Inside the ropes: Finding the sweet spot at Kiawah
Monday was Survey Day at the Ocean Course. Players and fans were trying to get their bearings at the eastern end of Kiawah Island.
Caddies were stepping off yardages, some used range finders, while players hit multiple shots from the tee, the fairway and the green on the first full practice day for the 94th PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods, teeing off before 6:30 a.m., took a slew of putts from different angles on the 17th and 18th greens most of them one-handed. After every putt, Woods would mark something down in a little yardage book he and caddie Joe LaCava were compiling.
None of that is surprising since the PGA Championship is annually held at a different course. And this year, the tournament is at a venue few of the golfers have much experience with. They are building a strategy almost from scratch.
The wind will likely prove to be a deciding factor. Finishing his round before 10 a.m., Tiger was able to hit his tee shot on the 501-yard 18th hole well inside 200 yards because the breeze was down. The players in the afternoon were not as fortunate. Most were left with approach shots of more than 200 yards. Graham McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, was one of those players. He had a kind of puzzled look on his face when his approach landed short and to the right.
The players are in “major”mode this week and there is not much kidding around. It’s all business.
As for the thousands fans, Monday was a day to figure out where to sit and see the best action and – just as important – stay as cool as possible. The week promises to be hot and humid, a typical August week in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
The PGA of America is letting fans bring one unopened bottled water onto the property. Locating the beverage stands was just as important as finding a shady place to sit, the latter usually involving an umbrella. High on the list, too, was trying to catch some of the afternoon breeze.
The Ocean Course has the pros, and everyone else, focused.
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.