The 2012 PGA Championship
Players Will Have Carolina On Their Mind.
By Tom Ward
The Kiawah Island(Ocean course)in South Carolina will be the host for the last major of the year on the PGA tour. When the 94th edition of the PGA championship tees off Thursday there will be a lot of great story lines on the docket. Defending champion Keegan Bradley comes into the tournament with a shocking win last weekend at the WGC Championship in Akron, Ohio when Jim Furyk’s stunning collapse on the 18th hole gave him the title. Tiger Woods gets his last shot to add to his major wins tally chasing Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18. Woods has won 3 times this season, but hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He’s had some poor weekend performances this year in the first three majors and is looking to finally close the deal. Also, precious Ryder Cup points are on the line for the handful of competitors vying to make it to Medinah in late September.
The Pete Dye designed Ocean course will be a long layout for the professionals playing to a yardage of 7,676 yards and a par of 72. Like all links courses wind will be prevalent and is sure to be a big factor in determining the eventual champion. Located on the eastern end of Kiawah Island, the Ocean course has more seaside holes (10) than any other course in the Northern hemisphere. Course architect Dye used the natural beauty of Kiawah’s seaside environment to develop an old links style look to it similar to what you would see in Ireland and Great Britain. Originally designed to sit behind the dunes Dye went ahead and raised the entire course so players and spectators would have unobstructed views of the magnificent coastline. This wonderful view came at a price for the players because it made the course substantially more difficult by having no defense from the unpredictable and very brisk sea breezes off the ocean. The course has very few blind spots and everything is laid right in front of players to use their shot making skills to navigate the tough terrain. The course opened in 1991 and famously hosted the Ryder Cup known as the “War by the Shore” in which the U.S. won in dramatic fashion when Bernard Langer missed a short putt on the final home. The 1997 & 2003 World Cup, 2005 PGA Professional National championship and 2007 Senior PGA Championship have all been played at the seaside course.
The course starts out easy enough with a short par 4. I don’t think you’ll see many players hitting driver here. The second hole is a par 5 measuring 557 yards that has a slight dogleg left off the tee. It’s a reachable par 5 and I think it’s a good chance for most of the field to make a birdie. Number 3 is a 390 yard par 4 with a perched up green that is going to test the player’s ability to get the ball up and down if they miss this green. The 4th is a pretty long par 4 of 458 yards with 3 bunkers positioned on the right side of the fairway. The 188 yard par 3 awaits the players when they arrive to the 5th tee. The hole has two greens separated by a big ridge in the middle. It is one of the flatter greens on the course. I think the 6th hole is one of the key holes as it’s a long par 4 playing to about 480 yards. This is the starting point where the course starts to show its teeth. Number 7 is a solid par 5 at 579 yards with the wind coming off the ocean from the golfers left to right. I think you’re going to see some of the players trying to cut the corner to pick up extra yardage making their second short a lot easier into the green. This will be a real risk reward kind of tee shot. The par 3 8th looks like a seemingly simple hole, but that will change when the pin is placed further back on the green during the competition. Any shot missed long or right will find the bunkers. The front nine finishes with a strong par 4 494 yards that sports a wide fairway sloping down the right side. The inward nine begins with a par 4 of 447 yards. Players will be faced with a large waste area to the left front of the green and a deeper, steep faced waste area to the back. A 593 yard par 5 eleventh will be a tough test for everyone. The key to this hole is going to be how the players layup for their 3rd shot into the green. The 12th hole has the widest fairway on the course measuring at 412 yards, but it gives way to one of the narrowest approach shots. The 13th hole night be the most difficult hole on the inward nine. It’s a par of 497 yards with a long narrow canal that comes into play starting off the tee all the way down the right side of the hole. A 238 yard par 3 will be testing the players when they reach the 14th tee. A missed tee shot here will be a real adventure trying to salvage par. This is considered by many players as the courses most beautiful hole, but it can be the most treacherous. On 15th hole the players must hit the fairway as it’s a straight forward hole playing to a par 4 of 444 yards. 581 yards par 5 is what the players will be dealing with when they come to the 16th hole. The pros will be required to carry their tee shots over a pond to reach a terraced fairway that is higher to the right side. Downwind this hole will provide players with a great chance for an eagle or birdie with many of the players going for the green in two. Come Sunday the tee shot on the 223 yards par 3 17th hole might very well decide who will be holding the trophy in the end. Water guards the right side of the green, with two deep waste bunkers to the left. Number 18 is a par 4 that plays really long at 501 yards with the Atlantic ocean on the players right side. Mid irons into an elevated green is what the majority of the players will have to contend with as they come to the end of the round.
Who will win:
156 players will tee off on Thursday and that group includes 20 club professionals from around the country will have their opportunity to match shots with the tour pros. The improbable scenario that one of those club pros can get in the mix come Sunday with a chance to win is very slim. I think if you asked anyone of them what their goal this week would be I think most would say making the cut would be considered a great outing. There are some intriguing pairings for the first two days with Tiger Woods playing alongside last year’s champ Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer. Jim Furyk looking to rebound after last week’s demise will play with Rory McIlroy and long hitting Dustin Johnson. Steve Stricker, Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter is another strong pairing. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and a struggling Phil Mickelson tee it up with Padraig Harrington. Current Masters champion Bubba Watson gets to play with current British Open champ Ernie Els along with Webb Simpson. Adam Scott will try to get his game back on track after a disastrous final few holes at the Open championship a few weeks ago. He will play his first two rounds with Sergio Garcia and Hunter Mahan. Three former PGA Champs John Daly, David Toms and Shaun Micheel tee off at 8:20 on Thursday. Keep your eyes on the Luke Donald, Zach Johnson and Brandy Snedecker pairing as all are playing well. Our local Texas contingent will be out in full force with Hunter Mahan ranked 4th in the Fed Ex cup points standings leading the way. Also in the field calling north Texas home is Ryan Palmer, John Rollins, Mark Brooks (1996 champ), Y.E. Yang, K.J. Choi, and Rory Sabbatini. Finally, who will be hoisting the Wanamaker Cup come late Sunday afternoon? It will be a player that has all the shots in the bag especially adept in the short game department. Also, the eventual winner will have to be an extremely good wind player and that means some of the guys from the southwest like Texas should be in the hunt. Outside of the usual suspects like Tiger Woods and the other top ranked contenders be on the lookout for players like Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood who are a few of my choices to pick up the coveted hardware this Sunday.
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com