Ocean Course ‘No. 1’ experience for fans, tough test for players at PGA Championship
KIAWAH ISLAND — Jack McEnery, a retired attorney who lives on the first hole at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head, has served as a volunteer at the U.S. Open and other PGA tournaments.
But he’s never seen a golf venue quite like the Ocean Course, where the 94th PGA Championship got underway with practice rounds today.
“This is No. 1,” McEnerny said as he walked past the driving range with his wife, Diane. “No complaints, except for one. God could have made it a little cooler.”
Most of the thousands of fans at the Ocean Course would agree, as temperatures neared 90 degrees in the early afternoon, with just a gentle breeze to offer relief. Tournament officials said there was no official attendance number, but pronounced themselves happy with the turnout.
The McEnernys said it wasn’t too difficult to traverse the Ocean Course, despite some long walks, sand dunes and the heat.
“It’s not too hard to get around,” he said. “Not as difficult as it is for the players to play.”
Australian star Adam Scott can attest to that. The sweat was pouring off his face as he walked off the 18th green at the Ocean Course around lunchtime.
“Yes, it’s hot,” said Scott, the 32-year-old star from Australia. “But I kind of prefer it that way. It’s hot where I’m from.”
The Ocean Course’s notorious winds were reduced to a gentle breeze as the 156 players in the field went through practice rounds. But that didn’t stop South Carolina’s own Tommmy “Two Gloves” Gainey from hitting two balls in the water on the brutal 223-yard par-3 17th hole.
“It just shows you how fast the wind can change around here,” Gainey said.
Spectators dotted the bleachers around the 17th and 18th greens, and behind the driving range. Those stands will be full later in the week as the PGA expects more than 200,000 spectators to make their way to the Ocean Course.
The first player at the Ocean Course on Monday morning was 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, He played the back nine, teeing off at about 6:30 a.m., before putting in some work on the putting green.
Other golf stars on the course as temperatures rose included Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover, Rory Mcilroy and Vijay Singh. Phil Mickelson made a late appearance on the driving range before his practice round in the afternoon.
Woods, who has won the PGA Championship four times, said he felt good about his game heading into the PGA after shooting 68-66 on the weekend to finish tied for eighth. “I feel very good about where I’m at,” Woods said Sunday. “I’m excited about it.”
Tiger said his tee-to-green game was “dialed in.”
“I was hitting it long, I was hitting it straight, and my irons I was shaping both ways in all different trajectories with the wind blowing,” he said.
That means his chances this week could come down to putting, where he’s struggled of late.
“I putted well the last two days, which was good,” he said. “I made some putts. And more importantly, I hit the ball on my start lines, and that’s something I did not do the first couple days. I misread a couple, but that’s just the way it goes. But at least every putt was starting on the right line, and that’s something that I’m very excited about going into next week.”
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