How brutally tough conditions altered course setup at PGA Championship

Wild weather conditions are sweeping into Southern Hills on Friday at the PGA Championship.

Getty Images

It was an easy morning for the grounds crew at Southern Hills on Friday, which means it’s likely to be the opposite for just about everyone else at the PGA Championship.

The sun rose on Friday morning in Tulsa and brought with it some of the toughest conditions we’ve ever seen at Southern Hills, setting the stage for what’s sure to be a chaotic second round of golf’s second major.

Those famous Oklahoma wind gusts are expected to blow with fury during Friday’s second round, which could bring frustration for those tasked with working the ball around Southern Hills in the morning — and outright chaos for those hoping to squeeze in their rounds by the end of the day.

“Strong south winds will continue across the region this morning with gusts to 40 mph possible in a few locations,” the National Weather Service said in a report Friday. “Winds will begin to decrease this afternoon as a cold front moves into northeast Oklahoma. Isolated showers and thunderstorms will be possible near the front by late afternoon.”

According to the NWS, Friday evening’s cold front is likely to cause temperatures to drop in the neighborhood of 25 degrees, which could also bring hail into the picture, should storms hit the course.

“A few storms could be severe into the evening hours with damaging winds and large hail,” the Service said. “A limited severe threat could persist overnight along and north of the front as elevated instability remains.”

In all, the conditions are expected to be so difficult, the grounds crew at Southern Hills elected to skip mowing the greens this morning to keep balls from blowing off the putting surfaces. Shaggier greens should keep the tournament from devolving into a Zach Johnson-level “lost course” fiasco, but likely won’t be enough to stop scores from skyrocketing, should the winds raise as high as 40 mph.

man hits shot out of bunker
Why the Southern Hills bunkers could pose huge problems at the PGA Championship
By: Zephyr Melton

So far, no one from Friday’s early wave has bested Rory McIlroy’s opening-round mark of five under. Justin Thomas and Joaquin Niemann (both -2 on Friday and -4 overall) represent the best of the morning groupings as of noon ET. In one sign of the stiffening gusts, Thomas and others have been forced to wipe the greens free of coarse sand, which the wind has deposited from greenside bunkers onto the putting surfaces.

Of course, the uncertainty could play out of McIlroy’s hands, should conditions grow increasingly worse into the afternoon. But we won’t know till we get there. McIlroy goes off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

So hold onto your hats (perhaps literally!), things are getting fun on Friday at the PGA Championship.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.