PITTSFORD, NY – It’s a sequel 10 years in the making. In the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship, everybody’s favorite Dockers-wearing pro, Jason Dufner, starred in “Soak Hill,” biting off Oak Hill’s head and sucking out its lungs after a 36-hour rainstorm declawed the golf course. His 63, ignited by a hole-out eagle at the second, tied what was then the major championship single round scoring record. He rode that 63 all the way to the Wanamaker Trophy, besting Jim Furyk by two shots.
But it wasn’t just Duff Daddy who took Oak Hill to the cleaners during that second round. Webb Simpson posted a 64 early, and the rest of the field, with Dufner at the vanguard, took note. A total of 33 players broke par that day, including each of the top 14 players on the leaderboard, and middle-sixties rounds were available cheap on the clearance table. They made Donald Ross’s reputed firebreather of a course look downright Oak Silly.
"This isn't our Oak Hill, " moaned one shell-shocked member. "We play a harder course than this."
That’s right – it was Soak Hill, at least that was the headline blared across the Internet.
“Who came up with Soak Hill?” sportswriter Dan Jenkins asked the lunch table that included his daughter Sally, Tim Rosaforte, Jaime Diaz and a gaggle of other writers.
“I did,” I said proudly. Then my puckish sense of humor got the best of me again. I smiled an obsequious smile and said, “I’ll license it to you for 7.5 percent”
“7.5 percent,” Jenkins snarled acidly, with the same scorn and disdain in his voice as when that old pal of Ben Hogan’s would say Jack Fleck’s name.
“Hey, that’s a bargain from my normal rate of 22%,” I quipped. “You get the friends and family rate, Dan.”
“Friends and family,” he intoned skeptically. “What friends and family? The Cosa Nostra?”
As an aside, by all rights, Jason Dufner should have had a 62 back in 2013. Needing one more birdie for sole possession of the all-time, single round major championship record (at the time), Dufner split the fairway and hit the green on both 17 and 18, the two toughest holes at Soak Hill during that event. But, to the horror of the gallery, Dufner agonizingly lipped out the birdie putt on 17, and then stupidly left the birdie putt on 18 two-and-a-half feet short.
"Oh, you blockhead!" snarled one reporter (me), just saying what everyone else was thinking.
As an aside, the seemingly sleepwalking Dufner, made slouching on the floor with your eyes open – called "Dufnering" - into a zany golf world craze. After his wildly popular win, celebrities and athletes alike raced to Twitter and Facebook to post pictures of themselves on the floor, legs splayed, with a vacant look in their eyes.
Cut to 2023 and we get a sequel, minus the Dufnering. Rain had been threatening on and off during the week. There was even the odd sprinkle here or there but nothing that lasted. But, finally, this morning the temperature dropped, the air pressure plummeted, and the rains have steadily fallen. And the golfers are licking their chops.
You get to be more aggressive off the tee. You can fire at all the pins because the balls are stopping. And there will be less rollout on the fairways so fewer balls will scurry into the rough. A softer golf course means lower scores.
Right on cue, Rory McIlroy just lasered a 4-iron to 4 feet at the par-3 third for an easy birdie. That hole played to a whopping 3.4 stroke average for the first two days of the tournament, making it the third most difficult hole on the golf course. Indeed, over the course of the first two days, the par 3s proved the stiffest challenge, partly because of the difficulty in holding the greens, especially the third. Rory also birdied the par-3 fifth hole in a near carbon copy, a kick-in birdie, this time after a 7-iron to two feet.
Softer greens mean more birdies, and more birdies means more excitement. So much so that you’ll need to do some Dufnering to wind down.