Of the top 16 players in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, only one of them made the top 20 at last weekend’s US PGA Championship.
Jon Rahm finished tied eighth at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course – the rest of the players who top the PGA Tour rankings didn’t really manage to get in the hunt.
That suggests the Ocean Course is a different challenge to what the players are used to on a weekly basis on the PGA Tour.
The design of the course had a lot to do with that.
Pete Dye is arguably the greatest modern golf architect out there and the Ocean Course is another superb example of his work. I feel the mind needs to be pushed a bit more than is sometimes the case in regular tournaments.
The layout at Kiawah Island certainly made the players think.
If you know it is a massive penalty for missing a fairway then it stresses the mind a lot more.
That is how you separate the good players who have multiple tour wins from the great players who are constantly competing in majors.
They can deal with that challenge because they have better mental discipline or a greater armoury of shots to deal with the conditions and course set-up.
Phil Mickelson is a good exponent of that.
If you get a left-to-right wind and you can only hit a cut you are going to struggle for long stretches of the golf course.
Dustin Johnson won the Masters at 20-under but that was as close to a PGA Tour set up as you could find because it was so soft as it was played in November.
I think it is a more engaging watch for most golf fans when courses play tough. It is certainly more relatable when you watch players struggle.
It is more entertaining to watch a player make a couple of birdies and then make an eight on the next hole than watching players ease around a course with a collection of birdies and eagles.
We often talk about the advantage left-handed golfers have at The Masters but the US PGA Championship was very similar.
We have so few left-handed golfers that it can be a major advantage for them when the conditions play into their favour.
Augusta is a prime example.
It isn’t really an advantage for a right-handed player as 95% of the field are playing under the same conditions.
But when you have only three or four left-handed players it could make a major difference to their chances of being successful.
I wonder if that played a part in Phil Mickelson’s victory, especially with the way the wind direction was on certain holes.
The wind on holes 8 to 13 were into the wind and off the left so for a right-handed player that is a terrible wind but for a left-handed player that is pretty good.
Padraig Harrington said the difficulty of the course made it easier for him to compete.
I fully agree with that. This was a course that put a premium on accuracy.
Players who missed the fairways at Kiawah were punished severely.
From a mental perspective, that can be very challenging for players who maybe aren’t as accurate off the tee.
On some courses you can be miles off line but the rough isn’t too penal and it can be easy enough to knock the ball on the green even if they are 20 yards off line.
That wasn’t the case at the US PGA Championship and the final leaderboard was testament to the need for accuracy over power, even though it was the longest course in major history.
The other great aspect of the US PGA was that it proved that age is no barrier in golf, particularly on the right track.
Phil Mickelson might be the other side of 50 but you can never rule him out on a course that demands a little bit more thought.
He is a fantastic iron player and can get streaky with the putter.
He was a deserving champion and it was a riveting watch.
Golf should be rewarded with return of fans
It was great to hear there will be a limited number of fans at this year’s Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in July.
The players will be delighted to get some atmosphere back at events.
With everything starting to open up again and other sporting events having supporters on a limited basis it is the right thing to do.
Golf has shown it has been very careful with following the rules and it deserves to be rewarded with being able to get people back in, especially with the size of the golf courses we play.
If there any sport where it feels you can socially distance safely, golf must be near the top of the list.