2022 PGA Championship Preview: What To Know About Southern Hills

Written By John Haslbauer on May 15, 2022 - Last Updated on May 17, 2022
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Sooner or later, we were bound to see a return to the state of Oklahoma to host a big time event. This state has recently become a pipeline for some of the game’s best professionals like Viktor Hovland, Rickie Fowler, Matthew Wolff, Talor Gooch, and Abraham Ancer, who have called Stillwater or Norman home in their college days. Tulsa, Oklahoma is our host this week for the second major of the season. Before we lock in our golf bets, let’s preview Southern Hills Country Club and find the best PGA Championship odds across sportsbooks.

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES

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S. Scheffler
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J. Rahm
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R. McIlroy
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J. Thomas
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C. Morikawa
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Tiger Woods In The PGA Championship Field

For the second time this year, we will see Tiger Woods back in action. It’s a favorable major rotation this season for Woods, as he has won on each of the four major venues in play this year. His win at Brookline, host of next months U.S. Open was as a Rookie on the 1999 Ryder Cup team, but we’re going to count it.

As it relates to Southern Hills, Woods is the most recent major champion on this course, winning in sweltering August heat at 8-under-par at the 2007 PGA Championship.

FIELD AT A GLANCE

It’s a Major Championship week, which means everyone who’s anyone will be teeing it up at Southern Hills. Currently the lone exceptions who are qualified but cannot or will not be participating this week are Phil Mickelson, Harris English, Paul Casey and Jimmy Walker. All players in the field this week have met one of the following criteria to quality:

  • Former PGA Champion
  • Last five Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship Winners
  • Last three Players Championship winners
  • The Senior PGA Champion
  • Low 15 scorers and ties in the last PGA Championship
  • Low 20 scorers in the previous PGA Professional Championship
  • Top-70 in money standings on the PGA TOUR
  • Players from the most recent US and European Ryder teams (if within OWGR top-100)
  • Any tournament winner co-sponsored or sanctioned by the PGA TOUR since the last PGA Championship

Unfortunately it’s Mickelson’s absence that will dominate headlines this week, as the defending 2021 PGA Championship has withdrawn himself from competition, as he continues to repair the PR nightmare that has unfolded since announcing his affiliations with the new Saudi Golf League.

Overshadowing Phil, as per usual, is Tiger Woods, who has already been seen walking the property and is expected to make his second start of the 2022 season after making it through the cut in his first start this year at The Masters. This is a better fit for modern-day Tiger than Augusta National, and it would not surprise me to see him make it through the cut once again.

The list of PGA Champions in the field this week includes Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, and Tiger Woods. 

INTRODUCTION TO SOUTHERN HILLS

We were not supposed to be here in Tulsa, Oklahoma until 2030, before the PGA of America made the decision in January 2021 to move this year’s contest from Trump Bedminster in my backyard of New Jersey to Southern Hills. While it’s been a long 15 years since we last saw a PGA TOUR event on these grounds, there is plenty of history here, as Southern Hills has played host to seven total Majors – three U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships – dating back to 1958. 

Southern Hills has great history, established in 1936 as a product of the Great Depression. The project was led by architect Perry Maxwell, who over the course of his career is also known for his work on Augusta National, Colonial Country Club, Pine Valley Golf Club, and Merion Golf Club. The through line across each of these properties is Maxwell’s design philosophy to leverage the natural topography of the land with severe undulations on both the fairways and greens to elicit uneven lies on fairway approaches and uncertain landing areas on the greens. Southern Hills is Maxwell’s crown jewel, as the property embodies all of these characteristics.

Like Augusta National, it favors clever shot-shaping in both directions with an emphasis on precise approaches and a reliable touch around the greens. The fairways are generous, and have been widened by Gil Hanse & crew as part of the 2018 restoration project, but this hasn’t made the course play any easier. Instead, players are challenged to hit driver off the tee regularly, while aiming towards the hazards on regular doglegs in order to create ideal angles to the greens. For that reason, despite the wider-than-average fairways and mowed down rough, Southern Hills is not purely a second-shot course for bombers. It will reward strategic positional shots off the tee, with an advantage to the longer hitters, especially if tee boxes are pushed back to their limits.

Southern Hills is an appropriate title for this course, as the hilly terrain is really what defines the course. Elevation changes are not dramatic, but the subtleties of these rolling fairways and greens will create interesting, unknown bounces and uneven lies, similar to what we may expect at an Open Championship venue. The course is ultimately defined by the greens and green-side complexes.

