KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – The 7,876 scorecard mileage makes the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island the longest in the history of the great championship. As daunting as it sounds, that’s not why players in this week’s PGA Championship look so battered and injured leaving the grounds.
Sunburned and grumpy, the expression of despair revolves around the wind as well as the strenuous walk and the length of the course.
The weather indicators and forecasts may not be as strongly registered as the wind actually whips off the Atlantic. Various predictions had a quiet week. If that is the case, what if it really blows?
Go to the ocean course and there is always a breeze. You can’t miss it, either over frizzled hair, sand in your eyes, or the whistling through your ears.
And at some point it comes into your head. It happened on Thursday in the opening round of the second major championship of the year.
“It’s diabolical,” said Bryson DeChambeau.
DeChambeau was disheveled after an even par 72 in which he had four straight bogies for the first time in the entire season. Even the longest rider on the PGA Tour couldn’t fight his way through the constant, invisible obstacle.
“The wind just kicked my butt,” he said. It takes a lot from you. I work very, very hard to get every shot exactly how I want it to be. It’s windy when you are over 4 feet. The wind is very strong and you think [the putt is] will break. If the wind stops it won’t break. It’s all just a really difficult thing to control out there. It is much work.”
DeChambeau has been known to put a lot of thought into his game – maybe too much at times – but his description sums up the fear and disgust that comes with a round of golf here for those competing at the highest level.
And it’s part of the beauty of the late Pete Dye’s design. When he built the square more than 30 years ago, at the suggestion of his wife Alice, the architect had the fairways raised so that the dunes would not block the wind coming from the water. The result is a mixture of holes hit by unpredictable east-west coastal winds.
The length of the course provides the flexibility necessary to take into account predicted winds. Tees can be moved forward on holes that play in the wind, back on holes that wind helps on. That’s why the actual mileage on Thursday was 7,650 – still plenty thick.
Keegan Bradley, who shot 69, loved it.
“This course is nerve-wracking and difficult,” he said. “I’m proud to go out there and shoot that score.”
For much of the day, Bradley’s 69 tied for the first-round lead along with two-time PGA champions Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield. Cam Davis later tied them, which means there are six players at 3 under.
Late in the day, Canada’s Corey Conners broke the pack with a few birdies, shooting 5-under-67 for a 2-shot lead. Conners saw the treacherous last five holes a little less difficult because the wind eased a little.
Conners had six birdies and a single bogey and played the back nine in 33. He made it look easy – even if it wasn’t.
“I would say it is impossible to be stress-free on this golf course,” said Conners. It’s very challenging. ”
Cameron Smith’s tee shot on the par 3 fifth hole almost goes into the hole, but bounces straight off the flagpole.
The 18th, 17th and 15th holes were the three toughest on the course. The last hole averaged more than half a stroke above face value. The average scoring was 74,734.
“They hold on forever,” said Koepka, who has won four major championships.
And he agrees with that.
“I love it when it’s difficult,” said Koepka. I just know that I can work it out mentally. When it’s this windy, it’s not so much about putting – it’s more about hitting the ball. I felt like I hit it really well [on Thursday]. I feel like that’s why I did really well. Understand that sometimes par is a good number. You have to understand that 30, 35 feet is a great shot sometimes and you just have to accept it and move on. ”
Koepka noticed how easier this can be said than done.
“You play like nine straight holes in the breeze,” he said. “The way the wind direction comes.” [Thursday]It’s so difficult because it feels almost direct – and then you really have to be careful. It comes from like 1 [o’clock]but then it shifts to 11 [o’clock] little bit.
“You’re never right there. It’s always just slightly weird. If you just don’t get the right shot or know which way the wind is actually blowing, it’s pretty hard to miss it.”
Among those who struggled were three players who were expected to compete against each other – Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas with 75s, and Dustin Johnson, who doubled the 18th hole to 76. Adam Scott and Max Homa shot 78. In the 80s, 12 players shot.
A total of 30 players broke the par on Thursday. But that can be misleading because only Conners got 5 under and only seven players shot in the 60s.
“Mentally, you have to show a lot of determination out there,” DeChambeau said. Happiness is not going your way and you are not getting the best breaks. Making a lot of great punches and things just don’t go the way you want them to. You need to be able to step up and say, “You know what? It does not matter. I’ll just do the best shot I could get here. ” ‘
And now just do it for another three days.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa, who shot 70, said: “I hope it stays windy because it really tests your ability to take good quality shots.”