KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) – The course is immaculate, the weather co-operating and 99 of the world’s top 100 players are primed for a mouth-watering PGA Championship starting on Thursday.
The Atlantic will provide a soothing backdrop to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, but nerves will be frayed as the longest course in major history provides an exacting test that will expose any weaknesses.
The course could play as long as 7,876 yards, though PGA of America officials will probably set it up a couple of hundreds yards shorter each day by moving the tees to reduce the length of holes playing into the wind.
A stiff breeze is expected to blow from start to finish and the course will slowly bake out under relentless sunshine unless officials decide to douse it with water.
American Collin Morikawa is defending champion at the second major of the year, which comes hot on the heels of last month’s Masters, where Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win a major title.
“This golf course is going to test your ability to adapt and then be ready for change,” Morikawa said on Wednesday.
“You’re going to have nine holes that are into (the wind) and nine holes against. How are you going to figure out how to just stay patient and play some great golf?”
American Jordan Spieth is likely to be sentimental fan favourite as he seeks to become the sixth man to complete the modern Grand Slam by winning all four major titles.
Spieth and the other big names — Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau — will suck up most of the media and fan attention early — a dark horse may well emerge to challenge for the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
Unheralded Englishman David Lynn was runner-up to McIlroy in the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
“I definitely have high expectations. I think my game is in
good shape and I think I can get myself in the mix here,” said Canadian world 39 Corey Conners, who finished tied for eighth at the Masters.
“There’s definitely a lot of trouble lurking out there. It’s going to be a battle. Patience is going to be key.”
Play will begin on Thursday at 7 a.m. local time (1100 GMT), with the last of the 156 players teeing off at 2.42 p.m.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)