Since 2007, Southern Hills has undergone an extensive restoration project from Gil Hanse’s team, with the goal of revitalizing Perry Maxwell’s original intentions of relying on this massive property’s undulated topography to challenge the game’s best players.

As part of Hanse’s restoration project, the edges of the greens were mowed down tighter, so that near misses would funnel away from the hilled greens, and in some spots, can roll away for as far as 50 yards. This course is designed to be played in firm and fast conditions, and assuming weather cooperates, should create an imposing challenge for the field, that requires attention on tee shots, precision on approaches, and crafty touch around the greens, particularly on awkward 20 to 50 yard wedge ranges. These are all the characteristics you hope to see from a Major Championship venue.

What Is The Yardage?

I have driven myself insane trying to uncover the official yardage Southern Hills will be playing to for the 2022 PGA Championship. Here are the varying outlets of information on reported course yardage:

  • PGA Championship site: 7,365
  • Southern Hills site: 7,481
  • PGA TOUR Essentials Guide: 7,546
  • GCSAA Tournament Fact Sheet: 7,556

Even if we do arrive at an official, consensus yardage, it’s best to approach this event as a range of potential yardages. In tournament golf, the scorecard yardage is always a dynamic number, not static, so based on the information we have on hand, it’s safest to say that they will move tee boxes around across the four days of play, and have the length to extend tee boxes as far back as 7,556 yards, or as short as 7,365 yards.

As a majority of sources are claiming 7,556 yards, I will approach the research for this week under the assumption that we play on the longer side, but have listed the range of distances per hole we should expect below.

Two Beastly Par-5s

Usually the Par-5s are your best scoring opportunities; however, these two at Southern Hills are bona fide three-shot holes, each playing well over 600 yards and susceptible to hurting wind to play even longer. They are still two of the better scoring opportunities on the course, but we shouldn’t expect to see very many eagles or tap in birdies on these holes. Players will need to work for birdies on virtually every hole at Southern Hills.

Lengthy Par-3s And Par-4s As Well

The course also gets its length from the Par-3s, three of which will play over 200 yards throughout the week. There are two Par-4s listed at over 500 yards, including the 16th hole which has been converted from a usual Par-5 for members.

The 18th hole is one of the most iconic and difficult closing holes in golf, playing 491 yards uphill with a threatening creek and fairway bunkers in play for tee shots. It’s an enticing closing stretch where birdies may not be feasible, but big numbers will be looming for leaders who will be looking to close their rounds on Sunday.

We do not have have Proximity data to reference from past events here, nor would they be as relevant after the extensive restorations, but this is not a course where players are going to the same club over and over again on approach shots. Beyond the three 475-yard+ Par-4s, there is a fairly balanced mix of four Par-4s from 440-475 yards, and five Par-4s under 420 yards – none of which are reachable from off the tee.

Given the balanced dispersion of hole ranges, variables of wind severity and wind direction, and various layup options on Par-5s and select doglegged Par-4s, this is not a week I am going to model off of particular hole ranges or proximity distances.

Unique Characteristics of Southern Hills

Southern Hills does not need added length to challenge the field, so regardless where we fall on the spectrum of 7,365 to 7,556, this will still be a formidable test, and one that puts a particular emphasis on short game and scrambling.

Given the Oklahoma climate, the rough cannot sustain the winter months to be fully grown out. With this in mind, Gil Hanse elected to widen the fairways, trim down certain tree lines, and keep the Bermuda/Fescue blended rough shortened. This gives the illusion of a wide open, second-shot course, but actually creates an added emphasis on hitting the correct side of the fairway in order to set up the best angles to approach these treacherous greens.

The greens are 5,000 square feet, which is about average for the PGA TOUR, but they will play smaller, due to false fronts and tight runoffs. Approaches that narrowly catch the edge of the green can roll off as far as 50 yards downhill, which creates a significant advantage to players with elite irons and around the green game. 

Watch The Weather

This event has fortunately moved from a sweltering August date that plagued the 2007 PGA Championship into what is expected to be more moderate conditions in May.

The wind will play the biggest factor this week. This course is difficult enough to maneuver on a calm day, so if the course continues to remain firm and dry, we could see this become a scrambling contest like we saw at Shinnecock Hills for the 2018 U.S. Open or Bay Hill for the most recent Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Wind forecasts can change at a moment’s notice, but the month of May has seen sustained winds of 20-30 MPH this year. If that continues, we should expect ample scores over par, and elite short game specialists to separate themselves.

The top-10 players in SG: TOT in high winds this week are: Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Scottie Scheffler, and Joaquin Niemann.

