Short-game imagination will be necessary to succeed this week at the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Nearly every green has a collection area on one or both sides. That means the players will need a variety of shots to overcome the bumps, swales and hollows dotting Pete Dye’s creation.
The wheels were turning Tuesday as the players practiced around the 18th green. Matt Kuchar used a long putter from the right and behind the green. Jonathan Byrd tried a couple of flop shots from the left. Zach Johnson, a magician with a wedge, tried chipping and putting from different angles.
It’s unlikely the greens will be ridiculously fast. If the wind blows, balls could be swept into chipping areas, waste areas or marshes should the Stimpmeter get much above 11.
Aaron Baddeley tried chipping from the left, clipping the ball beautifully, only to see it slam on the brakes after one hop and stop well short of the target. Baddeley seemed perplexed, but he came right back with a shot that reacted more to his liking.
Hunter Mahan, like most of the players, seemed very interested in how the ball would roll if putted from behind the green. It is sloped toward the putting surface.
As was the case Monday, there were lots of notes being taken. Peter Hanson’s caddie threw down a couple of rubber pads the size of golf cups to help hone his player’s putting stroke.
The players have one more day of note-taking before the curtain goes up.
But the tournament is also about the fans. After their rounds Tuesday, many players came to the back left of the 18th green and gave autographs, mostly to kids with hole flags and the volleyball-sized autograph balls being sold in the massive merchandise facility. K.J. Choi even flipped three balls over to the crowd as a thank you.
All three members of one group – Kuchar, Jonathan Byrd and Gary Woodland – came over, spaced themselves out and signed together for about 10 minutes. Woodland and Byrd excused themselves, but Kuchar, he of the long putter and bigger smile, signed for another five minutes, earning a legion of admirers.
Mark Matlock is a freelance writer living in Greenville, S.C. He’ll be contributing columns throughout the week to take Golfweek readers inside the ropes at Kiawah Island.