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Best players tackle the ‘beast’ of Kiawah

It’s going to be a battle.



World No. 1 Dustin Johnson will find the Ocean course of Kiawah Island a big challenge. / PATRICK SMITH/Agence France-Presse

KIAWAH ISLAND (AFP) — Multiple major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy were among players making final preparations on the eve of the 103rd PGA Championship in brisk winds Wednesday at Kiawah Island.

The menacing 7,876-yard Ocean course, the longest layout in major golf history, has elevated greens, long run-off areas and ill winds gusting from many directions to frustrate golfers.

“This golf course is a beast,” reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said. “When the wind picks up it’s probably one of the hardest golf courses I’ve ever played.”

Three-time major winner Spieth, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory, knows a few tricks to cope with the course.

“I know taking advantage of the downwind holes and hanging on for dear life into the wind out here,” Spieth said.

“Holes will play much longer when you turn into the breeze and then much shorter downwind, more so than other golf courses when they get firm and fast.”

Four-time major winner McIlroy, who won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah by a record eight strokes, seeks his first major victory since the 2014 PGA.

“You’re going to have to chip and putt really well,” McIlroy said.

“With wind like this and this golf course with all the trouble there is waiting for you… you have to accept par is a good score and move on.”

McIlroy, who snapped an 18-month win drought two weeks ago at Quail Hollow, said approaches to the “upturned saucer” greens with plentiful roll-off areas would be crucial.

“The key this week is going to be being disciplined in your approach and not chasing anything,” McIlroy said. “The guy that does that is the guy who is going to have the best chance this week.”

McIlroy could become only the second player to win the PGA twice at the same venue after Tiger Woods, who captured the PGA at Medinah in 1999 and 2006.

Canada’s Corey Conners, who produced two top-10 Masters finishes in the past six months, counselled caution as well.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Conners said. “Patience is going to be key. Very challenging. There’s definitely a lot of trouble lurking out there.”

Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, was anticipating trouble as well.