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Oak Hill host professional Jason Ballard’s thoughts on the 2023 PGA Championship

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Evan Schiller captured the glorious sixth hole from above in this image. Read what Jason Ballard has to say about this par four.

In previous features on the 2023 PGA Championship, we examined the history of the tournament at Rochester’s jewel, as well as the benefits of a November start on the infrastructure. As the calendar year of 2023 arrives, we are proud to continue our monthly preparation for the Return to Oak Hill, we are excited to present a six-question interview with Mr. Jason Ballard, the Head Golf PGA Professional at the club. To begin our exchange, we asked Mr. Ballard to provide a bullet-point list on his career in golf and at Oak Hill. The six questions follow the list.

 

  • Born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA
  • Attended San Diego State University
  • Played mini-tour golf in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s
  • Received PGA membership in 2004
  • Oak Hill’s PGA Head Professional since 2014
    • Augusta National Golf Club – Senior Assistant Golf Professional 2008-2014
    • Inverness Club – Assistant Golf Professional 2013 (summer)
    • Congressional Country Club – Assistant Golf Professional 2008-2012 (summers)
    • East Lake Golf Club – Senior Assistant Golf Professional 2004-2008
  • PGA National Merchandiser of the Year – Private Category – 2020

Here are the questions.

GolfWRX: The 2023 PGA Championship returns after ten years to Oak Hill’s East course. What will the golfers find different about the course, for the ones who were fortunate to compete there in 2013?

Andrew Green’s 2019-2020 renovation of our East Course has been well received.  The goal was to create a sympathetic restoration of Donald Ross’s original vision for the property. We are excited to showcase the changes to the golfing world and challenge the best players in the world. For those that have been on property for past championships, they will notice that some trees have been removed to create better growing conditions for our grasses.  All greens and bunkers have been renovated and some new tees have been added to help test the modern-day professionals.

GolfWRX: Driving, Approach Play, and Putting are three skills that a championship and its host course demand of its contestants. What will competitors need to produce, in each of those three areas, to maximize performance?

  • Driving: One of the defining characteristics of the East Course has always been the narrow width of our fairways.  For anyone that has played Oak Hill during the month of May, they know that the rough will be thick, which was most evident during the 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. Fairways average 25 yards wide making accurate driving a premium.
  • Approach Play: One of the main goals during Andrew Green’s renovation was to bring back some of the original Donald Ross hole locations that we have lost over time.  The new greens create a myriad number of hole locations that will bring in many challenges for players.  The approach lines will need to navigate new corners of greens and deep greenside bunkers. A short-sided miss will create a difficult up and down to save par.
  • Putting: All 18 greens were renovated since the 2013 PGA Championship and 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.  Thus, any participants that played here during those championships will need to re-learn the greens.  The new hole locations have created new slopes and breaks that have been unseen before in championship play.

GolfWRX: Let’s talk about the opening holes. Will players look toward a fast, under-par start, or will they seek to survive an opening gauntlet, and take advantage of later holes?

Ben Hogan once called Oak Hill’s opening hole the “hardest starting hole in Championship golf”.  By modern day standards, hole #1, aptly named “Challenge” is a par-4 at 460 yards that may yield a few more birdies than it did in the 1940’s and 1950’s, however a nervous opening tee shot can find out of bounds to the right.  Hole #2 “Breather” is a short par-4 at 405 yards that yielded an eagle hole out during round two that helped catapult Jason Dufner to victory during the 2013 PGA Championship.  Hole #3 “Vista” played at 210 yards during the 2013 PGA Championship and and averaged 3.2 strokes, with a new tee added will now play at 230 yards during the 2023 PGA Championship it will play even harder.

The first hole at Oak Hill’s East course, from the tee. The second hole climbs the hill in the distance.

GolfWRX: In your estimation, which will be the two most important holes each day on the outward nine?

  • Hole #6 “Double Trouble”: This newly restored par-4 was inspired by the original Donald Ross hole and will now play 500 yards during the PGA Championship. The drive will require the player to choose to play towards the bunkers on the left side or tempt the right side of the dogleg along Allen’s Creek.  Any drive that does not carry at least 300 yards will find the penalty area. The approach shot will require an accurate shot with the creek to the left of the putting green and a very deep greenside bunker to the right. Any shot that misses the green right will face a challenging up and down to a green that slopes away and toward the penalty area.

