds and firmer fairways. My initial prediction of the winning score in this years PGA was 8-12 under par. After my round on Thursday where I shot a 65 from the blue tees that included a hole in one on the par three 3rd hole (8 iron from 156 yards) I have now adjusted that prediction to 12-16 under par.
But keep in mind those of you that know Harding, the pros play par 5’s 9 and 12 as a par 4 in the PGA Championship. So my rounds of 65 would have been -5 not -7. Also I drove the ball in the fairway making the course very short from tees that put the total yardage at about 6700.
Yes the fairways are very narrow, and the firmness will allow tee shots to bound into the rough, BUT those that put the ball in the fairways will have many opportunities for birdie on these super smooth and very puttable green surfaces. There are birdie holes abound with the short par 4 holes #1, #5, #8, #15 and 16. And the long hitters will even make the signature 18th hole a short iron as they chew off Lake Merced to reach land on the other side making this a short par 4 hole as well.
Remember the longer hitters can fly the ball 280-310 yards in the air. The air at Harding by the Pacific Ocean can be quite dense, thick and cool. But on a day like Thursday last week, the ball is going to fly far allowing these pros to go LOW.
This time around the course I did see some workers moving some things around, and putting up some tents. I heard the locker room for the players will now be the Merchandise tent to allow players to properly social distance themselves. There will be NO spectators, but what about the hundreds of volunteers needed for scoring and ball location in the rough? I would imagine that most of those volunteers will still be needed.
I really hope that the 2020 PGA Championship comes down to the 72 hole.This final hole has a lot of risk vs reward associated in how much of the Lake are you willing the cut off. During the WGC at Harding when Daly and Tiger played off, they both hit wedge/sand wedge into this green after bombing tee shots that carried over 300 yards in the air. The prevailing wind is behind the player on this tee shot typically.
In early August typically San Francisco experiences deep and thick fog, especially close to the coast. So my prediction is the weather will play a big part in this years event.