Ocean Course will present complete test
The Ocean Course, already one of America's toughest tests, has been fine-tuned for the PGA Championship. Reigning champion Keegan Bradley got his first look at it on Media Day, and says it'll take a complete player to walk away with the Wanamaker Trophy.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Five months from now, the best players in the game will descend on designer Pete Dye's magnificent Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Resort for the 94th PGA Championship.
On March 22, reigning PGA Champion Keegan Bradley got his first look at the links-style course during Media Day. Under immaculate blue skies, with abundant sunshine and a refreshing breeze off the Atlantic Ocean, the Ocean Course was quite friendly and generous compared to how it'll play when the tournament comes to town August 9-12. Of course, those are relative adjectives for a place that recently registered at No. 1 on Golf Digest's list of the 75 toughest courses in the United States.
There was little rough and the greens weren't exactly lighting-fast, but the PGA of America put the Championship tee markers in place to give the media some perspective into just how long – 7,606 yards – the Ocean Course will play for the world's best.
"It's great to be here at Kiawah and finally see the course," said Bradley, who joined Francis Ouimet and Ben Curtis as the only three players in the game's history to win a major in their first attempts. "I think it's a great track. It was very difficult, but fair at the same time. It's nice to be here and see all the people from the PGA of America again. It brings back a lot of good memories."
Bradley's win also made him just the sixth PGA Champion who is the son of a PGA Professional. Bradley's father, Mark, is a Class-A PGA Head Professional out of Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis in Jackson, Wyo.
"My dad is more proud of his Class-A PGA status than anybody I've ever met," Bradley said. "Winning this Wanamaker Trophy and being able to let him hold it and take pictures with it recently was pretty special for him and me. It's kind of fitting that this was my first major. The fact that my dad's a PGA Professional makes it even better."
Just before the start of Bradley's press conference, the PGA of America played a video of the PGA Championship's rich history, showing a reel of highlights featuring the great champions of the year's final major. Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and more. When Bradley's own reel from Atlanta Athletic Club last August closed out the video, he beamed with an ear-to-ear smile reliving his greatest triumph.
"Watching that video gives me an unbelievable feeling," Bradley said. "It kind of hits home, what I've done, really. It's times like this – and the Grand Slam – where I'm able to do some reflecting. But also, seeing the names and knowing the names of the guys that held up this trophy – the first thing I did was go over there to check so I could see my name on that thing.
"It lets you know what you've done. You're a part of history. Sometimes, I know it sounds cliché, but it seems like a dream that all this has happened. It's awesome to see it in real life like that. I can't watch highlights. Just watching that video gave me a borderline panic attack. These guys forced me to watch it here and I enjoyed it."
All in all, 12 holes at the Ocean Course have been tweaked over the last several months by Dye, fine-tuning it for PGA Championship Week. Most of the adjustments had to do with the reshaping of bunkers due to years of blowing sand.
Two of the biggest changes were made to the green complexes of the 217-yard, par-3 fifth hole and the 591-yard, par-5 11th. On the fifth hole, Dye lengthened a bunker on the left side of the green to make a back, left pin placement more challenging.
On the 11th, the left side of the green used to be up about 3-4 feet above the surface of the green. It's now about 6 feet below the surface in a collection area. The idea behind the change at No. 11 was to give players greater incentive to go for the green in two.
While on paper it appears the Ocean Course has been renovated quite a bit, Dye said the changes were modest and doesn't think anything significant was done.
"They just told us not to make it any easier, that's all, and left," Dye said. "I don't know if we made it any easier or any harder. We'll find out. But the players are playing so great today, they will get around. They will find a way to get home somehow or another. I don't think the changes made much difference to tell you the truth."
Dye also took part in Media Day festivities on the course. The 86-year-old recorded 10 pars and – though he wouldn't give the exact number – said he shot less than his age.
Afterwards he quipped, "I didn't think it was that hard."
"If the wind blows when we're here in August, I think the winning score could be over par," Bradley said. "I'm not sure what the greens are going to be like, or what the rough is going to be like, but it's going to be challenging no matter what the weather."
Bradley said it's going to take a complete player to win on the Ocean Course.
"You need to drive it well and also you're going to need to hit it in the correct area on these greens and stay away from the collection areas that Pete put in," he said. "I think you're going to need to be an all-around good player. It's going to take every ounce of your game. If you miss a green you're going to be chipping up from a tight lie. Obviously at any major you need to drive it well and hit it well, but it's going to take a complete game here."
Tickets to the 74th PGA Championship are still available and can be purchased here.