This is an artistic shot of the sixth green at Oak Hill’s East course. The green sits beyond the tree, in the distance.

  • Hole #7 “Creek’s Elbow”: One of Oak Hill’s finest par-4 holes at 460 yards. This is a very challenging driving hole with a tight fairway bordered by trees down the left side and Allen’s Creek along the right. The green has been restored adding hole locations along the edges and corners of the green guarded by a bunker on the front left. A par on holes 6 and 7 will pick up valuable strokes on the field.

The seventh hole on the 2023 PGA Championship course. Finding the fairway is half the bargain. Safely reaching the putting surface is the handshake.

GolfWRX: Part two of that question. Which two holes on the inward half will most determine a player’s success?

  • Hole #14 “Bunker Hill”: One of the most dramatic and best risk/reward par-4 holes at 320 yards.  During the renovation, trees were removed to expand the vistas and encourage the player to try and drive the green.  A back hole location will create a difficult approach for any player who laid up off the tee due to this two-tiered green.  A new runoff area over the green brings out of bounds in play and creates a very difficult up and down to a green that runs away.  A birdie is a real possibility here, however bogey or worse is also in play.

This akimbo angle of the 14th hole gives an idea of the options available to competitors.

  • Hole #18 “Goin’ Home”: The hole is steeped in history; Shaun Micheel’s approach shot from 174 yards to 3 inches to secure the 2003 PGA Championship on the final hole and Nick Faldo’s incredible up and down from 92 yards to save par to help secure the Ryder Cup for Europe in 1995.  A very difficult slight dogleg right, par-4 playing 490 yards that will challenge the players to close out the 2023 PGA Championship.   Three renovated fairway bunkers beginning at 300 yards off the tee guard the right side of the fairway. Any player that finds these fairway bunkers will need to navigate steep faces that make the approach shot very difficult to find the putting surface.  The renovated green now offers multiple new hole locations.

It has been the site of both joy and sadness in major championships and international play. In May, both emotions will resurface.

GolfWRX: You are the ultimate insider, with great inside knowledge of the East course. Is there a course-related question that we haven’t asked, that you would love to answer? Please ask it and then, answer it. Thank you for your time.

I get asked quite often what I think the winning score will be in 2023. Previously, the lowest winning score in a major championship at Oak Hill was 10 under par by Jason Dufner in 2013 and just prior to that it was 7 over par during the 2008 Senior PGA Championship by Jay Haas in 2008.  It is tough to predict due to the talent level of the best golfers in the game, however the biggest factor will certainly be the weather. I can assure you that Jeff Corcoran, Manager of Golf Courses and Grounds and his team will have the course in excellent conditions to challenge the best players in the world. The good news is that no matter what the winning score is during the 2023 PGA Championship, our members are enjoying the course more than they ever have, and to me, that is what is most important in my day-to-day role as PGA Head Golf Professional at Oak Hill Country Club.

Top photo courtesy of Evan Schiller. Other photos courtesy of the author. His work is viewable on @buffalogolfer on Instagram.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Max Homa’s winning WITB: 2023 Farmers Insurance Open

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Driver: Titleist TSR3 (10 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei 1K Black 65 TX

3-wood: Titleist TSR3 (16.5 degrees, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue TR 8 X

7-wood: Titleist TSR2 (21 degrees, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD XC 9 TX

Irons: Titleist T100S (4), T100 (5), Titleist 620 MB (6-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour $-Taper 130 X

Wedges: Vokey Design SM9 (46-10F, 50-12F, 56-14F, 60-04L)
Shafts: KBS TOUR $-Taper 130 X (46), KBS Hi Rev 2.0 125 S (56-60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron T-5.5 prototype

Ball: 2023 Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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Morning 9: Ryder in front at Torrey | McIlroy-Reed showdown in Dubai? | Anthony Kim return talk

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

January 27, 2023

Good Friday morning, golf fans.

1. Ryder leads Farmers by 3

AP report…”Sam Ryder extended his lead to three shots in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 4-under 68 in challenging wind in the second round Thursday on Torrey Pines’ South Course while Jon Rahm had an eagle and three straight birdies late in his 5-under 67 on the easier North Course to get under the cut line.”

