ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill got off to a start no one could have expected when the site was chosen eight years ago.
Monday’s first practice round was delayed until 8 a.m. due to frost.
When the PGA of America awarded the upstate New York track its fourth PGA Championship in 2015, the tournament was still slated for mid-August. Two years later, it was announced the PGA would be moved to May starting in 2019, helping the PGA Tour end its season before Labor Day and avoiding potential conflict with the Olympics.
A frost delay went from highly unlikely to near-inevitability for the 105th PGA. The average low in Rochester is 48 for the month of May, but temperatures were in the 30s Monday morning and lows will be in the 30s through Thursday morning.
Justin Thomas even thought it had snowed in Rochester three weeks ago.
“It was four weeks ago, shush!” a reporter corrected the defending champion on Monday.
The 105th PGA Championship was the last one with a northern venue already selected by the PGA of America when it announced “Glory’s Last Shot” would become the year’s second major. But in the six years since, Pennsylvania’s Aronimink and New Jersey’s Baltusrol in 2026 and 2029 have been added to the schedule, although both of those sites are about five degrees warmer in May on average than Rochester.
“We think we’ve added more courses than we’ve taken away by moving to May,” PGA CEO Seth Waugh said Tuesday.
When asked what he thought about the potential for Northeastern courses to host more PGA’s, Waugh gestured outside the interview tent and pointed to the blue skies.
“How are we looking out there right now? The course is perfect,” he said. “It’s an outdoor sport, and we’re obviously going to go back after this championship — we haven’t hit a ball yet, so we’ll see how it all plays out and then come back and think about it for ourselves and see what the club wants to do and other clubs.”
Rory McIlroy, whose wife is from Rochester and is an Oak Hill member, said he was hopeful the tournament would return to upstate New York and other northeastern venues.
“The northeast is sort of my favorite golf to play in this country,” he said. “I love the golf courses up here and I love the tradition, and a lot of the historic golf course architects started their journeys up here and have built some amazing golf courses. It would be a shame if we weren’t able to come back here.”
Thomas added the course might be just a bit short of its peak condition because of the early time in the year. Oak Hill typically opens around April 1st but has been closed all year to prepare for this tournament.
“You can definitely tell it’s probably three or four weeks away from being, like, really, really good. The course is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s Rochester, New York, in May,” Thomas said. “You’ll have some iffy areas around the greens, and some of the greens are maybe different than others if they’re shaded or whatnot.”
The frost delay on Monday turned out to be minimal. Pros were out in shorts and light sweatshirts by the early afternoon as highs pushed into the upper-60s.
Similar conditions persisted Tuesday, although a sharp cold front is set to move through in the afternoon and overnight, bringing gusty winds all afternoon Tuesday and dropping temperatures enough to present another chance of frost for both Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
“That may delay the start [of Thursday’s round],” PGA Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh said. “Hopefully it won’t. But if it does, we’ll adapt.”
Luckily, that drop looks to be the last gasp of cool weather for the championship as highs for the weekend are expected in the 70s.