It's a quick turnaround between the season's last two majors, and 2013 British Open winner Phil Mickelson has already dropped into the Rochester area to get in some practice at Oak Hill in advance of next week's PGA Championship. Mickelson has had a busy week since winning the Claret Jug, stopping in for a celebration at Callaway and then spending time in New York for a press assault promoting his math and science ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. The Hall of Famer made radio appearances, rang the bell at the NYSE and played ping-pong with Matt Lauer before heading upstate to scope out Oak Hill.
Before going to Akron for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Mickelson was spotted at the historic Oak Hill taking some cuts alongside his caddie Bones and short-game guru Dave Pelz, who he gives much of the credit for his improved play and five majors over the past decade. The PGA Championship's Twitter account sent out a photo of Lefty in his shorts working with those two at the Donald Ross design:
This is the customary pre-major route for Phil, who practices on the major setup and then typically plays the Tour's event immediately preceding that major championship. He took the same practice tour of Merion in shorts before the U.S. Open. And that two-week stay in Scotland turned out OK.
Graeme McDowell, Rickie Fowler, and Bo Van Pelt are three others in the field at Firestone this week who were instead spending their time at Oak Hill on Monday, according to Brian Wacker of PGATour.com. McDowell tweeted a photo, agape at what he termed nearly one-foot rough greenside at Oak Hill.
The No. 2 player in the world practicing on Monday was followed by the No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods, showing up on the grounds on Tuesday (eventful times in Rochester). Tiger's Tuesday practice was on the schedule, with caddie Joe LaCava there early to mark up and scout the course ahead of Woods. On Tuesday, Tiger was accompanied by LaCava and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, according to Sal Maiorana of the Democrat and Chronicle. The club is, of course, closed to the public until the week of the Championship, but there were some club members, security and media members scattered about to watch the world's No. 1:
CARGO Shorts AND a cart -- pretty rebellious. Tiger will most likely be in Akron by the late afternoon, where he's going for a record eighth win at Firestone this week.
Oak Hill is absolutely one of the best courses the United States has to offer and should be right up there on any top 10 list. But it hasn't hosted a major in a decade, the last being the 2003 PGA. It's clearly a club that's chosen to buddy up with the PGA of America, but is of the quality to host either a U.S. Open or PGA -- it's just unfortunate these days that courses and clubs are generally forced to choose between the USGA and PGA. Oak Hill should be regularly featured in both championships.
The 10-year layoff for the legendary Ross design is not that extreme, especially compared to the 30-year gap between majors at Merion. But it's still a significant stretch, and many of the top American players right now weren't around on Tour then, so there have been plenty of drop-ins over the past year. Of course, what they get when the ropes aren't up could be very different than what Kerry Haigh has set for next week.