  • “Ryder survived both the Santa Ana wind and the tougher South Course with just one bogey to reach 12-under 132 and take a three-stroke lead over Brendan Steele, who shot a 70 on the South Course. Tano Goya was two more shots back after a 67 on the North Course.”
  • “The Santa Ana wind blowing out of the desert and down the mountains raked the course most of the day, with gusts up to 30 mph. It sent leaves, branches and even a tumbleweed onto greens, and cardboard trash cans tumbling down hillsides.”
Full piece.

2. Rahm rallies for Farmers cut

Ryan Young for Yahoo…”For a long time on Thursday, it looked as if Jon Rahm’s hot streak was over.”

  • “Thankfully for the Spaniard, his quest for a third win in three starts is still alive.”
  • “Rahm snuck past the cut on Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open, thanks largely to a huge eagle on his back nine after struggling through the first round and a half at Torrey Pines in San Diego.”
  • “He’s at 4-under for the week, eight shots back of the lead, with the projected cut at even par.”
Full piece.

3. In Dubai, potential McIlroy-Reed showdown shaping up?

4. Reed-McIlroy frostiness thawing?

James Corrigan for the Telegraph…”Without McIlroy’s generous advice, Reed would have been at Majlis Course six hours before he needed to be.”

  • “I woke up at 5am and was on my way to get a car to get here for my 7.40am tee-off time,” Reed explained. “I hadn’t seen that play had been suspended while they got all the water off the course after the storms. But when we were on steps of the hotel where we are both staying, Rory came up and said ‘you don’t have to go yet, we aren’t playing for a while’. ‘Ok, thanks,’ I said.”
  • “So, I went back to bed. It’s nice to think that this means that it’s all good again between me and Rory, but I was with my caddie and coach at the time, so he might have been telling them. Yet I’ve taken it as a little victory. It was nice to move on from all that today. I’ve seen they’ve labelled it ‘Teegate’, as if it was an assassination or something. It was built out of all proportion.”
Full piece.

5. Talking an Anthony Kim return in the New York Times

Our Matt Vincenzi…Despite having not played in over a decade, the golf world has an obsession with former PGA Tour star, Anthony Kim.

“Kim shined at the 2008 Ryder Cup, earning 2.5 points in the event which was tied for the second-best performance on the U.S. side. “AK” played with Phil Mickelson in fourball and was the first man out in Sunday singles matches where he defeated Sergio Garcia 5&4. At the time of the Ryder Cup, Kim was the number 10 ranked player in the world as a Tour rookie. He went on to win three times on Tour from 2008-2010.”

  • “After a New York Times piece on the fascinating story of Anthony Kim, he’s found himself back in the headlines.”
  • “According to Kim’s former caddie Eric Larson, the now 37-year-old hasn’t ruled out a return to the game. Larson had a recent phone call with Kim and asked if he’d be open to a deal with LIV Golf.”
  • “Larson told the New York Times, “He goes, ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know.’” Larson said. “I said, ‘Come on, man, get the old clubs out. Go out there and have some fun.’ And he starts laughing at me. He goes, ‘That’s what everybody wants me to do!’”
  • “Also in the piece was a quote from AK’s longtime swing coach Adam Schriber who said Kim still has “the same swing you remember”, after playing with him twice over the past two years.”
Full piece.
7. PGA Show

  • Check out all our photos from Orlando, below.
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Morning 9: Teegate | Rahmpage | JT on Saturday finish | PGA Show

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco and Matthew Vincenzi.

For comments: [email protected]

January 25, 2023

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. It’s day 1 of the PGA Show in Orlando. Stay tuned to the front page, forums, and our social channels.

1. Teegate

Brian Keogh for the Irish Independent…”Patrick Reed threw a tee at Rory McIlroy in disgust after the world number one appeared to ignore his efforts to say hello at the Emirates Golf Club, according to reports.”

  • “The former Masters champion, who has moved to LIV Golf but continues to play DP World Tour events until an arbitration case being held in the UK in a fortnight decides on the Tour’s ability to suspend the rebels, saluted McIlroy’s caddie Harry Diamond without incident, according to the Spanish golf portal TenGolf.com.”
  • “Reed, whose defamation case against analyst Brandel Chamblee and Golf Channel was dismissed Friday by a federal judge in Florida, then approached McIlroy, who was on his hunkers at the time, looking at the ground.”
  • “Reed stood near McIlroy a few seconds with the intention of saying hello but McIlroy did not even turn his head towards him.”
  • “Reed insisted in saluting McIlroy but after getting no response, he gave up and walked away but not before putting his hand in his pocket and throwing a tee in McIlroy’s direction in disgust.”
Full piece.

