SI CONVENED A PANEL OF EXPERTS—SENIOR WRITERS MICHAEL BAMBERGER, ALAN SHIPNUCK AND GARY VAN SICKLE AND SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR JOHN GARRITY AS WELL AS A PGA TOUR PLAYER (WHO PARTICIPATED ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY)—TO TAKE UP THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS
The Future Is Now
Van Sickle: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are the easy answers, but give me another good reason to be excited about 2013.
Bamberger: The majors. We're going back to Merion and Muirfield for the first time in a while, and they're such gems—gentle and fierce at the same time. They're everything that's great about course architecture.
Shipnuck: It's funny, the U.S. Open course is usually straightforward golf and the British Open site is often quirky. Players love Muirfield for its classic shotmaking and Merion is uniquely funky. It's like the Opens have been transposed.
Garrity: I want to put in a good word for Oak Hill, site of next year's PGA Championship and my favorite classic Open course. Oak Hill is a big tree-lined track that has been around forever and has all the prestige. Some courses become stereotypical and dull, like Baltusrol. Oak Hill doesn't have back-and-forth fairways like a bowling alley. There are elevation changes. It's tough, it's terrific.
Anonymous Pro: Sorry, I don't share your enthusiasm. Oak Hill's rough was stupid long when we played the 2003 PGA. They couldn't even cut it. The grass was so long it just bent over. Playing from that rough was like trying to hit a shot out of a waste basket. I hated it.
Van Sickle: I played Oak Hill a few months ago in the Williams, a prestigious amateur event. Oak Hill isn't just good, it's great. They've made some good changes. The 18th, an uphill par-4, is longer and nastier than ever. The redesigned par-3 16th is scary. It has a narrow hourglass green surrounded by water, deep bunkers and gnarly rough. The course is a man-eater, every bit as demanding as Oakmont.
Garrity: I loved the way Oakmont played after they radically cut down all of the trees.
Van Sickle: They cut down a bunch of trees at Oak Hill too, but you won't even notice. They still have a few thousand to spare.