5 Things: Weather becoming a factor at Kiawah
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – We’re two days away from the PGA Championship, but there was still plenty of action at Kiawah Island. Here’s 5 Things you need to know as the season’s final major draws nearer:
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1. RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: It looks like players will face soft conditions come Thursday’s first round. Kiawah Island, located on South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, was hit by several downpours Tuesday. “It’s soft out there,” said Tiger Woods. “The greens are still pretty receptive, which is nice. If the PGA decides to play it all the way back, it’s just going to be a big ballpark.”
Kiawah Island’s listed yardage is 7,676 yards, though the course isn’t expected to play at that length this week.
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2. ON THE PROWL: Tiger Woods arrives at Kiawah Island hoping to end a winless streak in the majors that has extended past four years. He finished eighth at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Championship after shooting 68-66 on the weekend. He was bogey-free in the final round, missing just four fairways and three greens. Woods is happy with his ballstriking. The putter is another issue. He ranked 57th in the Bridgestone’s 75-man field in strokes-gained putting.
“I misread a couple (putts), but that's just the way it goes,” he said after the Bridgestone’s final round. “But at least every putt was starting on the right line, and that's something that I'm very excited about going into next week.”
Woods’ strong weekend was in contrast to his performance at the past two majors. He was tied for the halfway lead at this year’s U.S. Open and in third place after two rounds at the Open Championship, four shots off the lead. Woods didn’t break par on the weekend of either Open, shooting a combined 11 over in those four rounds.
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3. RYDER CUP RACE: Eight spots on the United States Ryder Cup team will be determined at week’s end. Those on the outside looking in have the opportunity to make a big move this week.
Players earn one point for every $1,000 earned this year, except at the majors, where two points are awarded per $1,000. That means first place this week is worth 2,890 points, meaning any player in the top 37 of the Ryder Cup standings could still potentially clinch a spot on the team this week.
There’s good and bad news for U.S. captain Davis Love III. Tiger Woods, who leads the points list, will automatically qualify for a U.S. team for the first time since 2009. Phil Mickelson’s status on the team is in question, though. He is holding down the eighth and final automatic spot in the standings with 4,163 points.
Woods, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson are the top eight players. There are plenty of strong candidates for Love’s four captain’s picks. Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson are Nos. 9-14 on the standings.
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4. DEFENSE: Defending champion Keegan Bradley arrives at Kiawah Island on a winning note, having claimed last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Bradley, now in his second season on Tour, already owns three victories, including a major and World Golf Championship.
Bradley’s win moved him from ninth to fourth in the Ryder Cup standings. “It frees me up a little bit. I’m not as worried about the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “Any time you win, it’s a great feeling. ... I’ve got a great course here that I feel suits me very well, and I want to defend my title as best I can.”
Jason Dufner, the man who finished second to Bradley at last year’s PGA, has had a light summer, playing just three events since his runner-up finish May 27 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. He’s playing well, though. He finished fourth at the U.S. Open, 31st at the Open Championship and seventh last week.
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5. NO. 1 SEEKS NO. 1: It’s been more than a year since Luke Donald ascended to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s still seeking that first major, though. Donald feels he learned valuable lessons this summer that may help him this week.
He missed the cut at this year’s U.S. Open after placing too much pressure on himself. He finished fifth at his next major, the Open Championship. Donald also was eighth at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I think there was a little bit of a breakthrough, just realizing at the Open Championship that no matter how I’m hitting it physically, there’s always a way to mentally be on top,” Donald said. “I think it was an important lesson for me at the U.S. Open, the fact that I ... was getting so anxious and pressing too hard and wanting to be successful. I think after that week of failing and kind of realizing that a lot of the mindset I had going into that week was a part of the failure.”