2. JT praises Saturday finish

Colby Powell for Golf Channel…”Reviews about a Saturday finish on the PGA Tour are mixed, but Justin Thomas loved the change when it was implemented for the first time at last year’s Farmers Insurance Open.”

  • “It was incredible, I got to watch football on Sunday,” Thomas said. “I was ecstatic about it. Even so much so that I pushed the Tour that we do it during the entire playoffs because I love football and I love watching football.”
  • “While the Tour didn’t suddenly move every early-season tournament to a Saturday finish, the move seems to have stuck at the Farmers, which is played the same week as the NFC and AFC Championship games.”
Full piece.

3. Remembering JD at the Farmers in ’04

Max Schreiber for Golf Channel…”It had been a very bumpy road for Daly since his improbable victory at St. Andrews’ 1995 Open Championship, battling through more divorce and additional alcohol rehab.”

  • “But at the 2004 Buick Invitational, he ended a nine-year winless drought in typical Daly fashion.“
  • “Ranked No. 299 in the world at the beginning of the week, the two-time major champion, despite a final-round 75, found himself in a playoff with Chris Riley and Luke Donald.”
  • “On the first playoff hole, Daly hit a 100-foot bunker shot that landed just feet from the hole and he tapped in for birdie. Riley and Donald then missed both their birdie putts from inside 6 feet and Daly was once again back in the winner’s circle.”
Full piece.

4. Rahm approaching a Woodsian feat

Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”The 28-year-old has won four of his last six events, including his last two starts on the PGA Tour at last week’s American Express and the season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions two weeks prior. This week Rahm is in the Farmers Insurance Open field at Torrey Pines in San Diego and is looking for a rare three-peat.”

  • “If Rahm is able to win again, it’ll be the 19th time since 1997 that a player has won three straight Tour starts. But wait, what’s so rare about something that’s already happened 18 times over less than 26 years? According to stats guru Justin Ray, Tiger Woods accounts for 14 of the 18 trifectas.”
Full piece.

5. Enhancements to the PGA Tour’s Betting Integrity Program

PGATour.com staff report…”The PGA TOUR today announced two new agreements that will enhance monitoring capabilities as part of an expanded PGA TOUR Integrity Program. A new partnership with U.S. Integrity, paired with an extension of the TOUR’s existing relationship with Genius Sports, will provide the organization with best-in-class bet monitoring services through 2024.”

  • “U.S. Integrity is proud to partner with the PGA TOUR and assist with maintaining the integrity of its golf competition across the world,” said U.S. Integrity’s CEO and Co-Founder Matthew Holt. “U.S. Integrity’s mission is to provide conflict-free, best-in-class insights and compliance solutions to our clients. We are looking forward to working with the premier golf tour in the world, featuring the biggest names. All our partners are committed to the highest integrity standards, and they are no exception. These types of partnerships help ensure sports betting integrity and strengthen the unique and proprietary anomaly-detection tools we have developed at U.S. Integrity.”
  • “The PGA TOUR Integrity Program, established January 1, 2018, covers all facets of competition and operations on the Tours overseen by the PGA TOUR, including players and their support teams, all tournament staff and volunteers, all PGA TOUR employees and the PGA TOUR Policy Board.”
Full piece.

6. On notice

The AP’s Doug Ferguson…”The 28-year-old Spaniard has won four his last six starts worldwide over the last three months, including his two PGA Tour events this month on courses — Maui mountain, California desert — that couldn’t be more different.”

  • “He won in Spain by six shots and the DP World Tour Championship by two in the fall. He started the new year on the PGA Tour by closing with a 63 to overcome a seven-shot deficit against Collin Morikawa at Kapalua, and then holding off a spirited challenge from Thompson in The American Express.”
  • “Next up is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite places even before he won the U.S. Open. Rahm won his first PGA Tour event at Torrey in 2017, and twice in the last three years he has missed a playoff by one shot.”
Full piece.

7. PGA Show

Full Piece.
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