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TULSA, Okla. — A steady drizzle and overcast skies had players and caddies at Southern Hills Country Club swapping sunscreen for jackets and hoodies before the start of the third round of the 2022 PGA Championship. Earlier in the week, temperatures hovered in the high 80s, but as a front worked through the area overnight, the air turned chilly and damp.
Southern Hills’ undulating fairways and tricky greens present a challenge, but with the change in weather, a new challenge is going to test the golfers who want to hoist the Wannamaker trophy on Sunday evening. How will the cooler air, the wind and the damp conditions change how shots fly and react?
Over the years, there have been several calculations that have been passed down to caddies and golfers to compensate for temperature changes and wind. According to Titleist, a ball hit at sea level on a 70-degree day will fly 3 percent shorter on a 50-degree day because cold air is denser. Another is that for every mile hour of wind a player hits into, the “playing” distance increases by 1 percent, so if the hole is 100-yard away and the wind is into the play at 10 mph, the shot will play like 110 yards.
But with the total purse in the neighborhood of $12 million this week and the winner taking home about $2 million, players are taking nothing to chance.
“That’s what this is for,” said Austin Kaiser, Xander Schauffele’s caddie as he tapped his foot against an $11,000 Foresight GC Quad launch monitor resting next to Schauffele’s golf bag.
Xander Schauffele warming up Saturday at Southern Hills Country Club. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
Before every round as he is warming up, Schauffele hits balls with the GC Quad on the range. The device uses four high-speed cameras to reveal information about Schauffele’s club and the ball, including ball speed, carry distance, total distance, spin rate and launch angle. Hitting the same clubs every day, Schauffele and Kaiser can use the GC Quad to see the difference temperature and wind conditions are having before every round.
Rickie Fowler’s caddie, Joe Skovron, says that he and Fowler also use a GC Quad as a part of Fowler’s warm-up routine, and they will observe the differences between numbers from day to day. However, that doesn’t mean they are not doing math on the course.
“The wind today is coming from a different direction,” Skovron said, referring to the shift from a South wind to a North wind at Southern Hills. “So we’ll have to factor that in too, but it also comes down to feel.”
Tommy Fleetwood Saturday at Southern Hills. (David Dusek/Golfweek)
And then there’s Ian Finnis, Tommy Fleetwood’s caddie.
“We’ll just play English numbers today,” he said Saturday morning with a laugh, referring to the nasty weather that golfers commonly play in at British Opens. “Usually when we are in the United States, we play American numbers, but today we’ll play English numbers!”
But by the time Fleetwood completed his putting warm-up and crossed a bridge to the range, Finnis had a $21,000 TrackMan 4 launch monitor set up in the area where Fleetwood would be warming up.
Fun is fun, but with the money that is on the line at Southern Hills, the value of modern launch monitors can’t be ignored.