How Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course will look and play different for PGA Championship

·4 min read

The PGA of America began staging what would become one of men’s golf’s major championships more than 100 years ago and through time pretty much mastered the annual challenge of preparation at rotating sites.

Then, along came the coronavirus outbreak.

Ever-changing rules and protocols to combat the pandemic threw those tried-and-true plans into disarray. But, Ryan Ogle said, “the challenges also provided opportunities.”

Ogle, championship director for the 2021 PGA that begins May 20 at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, knows, too, that two major factors will not be different: The world’s best male golfers will be in the field and the golf course will be spectacular.

“At the end of the day, there will be great golf on a great golf course,” he predicted.

Indeed, the Ocean Course’s history makes “great” an obvious synonym for architect Pete Dye’s gem. From the 1991 Ryder Cup to Rory McIlroy’s sterling performance in the 2012 PGA, the course produced dramatic theater.

There also will be mystery in the air this time around. The 2021 PGA comes in May and the golf course’s best defense — the wind — is different this time of year compared to the August PGA or the September Ryder Cup.

“Mother Nature and the golf gods will play a leading role,” Ogle said. “The wind blows harder in the spring and sometimes from different directions on the same day.”

And if there’s anything that highly skilled golfers hate, it’s unpredictable winds.

The beauty of the setting and the challenge presented by Dye’s masterful architecture are world class. Winds can leave the best golfers in the world begging for mercy.

Witness 2012’s second round: More players shot in the 90s (two) than in the 60s (one). Penned one scribe: On a day when witnessing a 76 was akin to viewing Halley’s Comet, Vijay Singh’s 69 will be regaled in fable and song like a 58 anywhere else.

Other seasonal factors this year include over-seeded fairways, rough and greens. In addition, length has been added to some par-4s, some trees have been relocated and some of Dye’s original design work around bunkers has been restored.

“The grasses are Bermuda and paspalum in August,” Ogle said. “Those are coming back from dormancy in the spring, but we also have the over-seed. The greens will be a bit fuller, smoother and faster, and the longer rough will be different.”

Coronavirus protocols required the PGA to limit on-site spectators to approximately 10,000 a day rather than the 30,000 in 2012.

“We had sold out and hated to have to cut back,” Ogle said. “We did it in the most equitable way we could, but we obviously would prefer to have full attendance.”

Good news for those who do have tickets: “They will be closer to the players with better views,” Ogle said.

The tournament’s spectator guide, which encourages fans to bring collapsible chairs, details what to expect and is available online at www.pgachampionship.com/spectatorguide.

“Although we will have some corporate hospitality areas, we won’t have any grandstands,” Ogle said. “Your ticket is on your cell phone, and all purchases must be by credit card.

“Other things will be different, too, but there will be great golf on a great golf course.”

After all, that’s what a major championship should be.

Chip shots. USC’s top-ranked women’s golf team opens play Monday in the NCAA Regional at the University of Louisville Golf Club in Simpsonville, Kentucky. Clemson’s women are the No. 8 seed in the Columbus, Ohio Regional. ... Clemson’s men earned the top seed in the regional at the Golf Club of Tennessee near Nashville. USC’s men are No. 9 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both tournaments begin May 17. ... At Haig Point on Daufuskie Island, Jayne Pardus won her third straight WSCGA Senior title. Karin Wolfe captured the Legends Division for the fifth consecutive year and seventh overall. ... Lexington’s Lauren Stephenson dominated in earning a berth in the U.S. Women’s Open in qualifying at Mid-Pines Inn and Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Former Furman player Haylee Harford also advanced. ... In U.S. Open local qualifying at Wallace, North Carolina, Jimmy Gillam (Myrtle Beach) and Christian Salzer (Sumter/N.C. State) advanced to the June 7 Sectionals.

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