Four days of championship golf at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course and Pete Dye’s “monster” par-4 finishing hole played five different ways.
A combination of shifting winds, perplexing pin placements and the punishment meted out on the other 17 holes usually spelled trouble for the world’s best professional golfers. Add in the pressure of the year’s last major championship, and you see why the 94th PGA Championship had a devilish 18th hole.
Thursday was much like the practice rounds: a quartering right to left wind in the players’ faces that left almost all tee shots on the plateau at least 200 yards from the green to a hole located in a swale in the middle of the green.
Friday the winds turned 90 degrees and players were able to bomb tee shots inside 200 yards. But a precarious back right pin location made it almost impossible to get the ball close for birdie.
The third round was split over two days, and the hole the majority of the field played Saturday was not the hole the rest of the players faced Sunday. Saturday’s breeze was similar to Friday but the intensity was turned down for the back left hole location, maybe the easiest part of the green to read. It was a little more accepting of the draws the players hit as approach shots.
Saturday’s thunderstorm was a blessing for the players who didn’t have to play the 18th. When play resumed early Sunday, a slight right-to-left helping breeze made the hole more benign.
On first glance, the final round front-left pin placement gave players the appearance that they would be able to take advantage again, especially with the right-to-left helping breeze. However, the hole was really set on a shelf, protected by the false front on the left side. Anything to the left and in front of the hole was actually a downhill putt. Dye’s “monster” had a parting bite for the PGA pros.
Zach Johnson, one of the best putters on tour, 3-putted from 12 feet. Adam Scott missed a very makeable putt from about 6 feet, as did J.J. Henry. Bill Haas three-putted from left side of the green.
Most of the birdie putts made Sunday afternoon – K.J. Choi, Bubba Watson, Y.E. Yang – were short.
There was one player who rolled in a longer birdie putt on the 18th. Maybe you’ve heard of him: Rory McIlroy, the 94th PGA Champion.
Mark Matlock is a freelance writer living in Greenville, S.C. He contributed columns throughout the week to take Golfweek readers inside the ropes at Kiawah Island.