Fasten your seat belts and put your trays in the upright and locked position. This year's remaining majors could be even more turbulent for the players than the first two. There was rough at Augusta National for the first time, and when the greens firmed up on the weekend, the Masters became a contest of chipping and putting won by Jose Mar�a Olaz�bal, who was masterly at both. The dastardly humpbacked greens at Pinehurst No. 2 were the whole story at last month's U.S. Open, during which Payne Stewart needed to make a couple of lengthy putts on the closing holes to finish as the only player under par. But now come the real tests. Next week the British Open will be played at Carnoustie, where the debate will be over which is nastier, the 6,941-yard links or the weather. Then, in August, the world's best pros return to Chicago, site of last week's Western Open, for 1999's final major, the PGA Championship, at a Medinah No. 3 course that is the longest in major-championship history.
"If the wind blows, the British Open is going to be a series of train wrecks," says ABC commentator Steve Melnyk, who won the '71 British Amateur at Carnoustie. "It's the hardest stroke-play course I know. If the wind blows—and it's going to—a lot of players will be embarrassed." At the '96 Scottish Open, the last big event at Carnoustie, winds of more than 40 mph hammered the field. Numerous players, including Tiger Woods, failed to break 80 in the first round. The average score on the second day was 78.8, and nine over par made the cut. Ian Woosnam closed with a three-over 75 and won by four strokes on a day when 12 of the final 24 players came in with scores in the 80s.
The golfers will face a different set of difficulties at Medinah, which has not only been given a face-lift but has also been giant-sized since hosting its last major, the 1990 U.S. Open. At 7,401 yards, with its fairways lined by huge trees, No. 3 should play like a monster, even for the big boys. Medinah has always favored a good long-iron player, and it was no coincidence that Hale Irwin won in '90. The most noticeable change to the course is the redesign of the par-3 17th hole. The green, so severely sloped toward the water fronting it that it had almost become unplayable, was one of three tweaked by architect Robert Rulewick. The 17th's new green has been moved back, which makes the water less of a factor, but now the hole, at 206 yards, is almost 40 yards longer.
Woods got his first look at No. 3 a few days before the Western, when he played a round there with his buddy Michael Jordan. "I'm sure the rough will be higher and the fairways narrower," Woods said. "I talked to the superintendent, and he said the PGA of America wants the course to play harder than the U.S. Open."