Fans to pick hole location for final round at PGA

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Associated Press

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 3:00 PM

GULLANE, Scotland (AP) — If Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter don't like the hole location for the par-3 15th at Oak Hill in the final round of the PGA Championship, they might want to take it up with the fans.

After all, the fans are going to decide where to put the pin.

The PGA of America announced a contest called "PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge Hosted by Jack Nicklaus."

Fans can go to the PGA's website — www.PGA.com/pickthehole — starting Tuesday through Aug. 10 to vote for one of four options for the hole location. The idea is to educate fans on how a course setup affects strategy, show them the kind of information on hole locations the players are given each day and let them take part in their own way in the PGA Championship.

The final major is Aug. 8-11.

Nicklaus won his record-tying fifth PGA Championship at Oak Hill in 1980 by seven shots over Andy Bean. That had been the largest margin of victory in the PGA Championship until Rory McIlroy won by eight last year at Kiawah Island.

"The idea came up, we spoke to Jack and he was very excited about it," said Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer for the PGA of America.

The 15th hole is 181 yards with bunkers to the left and water along the right side.

The fans won't be able to put the flag wherever they want. Haigh said the 15th green has a number of options for pins, and he has selected four from which the fans can choose. They will not affect where he sets the hole location for the other three rounds.

"They will be four not used during the week," he said. "It's a green that does have plentiful locations because there's water all the way down the length of the hole, and three bunkers. There isn't an easy one. It's difficult. And it's sheltered by a tree on the left, so the wind will influence the shot. It will be fun."

This won't be like throwing darts.

When fans go to the website, they can click one of the four hole locations to get a visual presentation, along with the audio of Nicklaus explaining the differences in how it could affect the shot.

"The chance for golf fans to interact with the PGA Championship and play a role in shaping the outcome of the final round fascinates me," Nicklaus said. "It's like being able to call the shots during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. ... I believe this new concept will serve as an exciting hands-on learning experience for golf fans, and I'm happy to be involved."

Haigh has been in charge of setting up the course for the PGA Championship, Senior PGA and Ryder Cup since 1989.

A sweepstakes will be held in conjunction with the contest, with one prize a chance to get behind-the-scenes experience at the PGA Championship next year at Valhalla.

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PGA BUBBLE: While there is only one month left to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, another points race takes place this week in Canada.

This is the final week to qualify for the PGA Championship, and while it has more PGA Tour players than any other major championship, not everyone is in. The PGA of America has built a reputation of having the strongest field of the majors with most of the top 100 from the world ranking.

There also is "PGA Points" — the top 70 get in — which is all money earned in PGA Tour events from the Bridgestone Invitational a year ago through the Canadian Open. Among those on the bubble are Roberto Castro (No. 69), Matt Jones (No. 70), David Hearn (73), Matt Every (75) and Jeff Overton (79), who only three years ago was screaming, "Boom, Baby!" after holing a fairway shot in the Ryder Cup.

The PGA of America uses this list to fill its 156-man field, which can add a number of spots.

Meanwhile, the head of the PGA's championships says he is taking a close look at Peter Uihlein and Brooks Koepka, two Americans playing in Europe. Neither had status to start the year and both now have a European Tour cards — Uihlein from a European Tour in Portugal, Koepka by winning three times on the Challenge Tour for an instant promotion.

Uihlein is No. 108 in the world, while Koepka is No. 114.

"We're watching both of them very closely," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's chief championships director. "At this point, they have not been invited."

Haigh said he would consider the high ranking based on the limited tournaments they have played this year. He also would take into consideration their standing on money lists outside of the PGA.

"For people like that who are new players, they can't play enough events to compete fairly over the two-year ranking period," he said.

When they're not traveling the world, Uihlein and Koepka are roommates in south Florida.

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BACK TO GOLF: Not to worry — Judy Rankin is not making a comeback on the LPGA Tour at 68.

But she is playing golf again.

Rankin, who worked for ESPN at the British Open, said she played for the first time since 2011 during a family trip to Ruidoso, N.M. She played 10 holes with son Tuey and granddaughter Kendall with mixed results.

"It was the first time I had my hands on a golf club in two years," said Rankin, the first woman to go over $100,000 in one year on the LPGA Tour and a member of the Hall of Fame. "Hit some good ones, hit some bad ones."

One thing she discovered: "If I decide to play again, I'm going to need to get fitted for clubs," she said. "Mine are too big for me."

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OLD CHAMPIONSHIP, OLD WINNERS: Phil Mickelson contributed to an odd slice of history by winning the British Open at age 43. The last three winners of golf's oldest championship were in their 40s, a streak that has never occurred in any major.

Even back in the old days — the really old days — Willie Park Sr. kept Old Tom Morris from winning three straight in his 40s.

Ernie Els and Darren Clarke both were 42 when they won at Royal Lytham and Royal St. George's, respectively. Most of the attention going into the final round was on Lee Westwood, who turned 40 in April and started the day with a two-shot lead.

Age doesn't mean much these days.

"Guys are just hitting their stride. I'm 40 years old, too, like Lee, but I don't feel like I've aged any," Stewart Cink said. "I feel strong. I feel great out there. I think I've got a lot of years left to go."

The next stop is the PGA Championship, where the last three winners have all been in their 20s — Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer.

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DIVOTS: Angel Cabrera tied for 11th in the British Open, moving up to No. 43 to qualify for the Bridgestone Invitational next week at Firestone. ... British Open champion Phil Mickelson has made more money from three majors this year than Inbee Park in winning 15 LPGA events, including her wins in three majors. ... Even though Woody Austin won a PGA Tour event in Mississippi, he is only No. 130 on the FedEx Cup list and might not qualify for the playoffs. ...Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker at the Golf Coaches Association of America national convention Dec. 9-11 in Las Vegas. Rice is to speak on leadership, organizational management and life lessons from golf.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: For the first time in 25 years, the first three majors were won by three players from inside the top 10 in the world — Adam Scott (7), and Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson (5). In 1988, it was Sandy Lyle (3), Curtis Strange (5) and Seve Ballesteros (4).

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FINAL WORD: "I'm not too disappointed. I don't really get disappointed with golf anymore." — Lee Westwood, who had a two-shot lead and tied for third in the British Open.

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