Tiger woods has never played Baltusrol, but he knows one thing about the course. "The 17th hole has been lengthened, I guess to ... 900 yards," he said last month during the British Open. He wasn't far off. The par-5 17th will be 652 yards for next week's PGA, making it the longest hole in major championship history.
Back in 1993, when the U.S. Open was held at Baltusrol, the 17th had been considered absolutely, positively unreachable at a mere 628 yards--until the second round, when John Daly blasted a 325-yard tee shot and a remarkable one-iron onto the green, ending the challenges he had been getting from volunteers and marshals earlier in the week. "It was all they cared about," Daly said.
A big-hitting sensation the minute he won the '91 PGA, Daly was the Tour's longest driver for more than a decade. While he's no longer No. 1--Scott Hend is first in driving distance at 318.3 yards, and Daly is sixth at 303.7--he still mashes the ball as far as anyone, which will give him an advantage at a course as long as Baltusrol.
Twelve years and 24 yards later, is the 17th once again unreachable? "You'll see a lot of guys get there because the technology is so good," Daly says. "I might be able to because I have a three-wood in the bag now."
September 7, 2005
But it won't be the same as in '93. "The people went nuts," Daly says. "They made a poster of it. A lot of guys said, 'There's no way you'll do it.' Thank God I two-putted. I would've looked like an idiot if I had three-putted."
--Gary Van Sickle
Four Keys to John Daly's Power
1 "Daly defies the logic that big guys can't be flexible. Look at the huge coil of his shoulders relative to his hips--that torque generates his tremendous power. Equally impressive is how his club is dead on plane despite the massive turn."
2 "Daly's lag--the true source of his power--is huge even by Tour standards. Midway through the downswing, his left wrist is still bent and both arms are low, but his hands are behind him and the clubhead is still over his head."
3 "Like all power players, at impact Daly has his hips much more open (almost 90 degrees to the target line) than his shoulders (45 degrees). An amateur would have his shoulders parallel to the target line and his belt buckle facing the ball at this point."
4 "It's amazing that after all that energy buildup and release, Daly is in perfect balance at the finish. His right foot looks like nothing more than a kickstand, with his belly button turned well past the target and all his weight over his straight left leg."