SOUTHERN HILLS COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,556
  • Par: 70 (4x 3s / 12x 4s / 2x 5s)
  • Grass: Bentgrass Greens, Bermuda Fairways & Rough
  • Architect: Perry Maxwell (2019 Renovation from Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner)
  • Comp Courses: Shinnecock Hills, Kiawah Island, Augusta National, The Concession, Congaree GC, Bay Hill, Memorial Park, Riviera CC
  • Past PGA Championship Winners: Phil Mickelson -6 (’21), Collin Morikawa -13 (’20), Brooks Koepka -8 (’19), Brooks Koepka -16 (’18), Justin Thomas -8 (’17)
  • Hole by Hole Breakdown:

Southern Hills CC

COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS

Southern Hills hosted its first major with the 1958 U.S. Open. Over the years, the list of major champions on these grounds includes Tiger Woods, Ratief Goosen, Nick Price, Raymond Floyd, Hubert Green, Dave Stockton, and Tommy Bolt. It’s also played host to the Tour Championship in 1995 and 1996, as well as the U.S. Amateur in 2009 where Byeong-Hun An emerged victorious over Ben Martin.

Throughout its storied history of seven previous major championships, Southern Hills has always played just under 7,000 yards.

For the 2007 PGA Championship, the tees were pushed back slightly to 7,131. One of the main goals of Gil Hanse’s 2018 restoration was to impose a challenge for the modern game, adapting to the longer carry distances we see off the tee today. To do so, several of the tee boxes have been pushed back, and fairway hazards have been repositioned so that players cannot simply clear their drives past them. Regardless if the course plays 7,365 or 7,556, players will still face difficult decisions on where to position their tee shots.

Learnings From the 2021 Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills

The significant restoration work done by Gil Hanse and team in 2018 renders the Tiger Woods’ 2007 PGA Championship history relatively useless. Gleaning insights from prime Tiger asserting his dominance over a field may also be useless.

Instead, we do have the luxury of referencing the 2021 Senior PGA Championship, which was contested in the same month of May last year. Granted, the Senior PGA Championship pushed its tees up to play just under 7,000 yards, a stark contrast to this week’s set up, but relatively speaking, there are a few useful tidbits we can takeaway.

Alex Cejka was your winner at -8, which has earned him entry into the field once again this week. Only seven players finished under par. For context, the previous five winning score of the Senior PGA Championship were -3, -19, -18, -19, and -8. So despite taking the course’s maximum length away, the revamped Southern Hills was still able to keep scoring in check, relative to other Senior PGA Championship venues.

The Senior PGA Championship also provides interesting perspective, as many players in the field were able to compare the new conditions post-renovation to the original design. There are a consensus number of changes that were noted across the field. Starting first with the fairways, the course will play much more open off the tee today than it had pre-restoration. The fairways have widened from about 25 yards on average to 50 yards, and with a volume of trees removed as well, it has a much more open feel for drives, according to the players.

In addition to the changes to the fairways, 2001 U.S. Open champion Ratief Goosen offered the following quotes on the adjustments to the greenside complexes:

“The runoffs are ridiculous. The ball running 50, 60 yards away from the green. It’s going to be interesting to see how it’s going to play for the regular guys playing there later, but for me personally, I honestly preferred the old school, the old style.”

The grounds crew made a concerted effort not to run the greens too fast, trying to avoid a Shinnecock Hills repeat where good approach shots could not avoid catching these severe runoffs. With that said, players will be penalized for near misses on their approaches on this modernized Southern Hills course.

Course Comps

It’s always difficult to find a perfect course comp for rotating major championship venues. What makes the majors so exciting is that we only see players tested with these extreme conditions and pressure four times per year. So it’s not easy to simulate what’s expected of players at a weekly PGA TOUR stop.

What we do know for certain about Southern Hills, is that it relies on uneven undulations and tight doglegs to present challenges on long iron approach shots, despite having open fairways and short, non-penal rough. The tightly mowed Bentgrass greens complexes are also the star of the course, heavily bunkered and tucking flags in tight quadrants to emphasize precise approaches. Sounds a lot like Augusta National, which is no mistake, considering the Perry Maxwell connection.

If there were more pronounced rough throughout this course, and it played more closely to the shorter 7,365 range, then Colonial would naturally be the next best comp, as another tightly doglegged Bentgrass track in a similar region of the country susceptible to higher winds. I do believe Driving Distance and SG: ARG will be more important at Southern Hills than what’s required at Colonial CC, but the Perry Maxwell connection should not be ignored.

