As I caught parts of the British Open on TV I was amazed at how well the weather behaved and how big an impact that had on scores. I found myself looking forward to the next major, where I don't think the field will be quite so lucky. The PGA Championship will be played in two weeks at the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, a spit of land surrounded by water that seems to manufacture humidity and has the most changeable conditions I know of in this country.
I spent the late 1990s as a part-time resident of Kiawah and did the majority of my practicing and playing there. The brutal test, without doubt, made me a better player. On that course a 115-yard shot could be a bunted wedge or a hammered four-iron-during the same round. There were days that simply standing upright was a challenge. There is, in my opinion, no finer closing stretch of holes than those on the Ocean course: two par-3s, a par-5 and two par-4s that have absolutely no let up in them.
Designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1991, the Ocean course is one of only two I have played that were made significantly easier after they opened. (The other: Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.) Following the '91 Ryder Cup-the infamous War at the Shore-fairway widths at the Ocean course were expanded, greenside bulkheads moved and the sea oats on the beautiful dunes substantially thinned. Prior to the 2007 Senior PGA Championship the 18th green was moved farther from the shoreline, and the greens were redone with Sea Isle paspalum. It is a grass that can be amazingly consistent and firm and has very little grain, but will present a new challenge for the field, as I believe this will the first time this grass will be seen in a major championship.
Between the heat, wind, humidity and the unique features of the course, the PGA will be every bit the challenge we saw at the British Open on Sunday. I will watch with great memories of the cold, wet winter walks I used to take on the beach and a course that made me a lot better player.