Lucas Herbert says PGA Championship host Southern Hills reminds him of one of his favourite courses in Victoria, Peninsula Kingswood, and it’s making him feel at home on the Tulsa, Oklahoma course.
World No.46 Herbert said the moment he stepped foot on Southern Hills, he was instantly reminded of the36-hole masterpiece at Frankston, Victoria.
“Southern Hills has a feeling about it like Peninsula Kingswood; there are a lot of open spaces off the tee and some shared fairway bunkers which is such a Sandbelt thing,” Herbert told New Zealand Golf Digest. “The way greens blend into the next tee, almost like there are no defined tees, reminds me a lot of Peninsula.”
Southern Hills is a golden age Perry Maxwell design that was restored in 2019 by popular architect Gil Hanse. It has hosted three US Opens and four PGA Championships before this week, most recently in 2007 when Tiger Woods lifted the Wanamaker trophy in extreme Oklahoma heat.
“It’s a great golf course; playing well here is a lot about angles into greens and it’s a great tactical challenge as much as a skills challenge,” Herbert said. “You’ll get the best players in contention at the end of this week because the approach shots ask you to shape the ball and flight it to guarantee yourself a two-putt or even a look at birdie.”
Two things are giving 26-year-old Herbert confidence this week. The first is his length. This writer walked with Herbert in a practice round on a blistering hot Wednesday, and on the 632-yard, par-5 13th (632 yards from the back tee), Herbert hit a 382-yard drive and a 250-yard hybrid to reach it in two. His eagle putt grazed the edge.
“If I can keep it straight, at my length this course is going to be good for me,” Herbert said.
Hebert has also adjusted the lie angles of his driver and his irons to better suit his swing. He now feels he has the ideal setup.
“I feel I’ve turned the corner with my driver; I struggled to perfect up my setup,” he said. “The whole bag was off and I’ve done a bit of work on the equipment and I feel it’s going to payoff.”
Now feeling better about his overall game, Herbert feels able to finish off the year strong after missing three cuts so far this year. Herbert says despite winning the Bermuda Championship in November for his maiden PGA Tour title, the adjustment from Europe, where he’d won twice, was tougher than he anticipated.
“The PGA Tour is where I’ve always wanted to be; playing against the best and playing tournaments I grew up watching on TV as a kid,” Herbert said. “But it’s also tough. The spotlight is on you, which is good, but these guys are the best of the best. The fields are so deep.
“If you beat anyone in the field, you’ve played okay. No one is making up the numbers here. A 40th place finish can be a good result.”