‘Horrendously slow’: This PGA Championship hole halts play to a standstill

A sign on the 14th tee at Oak Hill during the PGA Championship.

The 14th tee is going to be a bottleneck this week.

Jack Hirsh

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Even after signing for a first-round 68 at the PGA Championship, Ryan Fox wasn’t ready to hold back.

“It was just horrendously slow,” Fox said after his first-round 68. “I think we got there, and there were two groups waiting on the 14th tee, and another group had just teed off 1.”

It’s a problem unique to the host course, Oak Hill. The 14th hole at Oak Hill is a 323-yard uphill par-4, on which the PGA of America is asking players to step aside when they reach the putting surface and have the following group hit their tee shots to keep pace of play moving along. But adding further complication is the fact that the 14th shares a tee box with the 1st hole. Fox said his was the fourth group on the hole when he arrived.

“You kind of know it’s going to back up there with the two tees, but I didn’t quite expect it to be quite as bad as it was,” Fox continued. “I thought they were playing as a caught-up hole originally, but everyone was calling everyone up. It’s just one of those where it’s a bottleneck there. It’s a short par-4. I think it was a little tricky pin today as well on 14.”

Fox waited somewhere around 20 minutes before he finally hit his tee shot on 14.

“It kind of felt like almost a new round started on 14 tee for us,” he said. “I got up and whaled one way right and hit a pretty awful tee shot, pretty stiff, and hit an amazing chip shot and holed a 20-footer from off the green.”

Things began to get very crowded mid-way through the morning wave as four groups continued to pile up on the 14th hole, one on the green, another being waved up, another waiting on the tee and then whoever just finished the 13th finally arriving. Then, there was the added congestion of fans as players who started on No. 10 were making the turn back on the 1st tee.

player hitting from rough at oak hill
What makes Oak Hill’s rough so brutal? It’s not its length
By: Josh Sens

The marshalls had their hands full with several crossings for both players and fans in the area. Luckily, players could take slight refuge in a snack station next to the grandstand right of the first tee.

“I did see two groups on 14 when we were there on No. 1, and that’s just a tough area of the golf course to get guys through,” said Scottie Scheffler, who added he didn’t have to wait long 14 as he was one of the earlier groups off the back. “When you are hitting your chip shot on 14, too, from short of the green, where the tee is on 15, it’s also right behind the pin, and so you can’t be hitting at the same time, and then the guys on 1 and 14 can’t be hitting at the same time. It is what it is.”

Keegan Bradley said part of the problem has to do with how pros are playing the hole.

“It’s not quite drivable,” he said. “You’re hitting it up there and then you’re not hitting any on the green. You’re not going to probably hit any close, so everyone could probably hit off that tee, but you’re going to bother the people up by the green.”

With more than 75% of the field having played the hole in Round 1, nearly 80 percent have gone for the green with just two players finding the surface and one bounding over.

“I hope it doesn’t get too bad,” Bradley added. If it does, Fox seemed to have the idea of how to bide his time.

“I mean, just talked crap with everybody on the tee,” he said. “There was enough people to talk to.”

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.