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Kiawah Memories Stir Excitement for PGA

Gather round, children, and let me you about the glorious day in 1992 when I fired a 2-under-par 70 at Kiawah Island’s extraordinary Ocean Course.

Kiawah Ocean Course #3

Never mind that it was a scramble format, and that I would’ve been lucky to break 100 on my own ball. It’s not important that we played from the forward tees at 6,200 yards, about three miles from where the pros will peg it this week at the PGA Championship. What matters is that I – admittedly, with some measure of assistance from three teammates – brought Pete Dye’s beast to its groin-crushing knees.

So yes, I’ll be watching the PGA with extra interest this year. There’s a certain thrill to seeing the world’s greatest golfers take on a course you’ve played, even if you remember precious little about the experience. I know my memory bank will one day hit a zero balance, but what’s left is of great personal value.

Let’s see what I can conjure up…

The Ocean Course is incredibly difficult, no doubt, but I recall it being imminently fair. (Perhaps because I didn’t have to play my foul balls as long as a teammate was in good shape.) It’s certainly beautiful, especially the sunlit view from the 14th tee looking out to the Atlantic. If there’s anything that stirs the soul like seaside golf, I haven’t found it.

Kiawah Ocean Course

The course is laid out so that holes 1 through 4 and 14-18 play west-to-east, with the others heading in the opposite direction. The day I was there, a 20-mph west wind made half the holes relatively easy, the other half absolutely brutal.

I’ve got no clue who the Ocean Course will favor this week. But I know there will be plenty of golfers who would take my (team’s) score and run to the nearest seafood stand. Shrimp cocktails all around!

Here are five picks for the PGA Championship based on my intimate knowledge of the Ocean Course:

  • Matt Kuchar: Picked him to win a major this year, and he knocked on the door at Augusta and Royal Lytham. Kiawah should be right up his alley – Kuchar lives and practices just down the coast at Sea Island, so he’ll face familiar conditions and friendly crowds.
  • Tiger Woods: Major No. 15 can’t be far off, can it? He’ll need to putt well for at least two rounds and dial in the wedges, but Woods is hitting it great. His well-rounded short game will be a huge asset around Kiawah’s multi-faceted green complexes.
  • Graeme McDowell: Another guy who seems poised for a breakthrough. The affable Northern Irishman from Portrush conquered a seaside track for his previous major victory, the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so the setting should suit him perfectly.
  • Louis Oosthuizen: He looked awfully good at Firestone and nearly won the Masters, so the South African has pretty much dashed any one-hit-wonder talk that followed his 2010 Open Championship win. A win here would bury any remaining doubts.
  • Vijay Singh: One final hurrah for the 49-year-old? Two of his three top-10 finishes this year have come in his past two starts. Plus, Singh won the 2004 PGA on a similar Pete Dye track, Whistling Straits. Just call it a hunch.

Daniel MitchellDaniel Mitchell is a golf writer and contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.

You can read his regular musings at

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