Well put. I should know. His designs have certainly gotten the best of me enough times. But I've never grown tired of playing them.
Starting Thursday, the PGA Championship will be played on his Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. If nothing else, it's interesting. And different. Surely you remember it from 1991, when it hosted the Ryder Cup that officially lifted that biennial event to contentious stature. The infamous "War by the Shore," which the United States finally won when Bernhard Langer narrowly missed a 5-foot par putt on the last hole of his closing match against Hale Irwin. You can't even try that putt any more, since the green was moved closer to the beach when a new clubhouse was put in a few years ago.
That Sunday is probably best remembered for the implosion of Mark Calcavecchia, who (shades of Adam Scott) lost the final four holes to halve his match with Colin Montgomerie. It didn't wind up costing the Americans the trophy, but it did send Calc scampering toward the sand in tears. It can get emotional, particularly when you're not just playing for yourself.
The Ocean Course is just one of Dye's better-known creations. He's the mind responsible for the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, home of the annual Players Championsip, the alleged fifth major. The viewing public probably considers the par-3 17th there as one of the most familiar non-Augusta National or Pebble Beach holes on TV. But Dye has also done the Straits Course at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which has hosted two PGAs with another to come in 2015 followed by a Ryder Cup 5 years later. Then there's Crooked Stick, near Indianapolis, where John Daly burst upon the golf world, for better or whatever, at the 1991 PGA. And Hilton Head's Harbour Town in South Carolina, which holds a popular PGA Tour event each spring. In fact, Dye's Oak Tree, near Oklahoma City, was the site of the 1988 PGA. Overall, 10 Dye layouts have now been the venue for 26 men's and women's championships, including five LPGAs (2005-09) at Bulle Rocke in Havre de Grace, Md. So his work does get recognized, even if it's sometimes controversial.
I've played the Ocean Course four times, if memory serves. And it's brutal in spots, particularly on the way in, especially if the wind is up, which it almost always is. Dye wouldn't want it any other way. I actually made a birdie on No. 1 the first time I navigated it, which happened to be the day after the Ryder Cup. Don't ask. Somehow, about a 40-foot putt managed to find the cup.
The Ocean Course has its moments when the word fun actually is appropriate, mostly on the front side, which is a little shorter. I know that when you make the turn for home, around the 14th tee, the gusts tend to pick up noticeably. I do recall we tried to play beat the pro on the par-3 17th, where Calc hit one of the worst pressure shots ever, with a 2-under into the water. After Monty had already splashed his. Calc wound up missing a 2-footer for double-bogey that would've ended things. We had the same left-to-right gales, from about the same 190 distance the pros had used (this year it's 233). I hit a driver over the green and barely made double. All you could do was laugh. But I wasn't trying to win something for my country. At the hole before, I had a 130-yard approach directly into the breeze and tried to hit a low 4-iron in. Unsuccessfully, I might add. Hey, you do what you do. By the time we walked off I felt like we'd played 36. But it sure beat not having tried it at all.
I wonder how many pros will feel the same way come Sunday afternoon?
"I did not throw up," Calcavecchia recalled. "I felt like it, though."
Also well put.
And probably just as appropriate.
Oops, almost forgot. I have another story from down there, a little more recent. At a golf writer's tournament a few years back, we were playing, I believe, the 18th when one of the guys in our group hit a drive way left into the high native grass. His caddie started to go in to look for the ball, but quickly started backpedaling out. We soon found out why. An alligator, I presume about medium-length, emerged a few seconds later, in no particular hurry. Didn't matter. He had the right of way. Yo, he was there first.
It's that kind of place. Enjoy the coverage.
Contact Mike Kern at email@example.com