All-new challenge awaits at PGA Championship

Atlanta Athletic Club's renovated course promises a longer, tougher test for golf's finest when the 93rd PGA Championship begins on Thursday, compared to the face it presented in 2001.

Updated: August 08, 2011 19:00 IST
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Atlanta, Georgia: Atlanta Athletic Club's renovated course promises a longer, tougher test for golf's finest when the 93rd PGA Championship begins on Thursday, compared to the face it presented in 2001.

Tiger Woods, seeking his first title since November of 2009, called the revamped 7,467-yard, par-70 layout "wonderful" after a practice round a week ago, adding, "It should be a great test for a major championship."

The 14-time major champion, unable to play a full round since the Masters in April until last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational due to nagging left knee and tendon injuries, tees off Thursday with US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love and Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

"It's certainly way different than we played in '01," Woods said. "If they play it all the way back from the markers, it's seven par-4s over 450, so it's going to be a pretty long test.

"Granted, it's going to be hot, so the ball is moving, it's flying. Drive the ball in the fairway, you're probably a club longer just because of the heat. But still, it's much, much longer than what we played in '01."

David Toms collected his only major title a decade ago at Atlanta Athletic Club, solving the course's most troublesome holes with a Saturday hole-in-one at the par-3 15th and a lay-up par on the 72nd hole on Sunday for the victory.

Toms found the rough off the tee at 18 in the final round but a perfect lay-up to 84 yards, a sand wedge to 12 feet and a tense title-winning par putt made him Major Toms.

"I hit a perfect lay-up with a pitching wedge and I hit a full 60-degree sand wedge in, so it couldn't have been any better as far as the way I laid it up in a good spot," Toms recalled.

"But they have changed that hole. There's a bunker in the lay-up zone now and the water comes in on the left on the tee shot more. I remember that tee shot you really couldn't see the water. You knew it was there."

A Rees Jones redesign in 2006 saw every green, tee area and bunker rebuilt with an extra 273 yards added.

The bunker on the right side of the lay-up landing area and a pond pinching the left side of the fairway and fronting the green promises to add to a 507-yard 18th hole already dramatic enough, especially with tricky rough.

"If you drive the ball in the rough, you can't get to the greens," Woods warned. "It's just that thicky Bermuda where it's just thin enough where the ball just doesn't sit up, it sits down every time."

Toms smacked a 5-wood for his ace at the 15th, for many the most vivid memory of the week.

"David Toms holed it there with the technology and the ball then versus now," Woods said. "We played a center pin from the back tee and it was 265. Not too many par-3s you play at 265. It's going to be a very trying test."

World No. 1 Luke Donald of England agreed.

"Stewart Cink went there, he posted a picture on Twitter of the 15th hole, which was 260 or 265 yards -- not my most enjoyable holes when they're that long for par-3s," World No. 1 Luke Donald of England said.

The 18th saw 172 bogeys or worse in 2001 and could be even more formidable this time around.

"I remember it being a very good but extremely difficult golf course," said Darren Clarke, the 42-year-old Northern Irishman who won his first major last month at the British Open at Royal St. Georges.

Donald expects a stern version of the weekly challenges he faces on tour.

"It's going to be a tough test," Donald said. "It will be warm. The ball will be flying. It just seems like every week we play long, hard golf courses, so I don't think it'll be too much of a change."

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