The dangerous information for the golf enterprise heading into this week’s PGA Championship is that it’s positively operating out of actual property. The excellent news would possibly be that it will by no means run out of wind.
Both components will be on show on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, which checks in at a beefed-up 7,800-plus yards to assert the title of longest main championship venue ever. But with out the winds whipsawing in off the Atlantic coast, even that gained’t be sufficient to include this technology of energy hitters. So far, a minimum of, the winds have held their very own.
“For the sake of our sanity,” Jon Rahm, one of many longest hitters on tour, mentioned after a gusty apply spherical, “I believe they’re going to use a couple of forward tees.”.
“If the wind blows this way for the rest of the week,” concurred Adam Scott, “it’s going to be a battle to just get in the clubhouse.”
The Ocean Course is a quirky jewel designed by architects Pete and Alice Dye. She insisted on elevating the fairways and crowning the greens in order that golfers might truly see the Atlantic as a substitute of simply listening to its roar. That view got here with a value, exposing those self same golfers’ pictures to the raking wind. Depending on its route, an method shot on the similar gap — take the 590-yard, par-5 seventh — would possibly be a floating 8-iron in the future and a wind-cheating 3-iron the following.
“The 590 yards can play 500 or 490 when you get that much wind,” mentioned Justin Thomas.
Like Rahm, he didn’t wish to even assume what taking part in a few of the holes from the again tees would be like, particularly the par-3 14th. “Guys are going to be literally hitting driver on that hole. Unless the PGA wants seven-hour rounds,” Thomas added, “I wouldn’t advise it.”
Rory McIlroy beat the Ocean Course when it hosted the PGA 9 years in the past (and measured 200 yards shorter) with a scorching 13-under rating — eight pictures away from his closest pursuer. But that was in August, when the winds are gentler and the turf a lot spongier.
McIlroy can be one of many few gamers within the prime 10 who additionally occurs to be hitting it nicely in the mean time. If in-form golfers is any predictor, search for the resurgent Jordan Spieth and regular Daniel Berger to be in competition. Those are the one two golfers with a strokes-gained measure of two.0 towards the sphere this season, with Spieth doing most of his gaining in and across the greens, which figures to be essential on the Ocean Course.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa shot 65-64 on the weekend at Harding Park, due to some spectacular iron play. He thinks that will be a requirement this time round, too.
“Out here with the wind, no matter what it is, you just have to control your golf ball,” Morikawa mentioned. “So it doesn’t matter if you’re 150 yards or you’re 200 yards, you have to be able to know where you’re going to land certain shots, where you’re going to miss them.”
The Dyes offset the beneficiant fairways and placing surfaces with large swaths of sandy waste areas with unpredictable lies. But the size of the golf course goes to check the endurance of the largest hitters to take massive dangers.
“If you don’t hit it long, it’s going to be a tough week,” mentioned U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau. Golf’s mad scientist — and the PGA Tour’s chief in driving distance — spent the pandemic-induced layoff packing on muscle for simply such an event. But DeChambeau is sensible sufficient to know what he can’t management.
“If there was a way to figure out the wind,” he started, earlier than tucking into a phrase salad about “laminar flow” after which wistfully acknowledging that no person has but found out how wind would possibly have an effect on placing “other than intuitively.”
Speaking of which, the blokes who run tournaments have thus far been guided largely by instinct. As professional golfers like DeChambeau hit the ball farther and farther, they’ve scrambled to graft on yards right here and there like Band-Aids to maintain their programs aggressive.
If the gamers tear the Ocean Course up this week with the wind howling and all its defenses intact, it’s one other signal that match golf is operating out of room a lot sooner somewhat than later.