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Tough rough will add to Oak Hill test

One of the biggest obstacles facing this week's U.S. PGA Championship field at Oak Hill Country Club is the rough, which Phil Mickelson rates as among the toughest he has seen.

Unusually heavy summer rain in upstate New York has left the par-70 layout lush and damp and, in places, the rough is eight inches thick.

At 7,134 yards, Oak Hill's East Course will play to its full length this week and, according to left-handed Mickelson, accurate driving will be paramount.

"The rough is extremely, extremely difficult, some of the toughest we've seen," the 33-year-old American told reporters on Tuesday.

"The great thing about the set-up, though, is that the fairway width has stayed the same for two-iron through driver.

"So you have club selection off the tee, whereas a lot of times the courses will cut off at 290 (yards) or so and take driver right out of play.

"It is risky, though, because if you hit driver and go into the rough, it's very difficult to get out and get on the green."

Although the weather is expected to improve once the tournament gets underway on Thursday, tree-lined Oak Hill will be set up in U.S. Open fashion this week, with tight fairways only 22 yards wide on average flanked by punitive rough.

"It's probably playing longer than usual because it's damp out there," said U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk. "It's not wet but it's definitely soft and plush.

"Plus the greens are quite difficult so it's like a broken record -- don't hit it long, basically, all day.

"The rough is incredibly long in spots. It doesn't afford you the chance to play at all in a lot of spots."

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in the 1999 U.S. PGA championship at Medinah, is hoping for a fair measure of good fortune if he does happen to find the rough this week.

"There's a bit of luck involved. If the ball stays on top of the grass as if does sometimes, you can probably hit 160, 170-yard shots pretty easily," he said.

"But if it nestles down, you've got to knock it out to the fairway and get it to the top the hard way."

A further complication for the players is that the rough has been fluffed up.

"It's a premium to get the ball in the fairway because you really can't get the ball to the green if you drive it in the rough, especially what they are doing with the rough," said twice champion Tiger Woods.

"They are raking the rough up, they are wisping it up and brushing it back into us, which means we are going to hit shots into the grain."The 85th U.S. PGA championship gets underway at Oak Hill on Thursday.


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