May 20, 2021; Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA; Bryson DeChambeau hits his tee shot on the 2nd hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2021
By Andrew Both
KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) – If the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island was the visible star of the show at the PGA Championship on Thursday, it was an invisible force that left Bryson DeChambeau wrung out after five-plus hours negotiating 18 treacherous holes.
Wind is not exactly an uncommon island phenomenon, and players were well forewarned of what to expect this week after experiencing pretty much the same conditions during their practice rounds.
It was already blowing a good 10 miles-per-hour from the east by time play started at 7 a.m. local time, and it never relented all day, strengthening to an extent that players were rarely afforded a respite on an exposed layout.
Holes playing into the wind required precision to avoid being blown off line or coming up short, while even downwind holes required good judgement.
“The wind just kicked my butt,” said last year’s U.S. Open champion, long hitting Bryson DeChambeau after an even-par 72 that left him five shots behind leader Corey Conners.
“It’s diabolical. You’ve got to be on point every single hole.
“You have to show a lot of resolve out there, mental fortitude to just push on when things aren’t going well.”
Brooks Koepka, winner of four majors including the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championships, spoke of how the wind could accentuate mediocre shots.
“If you just don’t hit the correct shot or know which way the wind is actually blowing, you can miss it pretty bad,” he said after a stellar 69.
And if Thursday’s wind helped create some mayhem, things are only likely to get even more interesting from here on.
The breeze is expected to be even stronger on Friday, and while it might abate slightly over the weekend, is forecast to blow on Sunday from the opposite direction, something players have not experienced all week.
“I’ve been dealing with this east wind since I’ve been here,” said Jason Dufner, who arrived last Friday.
“I think the east wind is probably a little bit easier than what we might see possibly Saturday or Sunday.”
Not that everyone minds the wind. Those playing well often prefer it, because it helps expose other players’ weaknesses.
“It’s been really fun,” said Chilean Joaquin Niemann after a 71.
“You can play with the wind and with the trajectory of the shots. That’s what I like about playing golf.”
Defending champion Collin Morikawa, who shot 70, concurred.
“I hope it does stay windy because it really tests your ability to hit quality shots.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both)