The world’s best players gather in South Carolina this week to do battle for the year’s fourth Major. Keegan Bradley defends the USPGA championship over the stunning Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Pete Dye’s Ocean Course at Kiawah Island has been stretched to 7,676 yards for this tournament. As such, it’s the longest course in Major championship history. It’s an incredibly difficult test, ranked as the toughest in the USA on many lists.
The course is probably best known as the venue for the 1991 Ryder Cup – “The War on the Shore.” In that thrilling contest, the USA came out on top by a single point. Germany’s Bernhard Langer had a six-foot putt on the final green to beat Hale Irwin and retain the Cup for Europe. But it narrowly missed and Langer famously lifted his head skyward to cry out in anguish.
This will be the 94th running of the USPGA Championship. It was first held in 1916 and was won by England’s Jim Barnes. He defended the title the next time the tournament was held in 1919. After that, players from the USA dominated. Until 1957, the event was played to a matchplay format. Walter Hagen won five times between 1921 and 1927. Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead were both three-time winners in the matchplay era.
After the tournament became strokeplay, Jack Nicklaus has been the most successful player, with five victories. Tiger Woods is close behind with four titles.
Tiger will be looking to end his Major drought this week and pick up his 15th Major title. But the course may not suit his, still, errant driving game and he doesn’t have a great record on Pete Dye courses.
Europe’s star players will be looking to shine this week after what has been a disappointing season by recent standards. Graeme McDowell has finished in the top five in the last two Majors and has proved his credentials on the biggest stage. Luke Donald and Lee Westwood will be looking to break their Major duck while Rory McIlroy will hope to continue his return to form after a tied fifth place in last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The weather forecast looks unsettled and there’s a fair chance of thunderstorms, and so, rain delays during the week. The wind is bound to be a factor and its strength will almost certainly affect the teeing positions on a number of holes.
In last year’s USPGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Keegan Bradley was five shots behind with only three holes left to play. But he made two birdies while Jason Dufner made three straight bogeys from the 15th. The pair finished tied on eight-under-par and Bradley went on to win in a playoff. He became the first player to win a Major using a long putter. Now, three of the last four Majors have been won by players wielding a belly putter.
Venue: The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Date: August 9-12
Course stats: par 72, 7,676 yards
Purse: $8,000,000 Winner: $1,400,000
Defending Champion: Keegan Bradley (-8)
Thursday 9 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm
Friday 10 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm
Saturday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 4pm
Sunday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 4pm
Jason Dufner – His defeat in last year’s PGA Championship was a sore one to take. But, he’s grown as a player since then. He’s won twice on the PGA Tour this year and has become one of the circuit’s most consistent and formidable peformers. He’s a great ball striker and that will serve him well this week.
Dustin Johnson – He should have won the USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 so he’s clearly good over Pete Dye courses. He also went to college near to Kiawah so should feel comfortable here. He was tied for ninth at the Open Championship so is clearly on reasonable form.
Steve Stricker – Another supremely consistent player, Stricker was tied second last week at Firestone. He’s mentally tough and an excellent grinder. Expect him to feature over the weekend.
Key hole: 17th. A par-3 of 223 yards, this hole could prove decisive on Sunday afternoon. The green is narrow with water short and right of the putting surface. Anything leaking away will end up wet and a bailout shot to the left will likely end in one of the deep waste areas. In the 1991 Ryder Cup, Colin Montgomerie found the water here, two down in his singles match against Mark Calcavecchia. It looked as though the Scot’s race was run but Calc also found the water and Monty won the hole with a five. He also won the last hole to halve the match.
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