Windy Kiawah offers 'beast' of a test for PGA contenders

·3-min read

Multiple major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy were among players making final preparations on the eve of the 103rd PGA Championship in brisk winds Wednesday at Kiawah Island.

The menacing 7,876-yard Ocean course, the longest layout in major golf history, has elevated greens, long run-off areas and ill winds gusting from many directions to frustrate golfers.

"This golf course is a beast," reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said. "When the wind picks up it's probably one of the hardest golf courses I've ever played."

Three-time major winner Spieth, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory, knows a few tricks to cope with the course.

"I know taking advantage of the downwind holes and hanging on for dear life into the wind out here," Spieth said.

"Holes will play much longer when you turn into the breeze and then much shorter downwind, moreso than other golf courses when they get firm and fast."

Four-time major winner McIlroy, who won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah by a record eight strokes, seeks his first major victory since the 2014 PGA.

"You're going to have to chip and putt really well," McIlroy said.

"With wind like this and this golf course with all the trouble there is waiting for you... you have to accept par is a good score and move on."

McIlroy, who snapped an 18-month win drought two weeks ago at Quail Hollow, said approaches to the "upturned saucer" greens with plentiful roll-off areas would be crucial.

"The key this week is going to be being disciplined in your approach and not chasing anything," McIlroy said. "The guy that does that is the guy who is going to have the best chance this week."

McIlroy could become only the second player to win the PGA twice at the same venue after Tiger Woods, who captured the PGA at Medinah in 1999 and 2006.

Canada's Corey Conners, who produced two top-10 Masters finishes in the past six months, counselled caution as well.

"It's going to be a battle," Conners said. "Patience is going to be key. Very challenging. There's definitely a lot of trouble lurking out there."

Spain's Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, was anticipating trouble as well.

"If you can manage to hit 12-13 greens, it's going to be a big advantage," Garcia said. "But it's going to be really hard to do."

- 'Could be brutal' -

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, battling back from knee surgery in March, expects a punishing final stretch.

"The finish of this course, the last five holes, could be brutal depending on the wind," Koepka said. "You could see some collapses."

On many holes, fifth-ranked DeChambeau said, there simply aren't any safe landing spots for errant shots.

"You can't miss it in certain areas," he said. "Like you can't bail out left or right. You've just got to have your ball-striking on the whole day, and if you don't, you're going to get penalized."

Mexico's 19th-ranked Abraham Ancer, runner-up to McIlroy at Quail Hollow, likes the upcoming challenges.

"It's long and it's windy, and you have to be extremely accurate, which I like," he said. "It's really cool having waste bunkers that you can have some brutal lies or some good ones. It's just a raw golf course and I really enjoy that."

American Sam Burns brings top form into the PGA, having won the Valspar Championship earlier this month and finished second at last week's US PGA Tour Byron Nelson event in Texas.

"You see results on the range and work through that, then at home and then in competition," Burns said. "Some of the stuff we worked on is showing up in competition and that's good to see."

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