What else can be said about this week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits? It’s hard not to feel good about that finish. After spending a long day at the course on Saturday in what turned out to be a very fun round, here are some of my thoughts on the event and some photos of the course that I snuck in.
If you are planning on attending a professional golf event, put in some time before the event to review the event info. Specifically, look for special sponsor booths or perks that might be available. This absolutely made our day at Whistling Straits on Saturday.
Mercedes: While researching parking for the event, I stumbled upon the Mercedes loyalty lot. Having attended the BMW Championship at Conway Farms a few years ago, I was aware of the BMW loyalty lot and how far past it I had to walk to get back to my car after the event. The friend I was travelling with has a Mercedes, so I immediately nominated him to drive. Our parking spot at the event did not disappoint, as I think only the players themselves had a shorter walk from parking lot to gate.
Wannamaker Club: This was a mere $10 add-on to the regular ticket price on StubHub. It didn’t seem like much at the time of purchase, but the promise of A/C seemed like it was worth the addition. Now looking back, I’m not sure we make it through the day without that purchase. A day in the low 80’s doesn’t seem too bad on paper, but with no trees and little breeze, it was not uncommon to hear phrases from the crowd such as “it’s Africa hot right now”. I don’t handle sun real well, so I could agree with the sentiment. Multiple trips to the A/C were necessary throughout the day.
Chase Sapphire: This one we were unaware of before we arrived, but was a pivotal part of the day.My friend came through here again as a cardholder when we noticed this tent on the 15th hole. After a short wait for the tent to get back under capacity, we found more A/C, free food and water, and a balcony overlooking the 15th fairway and with views of the 15th green and 12th green. This was our station as we watched the last 12-15 groups of the day come through.
After the leaders passed through, we weaved our way through the last few holes to catch glimpses at 16 and 18. The empty holes behind the leaders provided a great opportunity for pictures of the holes in the sunset without risking the wrath of the “Mobile Policy Enforcement” team.
Overall, the back 9 experience was better than the front 9, and probably a better place to view the action from if you are looking ahead to the 2020 Ryder Cup. Holes 2, 3, 6, and 7 all converge at one point on the front, which creates a crush of people. Both viewing the action and moving around on the front 9 are pretty arduous tasks, and even more so in the baking sun.
On a last note, I had seen this course many times over the years and played countless versions of the course in the Tiger Woods series, Links 2003, The Golf Club, and the new EA game. While there are plenty of good renditions out there, none of it really prepares you for walking the course. It looks and feels like the hardest course you could possibly play, which makes the performances by Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and many of the other leaders all the more impressive. I say that having been to many professional events throughout the years, including the 2008 PGA at Oakland Hills. If you have the opportunity to experience Whistling Straits, either as a spectator or as a player, do not pass it up.
Here are a few of the pics that I managed to snap throughout the day:
Looking up the 9th fairway towards the clubhouse. We got this one late after play had concluded, which is a great time to grab some pictures and is worth the wait.
This shot is looking down the 10th fairway towards the 18th green as the leaders finished.
This is the 10th green, with the Irish course far in the background. I really like this shot.
Looking up the 11th hole late in the day. The landscape here in the sunset was both impressive and daunting. One of the most visually demanding tee shots on the course.
This was our view of the 12th green and grandstand from our 15th fairway tent. What a setting!
The 15th green, where we witnessed one player after another hit into the left bunkers. The wind really had players fooled here.
Looking back up the 15th fairway towards the 14th and 13th holes. Two things to note, 1) David Feherty crossing the fairway, 2) this view convinced me that if I had the choice between playing an early morning round or a twilight round here, I would choose twilight.
Looking back from the lay-up area on 16 towards the 16th tee and 12th green. Another amazing view!
Taking in the view on the 16th.
The 16th green, where the left side seems to disappear into Lake Michigan. This view makes the 2nd shot by Jason Day on Sunday all the more impressive.
Snapped this one early in the day back by the 18th tee. From this back tee it appears there is absolutely nowhere to hit the ball. At sunset it is even worse, as you are looking directly into the sun. Again, amazing tee shots by the pros on Sunday to find this fairway and make it look easy.
After the last group cleared, the 18th tee was amazingly left wide open. Some great photo ops here, including the TNT guys operating the drone. All I got was this stupid picture of the trash can, lol.
The 18th hole, shortly after play concluded. Very close to the DJ bunker here, which was unfortunately covered by bleachers.