Where’s the Atmosphere?
By Conor Nagle under PGA Championship

Frustration: Friday's default setting (Kyle Auclair/

Everything appears to be in place– a class field comprised primarily, though not exclusively, of the world’s best players; an audience of nearly forty-thousand earnest, obsessively hydrating spectators; a major championship purse and trophy to act as incentives — but I can’t remember a major championship Friday quite so lacking in atmosphere.

Rather than the sort of tense, claustrophobic energy that usually propels a major championship, Friday at the 93 USPGA Championship has unfolded in an expansive, echoey vacuum.

With marquee pairings that look like they’d rather be anywhere other than Atlanta… in August.. on a Rees Jones redesign, and a course seemingly hell-bent on dismantling each and every pre-tournament storyline, the final major of 2011 has coasted listlessly to the halfway mark.

You can blame the weather; it’s hot in a way that wreaks havoc with even the most diligently inactive. When temperatures begin to tip towards the 100-degree mark, player’s find it difficult to think, yet alone swing, and the applause of even the most enthusiastic fan is reduced to a half-hearted, sweaty slap.

But weather’s only part of the equation. The Athletic Club’s Highlands Course has proven unpopular with players. Designed to frustrate rather encourage, this week’s set-up has worked in tandem with the weather to promote a strange lassitude.

It seems the emphasis has been placed on patience the one week a patient approach has been rendered a physical impossibility.

It comes as no surprise, then, to see the leaderboard dominated by individuals for whom steadiness and predictability are less the product of conscious effort than a reflex.

To cast Verplank, Furyk, Stricker, Bradley and Jobe as the protagonists of a story we didn’t want to be told would be to belittle their efforts unfairly. Today’s failure hasn’t been theirs, but the result of a confluence of factors the nett result of which has been a tournament shockingly one-dimensional in outlook.

Conor Nagle

(Photo by Kyle Auclair/