BIRMINGHAM, AUG. 12 -- Why Shoal Creek was chosen as the site of the PGA Championship has escaped everybody. Even designer Jack Nicklaus has said he never intended it to be a major championship site.
Asked what he had in mind when he designed it 15 years ago, Nicklaus said, "A nice course for the members."
Shoal Creek proved too easy in 1984, when Lee Trevino won with a score of 15 under par. PGA of America officials decided to guard the course this time by growing the bermuda grass rough and toughening the greens. Nicklaus said the conditions were not what he would have recommended, and many other called them an artificial distortion, gimmicks that took skill out of the game and invoked too much luck.
"They got exactly what they wanted," Payne Stewart said. "They didn't want anyone shooting 15 under par."
Nick Faldo, who shot 80 on Saturday, said the course was unreadable. "You stand in the fairway pretty perplexed," he said.
Faldo's initial reaction when he left the 18th green on Saturday was an audible one. He stuck his putter in his bag, stepped into the scorers tent, and screamed, "Whiskey!"
But there were some who maintained it was a good championship course. Larry Mize said the key was, "hitting the fairways, hitting the greens, making the putts. I'd call that skill." Extra-Strength Fertilizer
A number of theories have been advanced as to how the bent grass greens at Shoal Creek got so hard, balls making clearly audible "thonks" as they bounded crazily around. Greens in the southern region are never this firm. First Ben Crenshaw said he thought it was because the club used 200-pound mowers on them instead of 100-pounders, packing the turf.
But greens superintendent Jim Simmons said that's not the case. Rather, he said, it has to do with the "root structure" of the bent grass seeded into the greens. Bent grass in the south tends to get weak, so Simmons used strong fertilizers to strengthen the roots, which compacted the greens, he said. Sounds reasonable. . . .
Faldo's mother wanted him to be an actor when he was a boy. Apparently she has reconciled herself to his choice of a career. "I think she's happy," he said. . . .
It is being said that the reworking of Congressional Country Club, where the greens have gotten a face lift and some holes have been re-routed, has made the course a potential U.S. Open site again in the eyes of the U.S. Golf Association. . . .
The Embassy Suites Hotel, headquarters for a number of players, raised its prices for the week to $200 a night. When some complained, they were told, "This is a special event."