From there, the next most important course characteristic I’m looking to reference are tightly mowed, false front greens complexes in which near misses on approach are accentuated. Shinnecock Hills, host of the 2018 U.S. Open, is probably the most recent example of a championship course which embodied these same characteristics, combined with the influence of high winds to make holding the greens even more difficult. Kiawah Island, the 2021 PGA Championship host, featured similar tight run-offs on elevated greens with exposure to high winds, although the Ocean Course featured far more of an emphasis on combined Driving Distance and Accuracy.

As more tertiary comps, I do like Concession, which also featured significant false fronts and an emphasis on hitting the correct quadrants of the greens with precision. Collin Morikawa was able to exploit his approach marksmanship there, and a similar approach would work just as well at Southern Hills.

Riviera CC is another demanding course which requires creativity with your ball striking and has seen similar crossover to success at Augusta National. And finally, I’m throwing in Memorial Park, Congaree, and the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational, as each also featured a closer proxy to these greenside complexes with false fronts and tight runoffs that accentuate near misses on approach.

Combine performance across this list, and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Kokrak, Cameron Smith, Jon Rahm, Will Zalatoris, and Jordan Spieth.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • SG: APP
  • SG: OTT / Driving Distance
  • SG: ARG / Scrambling
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Major History (L5 Years)
  • SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions) / Comp Course History
  • SG: Putting (Bent)

I was tempted to go granular into specific hole ranges and proximity distances, but the reality is, the cream should rise to the top at a Major Championship. Players who lack a complete, all-around skillset will be exposed at Southern Hills, and although conveniently cliché, you are going to need to have a complete game in terms of SG: OTT, SG: APP, and SG: ARG in order to compete at this venue.

The top players in those main three categories are as follows:

  • SG: OTT: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Young, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Keith Mitchell, Corey Conners, Luke List, Sungjae Im, and Patrick Cantlay
  • SG: APP: Viktor Hovland, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas, Russell Henley, Shane Lowry, Will Zalatoris, Tom Hoge, Luke List, Cameron Smith, and Adam Hadwin
  • SG: ARG: Matt Jones, Matt Kuchar, Chris Kirk, Sungjae Im, Talor Gooch, Tyrrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, and Francesco Molinari.

In order of priority, we would have to rank SG: APP first and foremost, followed by SG: ARG, then SG: OTT. Regardless of how sharp a player’s irons are, good shots are going to miss the greens and require scrambling for pars, which makes skilled around the green touch essential here. While position off the tee is going to determine how many scoring opportunities a player will actually be able to generate, the widened fairways will be a bit more forgiving for average players off the tee.

Most Well-Rounded Players

There are just eight players who rank top-30 in SG: APP, top-50 in SG: ARG, and above-average in SG: OTT: Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Daniel Berger, Sam Burns, Luke List, Keegan Bradley, and Tom Hoge. Of that list, only Thomas, Berger, and Burns also rate out as above-average putters.

In terms of putting, these greens are intricate, with rolling slopes, which should impose a challenge for players to read. We have seen at courses like Augusta National for example, that challenging greens actually level the playing field for strong and weak putters alike, with the field at large missing a higher percentage of putts.

In any case, the top-10 putters on Bentgrass greens with the best chance of finding success here are Jason Kokrak, Martin Kaymer, Alex Noren, Troy Merritt, Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Cameron Tringale, and Adam Scott.

Complete Game For Difficult Conditions

As it relates to Southern Hills, the 2022 PGA Championship is a perfect amalgamation of the characteristics of each of the other three Majors wrapped into one. It has the expansive undulating fairways and around-the-green premiums of Augusta National, it has the tight greenside runoffs and exposure to high winds which we’re accustomed to seeing at The Open, and it’s been lengthened to a point where distance will provide a distinct advantage, just like the U.S. Open. For those reasons,

I’m looking very closely at combined history across all four Majors over the last five years. The top-10 players in recent Major form are: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson, Justin Rose, Collin Morikawa, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Looking beyond Majors to all courses played in difficult scoring conditions over the last two seasons, the top-10 grinders are Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, and Bryson DeChambeau.

To summarize, I’m looking for players who are elite on approach, proficient around the greens, are better than field-average in Driving Distance/OTT, and who have proven results in Majors or comparable difficult scoring conditions. There are just seven players in the field this week who fit each of those criteria: Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger, Gary Woodland, and Jordan Spieth. 

