KIAWAH ISLAND Some titles fit.
Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is one. The John Wayne movie “Sands of Iwo Jima” is another. Likely to take a place on the list by week’s end is the PGA of America’s “Winds of Kiawah,” a possible best-seller for those who love challenges.
The season’s final major golf tournament, the PGA Championship, begins this morning at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course, and the topic foremost in the minds of the 156 competitors is the weather.
Wind is cast in the starring role with rain expected to pop in and out for cameos over the next four days.
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“The wind will blow,” Ocean Course superintendent Jeff Stone said.
But “when” and “how hard” and “which way” are problems the golfer who hoists the championship trophy on Sunday must solve.
That is just what designer Pete Dye has in mind with his goal of “getting into players’ heads” with the courses he builds.
Luke Donald, ranked No. 1, teed off at 7 o’clock Tuesday for a practice round, and he faced an Ocean Course staple – 25 mile-per-hour wind. He challenged the gusts for 45 minutes before rain forced the players off the course for perhaps a half-hour.
“We came back out and the wind was completely different and about 5 miles per hour,” he said. “The conditions change from hour to hour and that makes this course difficult.”
That’s no surprise, Stone said.
Golfers might find the Ocean Course docile with little breeze. Those conditions make the layout “like a bull with no horns,” Stone said.
More likely, winds will be in the 10-20 mph range most of the week with gusts up to 30 mph, the PGA of America weather service predicts. The possibility of showers and thundershowers ranges from 30 to 50 percent each day.
That winds buffet the course is no surprise; 10 holes run alongside the Atlantic Ocean and the other eight are parallel on the east-west layout that stretches about 21/2 miles along the southern side of Kiawah. Elevated fairways that assure views of the sea bring the wind more into play.
But wind from which direction? Dye discovered during the course’s construction that there is no prevailing wind.
“With the exception of three holes, the ball is going to have to be flown to the greens, and that makes judging the wind correctly paramount,” Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said. “It’s not a true links course that allows you to run the ball up. In the (British) Open Championship, you can always go to ground and run the ball on the greens. Not here.”
Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s director of championships, will set up the course each day. “My best friends this week will be the weather people,” he said.
Predicted wind strength always factors into the setup and now rain has softened the course, which can be stretched to almost 7,700 yards. The wet course will allow less roll off the tee, but the greens will be more receptive.
“I think (weather patterns) are the great dynamic of this golf course,” Haigh said. “The mystique is you never know what you’re going to get, and that includes the weather, the wind, the rain, the look and feel of it.
“Rain is one of the unique characteristics of playing right on the ocean. The good news is (the course) is on sand and dries out very quickly. We just need a couple of days of nice breeze and some drying sun, and we’ll be in beautiful shape.”
Welcome to the world of give and take; those breezes, the Winds of Kiawah, that help dry the course increase its difficulty.