Wisconsin might seem like an unlikely epicenter for golf, but the state’s top courses will be hosting several international events in the coming months. With two Majors and a Ryder Cup headed to America’s Dairyland soon, the state is positioned to show off its top golf destinations.
Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin will be the first to shine this summer when it hosts the PGA Championship – the final Major Tournament in every golf year. Defending PGA Champion Rory McIlroy was on hand here at Whistling Straits today to discuss his upcoming attempt to repeat at the top.
The average golfer might be tempted to resent McIlroy. Young. Handsome. Wealthy in his mid-20s. A world class golfer in every sense. But, I’ve interviewed him before and he’s also modest, even-tempered, gracious and self-deprecating — almost as though he’s still a little uncomfortable with the bright spotlight of regularly competing for the rank of World Number One.
His demeanor was no less subdued and positive this morning as he met the press at Whistling Straits. As the unseasonably cool and cloudy weather fogged the course outside, McIlroy sat amongst representatives of the state’s major sports as the Bucks, Packers and Brewers will need to take a back seat along Lake Michigan as the PGA Championship play out before the eyes of the world.
McIlroy’s first real shot at a Major fired at the Pete Dye designed Whistling Straits in 2010 – the last time the course hosted such a big PGA event. He would finish tied for third with Zach Johnson – just short of a playoff between Bubba Watson and eventual champ Martin Kaymer. McIlroy believes his success and seasoning since 2010 bodes well for this year’s PGA.
“All of those experiences add up to being more comfortable in those situations,” McIlroy said. “This year, I’m not putting pressure on myself to repeat. I put pressure on myself to play my best, and, if I’ve done that and I don’t win, it’s out of my control.”
McIlroy added that additional experience playing Pete Dye courses over the years lends him a better perspective on attacking Whistling Straits – regularly recognized as one of the most difficult public courses in America.
“Pete makes you think,” McIlroy added. “He likes to intimidate you with his designs and forces you to be confident in your game. But, he also like to give you a chance to save your par if you misfire.”
“Earlier on in my career, I’d get into a tee box on a par 4 or par 5 and just grab the driver to hit as far as I possibly could. I’ve just figured a way to play his courses now and find my spots. Disciple is the key to play (Dye’s) golf courses.”
For the intrigued golfers outside of the Midwest – or those afraid of the Whistling Straits potential greens fees — the gallery below offers up some of the vistas and terrain that makes the course one of the most unique in American golf.