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: JORDAN SPIETH

pga championship odds

The role of the spotlight feature is to shine attention on a player who may fly under the radar and present exploitable value to target before odds are released on Monday morning. When it comes to major championships, those same rules don’t exactly apply.

The odds are already available, so it’s too late to talk up any diamonds in the rough. I’d considered drafting a piece on Jason Kokrak, who’s fared excellently across all the comp courses and comp conditions I’ve looked into. But the more I thought about it, the role of the Player Spotlight for a Major Championship is not to simply talk about a player who is likely to exceed expectations, it’s to pick a presumptive winner. And while it may go without saying that Jordan Spieth is playing great, and the course suits him perfectly, he’s currently still available at 20-1 or longer odds, which means there is still value to exploit.

Jordan Spieth should be a top-three favorite to win the 2022 PGA Championship.

As we go down the checklist, recent form is no concern coming off a win at the RBC Heritage. I am writing this before the conclusion of the AT&T Byron Nelson, where he is the odds-on favorite to win as of Sunday morning, so regardless of his finish on Sunday, he’s proven that the form has continued to stay sharp as he returns to a familiar part of the country. What’s most encouraging about Spieth’s current form though, is the ball striking, which has come and gone over the last few years, but is currently dialed having gained in both SG: OTT and SG: APP in six of his last seven starts going back to his runner up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He’s been finding success despite issues with his putter, which we know is due to correct itself, especially on a return trip back to familiar Bentgrass greens.

From a comp course perspective, the two most pertinent comps to Southern Hills, in my opinion, would have to be Perry Maxwell’s two other most famous projects, Augusta National and Colonial CC. If you could pick two courses over the stretch of Jordan Spieth’s career in which he’s had the most repeatable success, it would be none other than those two. At Colonial, Spieth has a win and seven career T10s dating back to 2013. At Augusta, he has another win in addition to four other T3 or better finishes.

In terms of course fit, the characteristics of vast undulations, creative shot-making, and elite touch around the greens should once again suit Spieth’s game perfectly for Southern Hills. As mentioned, this course is a perfect amalgamation of the other three Majors’ classic characteristics. Who better than Spieth, who’s claimed victory at all Majors besides the PGA Championship, to complete the career Grand Slam this week on a course that truly encapsulates every facet of a Major championship venue.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Where to begin with storylines ahead of the 2022 PGA Championship. The world no. 1, Scottie Scheffler, will be chasing his dominant Masters victory on a course he’s described as his very favorite. Former world no. 1 Jon Rahm makes his first start since winning the Mexico Open. Jordan Spieth chases the career grand slam in peak form on a course that should suit his game perfectly. Tiger Woods is teeing it up for the second time this year, on a course where he is technically the defending PGA TOUR champion since winning the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. All tantalizing storylines without even divulging in to the omission of our defending PGA Champion from the field.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2022 PGA Championship odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by tier for Draft Kings, with DFS pricing and odds already released.

pga championship odds

In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: APP, SG: OTT. SG: ARG / Scrambling, and Recent Major History, followed by a more balanced mix of Comp/Difficult Scoring Conditions, SG: TOT (High Winds), Bogey Avoidance, SG: P (Bent) and Driving Distance.

Model Favorites

The two-time PGA Champion, Rory McIlroy, has taken the top overall spot this week. He ranks top-10  in all of the key stat categories this week, including SG: OTT, Recent Major History, SG: ARG, SG: P (Bent), Driving Distance, Bogey Avoidance, and Difficult Comp Course History.

After McIlroy, the rest of my model’s top-10 this week features Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Will Zalatoris, Matt Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, and Sungjae Im.

I’m attempting to stay patient and wait out continued PGA Championship odds drift in Major week, as we start to see more sportsbooks compete for market share with enticing odds boosts and promos. To date, my PGA Championship bets are Cameron Young (110-1),  Cameron Smith (35-1), and Jordan Spieth (25-1).

In terms of the card construction this week, I am planning to add one more player around 45-1 or 50-1, followed by a handful of high upside players who have drifted beyond 100-1 odds. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating 2022 PGA Championship odds!

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John Haslbauer Avatar
Written by
John Haslbauer

John Haslbauer writes about golf betting and advanced golf metrics for TheLines.com. He is a passionate golf fan, golf writer, and (casual) golfer. A graduate at Syracuse University, John works out of Jersey City as a Director of Media Strategy for HBO and HBO Max. He created the website thepgatout.com at the start of 2021 and is active on Twitter (@PGATout). No, he is not a tout. The Twitter handle is a joke. Touts are lame. We hate touts.

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