Would any painter retouch a Rembrandt? Would Woody Hayes have hired a pass-crazy offensive coordinator? So why would a golf architect revamp Oak Hill's classic East Course, site of the 1956 and 1968 U.S. Open championships?
This is the course where the 62nd PGA Championship starts Thursday, a layout signficantly different -- and significantly tougher -- than the one on which Lee Trevino won his first major Tournament in 1968. Trevino shot 275, which stood as an open record until Jack Nicklaus' 272 this summer at Baltustrol, and shot a round in the 60s each day, the only man in Open history to do so.
But after that, the U.S. Golf Association frowned on overtures from the suburban Pittsford club for future championships. The Oak Hill membership, wary that the PGA also might not be interested, hired architects George and Tom Fazio to fiddle with Donald Ross' orginal layout.
The old course had certainly identified the best golfers -- Nicklaus, who aced the 15th hole in practice today with a four-iron, finished second to Trevino in 1968, and Cary Middlecoff won the 1965 Open, with Ben Hogan and Julius Boros tied for second. No flukes there.
The Fazios drastically redesigned or rebuilt four holes. The net effect was that two fairly routine par-3s and a good, 440-yard par-4 at which bogey was usually the worst score that could be expected were eliminated.
"One thing Oak Hill never presented to the great players was a really intimidating hole where you could make a big score," Jack Hoff, the tournament's general chairman, said recently. "You can bogey any hole, but we never had a hole that offered a double-bogey or triple-bogey threat."
Now there are two in sucession on the front nine. No. 5 is the rebuilt old No. 6, reduced 21 yards to 419, the green on the edge of a creek and the landing area barley 15 paces wide. All but the longest hitters have to fade the approach because of the new dogleg.
The same creek comes into play on the new No. 6, a 175-yard par-3 in the Fazio tradition, a green that slopes to the water with any nonprecise tee shot in danger of bouncing over the green and into the water.
The restructured course plays 6,954 yards and Trevino, whose 275 total in 1968 was five under, says he can't see any player here avoiding a 72 or 73 in one of the four rounds.
"They've made No. 5 a monster, and No. 6 can be," said Trevino. $"You've got to be patient to win here. You can shoot 74 early and still have a chance to win it, because everybody is going to have at least one 72 or 73."
"This course is set up tougher than Baltusrol," said Tom Watson, the year's leading money winner who took a two-week vacation after winning his third British Open last month. "The winning score will be even par. If we have any wind, the winning score will be over par."
What makes this course difficult is the narrow fairways and thick rough six to 20 feet off the fairways that makes a wedge recovery mandatory. Heavy rain Tuesday night softened the course and, in effect, made the fairways a bit wider because of less roll, a plus for most off the field.
"Anybody that hits it straight off the tee has an advantage here." Watson said. "You have to have all your game, but that's the key element here."
This course, in a parkland setting with a number of stately old trees linning the fairways and ivy covering the Tudor-style clubhouse, also is built to favor left-to-right hitters.
The local folks seem to be behind Trevino.
"He should be the favorite here," said Watson. "He's won here."
But Watson certainly is not discounting his chances. "It took me a while to come down from winning the British Open," he said. "I spent the time with freinds, my parents, Linda (his wife) and the baby. I'm refreshed and ready to play here."
Twelve years ago, when he had barley started amassing his $2.5 million in tour earnings, Trevino was virtually ignored here.
"I used to sit on a cart outside the press tent and drink beer after each round," he said today. "Everybody passed me by. I guess they thought I was the bag boy."