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BISHER: Whistling, or Dire, Straits?

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

Whistling Straits is hardly a curative destination for a golf game in dire straits, referring here to the latter-day Tiger Woods and his personal recession.

Eldrick is fresh from the most disastrous weekend of his life in golf, professional or amateur — 18 over par at Firestone, good enough to beat only one other player in the Bridgestone Invitational. And this on a course Tiger has humiliated time again and again. It hardly came to mind that this is where he won his next to last tournament, nearly a year ago.

Next stop, Whistling Straits, sprawled out along the banks of Lake Michigan, a few miles from one of America’s own special kind of addresses that attracts attention because of its peculiar name — Sheboygan. And not far from its own postal address of Kohler, referring perhaps to your bathroom fixtures, and a man named Herb, who earned his bankroll manufacturing it.

For centuries what is now known as Whistling Straits was a peaceful spread of land that lay silently by the lake, devoid of any distinguishing elevation. By the time Pete Dye finished with his architectural devilment, it looked as though the Battle of Verdun may have been fought there. Never have you seen a lay of land so violently disturbed, humps and hillocks and crevasses, with interspersed plats of grass irregularly spaced in order to assume the appearance of a golf course. Thus, Whistling Straits.

Thus, also, a second PGA Championship plays an encore.

The first was played here in 2004, and the versatility of Whistling Straits exerted itself. It resulted in a playoff between three persons representing three kinds of game about as different as their personalities: Vijay Singh, inwardly smug; Chris DiMarco, chipper and personable; and Justin Leonard, an unlikely low-key Texan. Singh won for his second Wanamaker Trophy.

And so they reconvene on Dye’s creation, an example of what wonders a bulldozer can create. Graeme McDowell, our new national champion, thought he had been here before, and he had, but that was before Dye’s new touches.

“I’m trying to label this place,” McDowell said, “and it’s difficult to do. It’s a jacked-up links course, with some touches of Ballybunion and Portrush.”

Oh, the Ballybunion reference would have tickled Kohler to no end, for when he and Dye were casing the grounds before a spade had been turned, Kohler told Pete, “Next time I see this, I want it to look like Ballybunion,” the classic of southeast Ireland.

Aside from the golf course, there’s the plight of Woods.

Not to mention Phil Mickleson, whose finish at Firestone was nearly as dismal. Instead of playing his way into the No. 1 rank, it seemed as if he just couldn’t bear to forge in on Tiger — which is pure nonsense, of course. Tiger has had his gruff caddie working with him like a symphonic conductor, and they look like two sparring fencers. After the British Open, one observer wrote of Tiger, that “there were signs of recovery.”

Only through a gnat’s eye, for nothing approaching recovery has followed since. Thus, it’s time to turn to the PGA and leave Tiger to his own grief.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.