Like every major, the PGA Championship is full of storylines. Tiger's short game, the weather forecast for the week and the Ocean Course's length are just a few of the things you should keep an eye on. With the opening-round less that 24 hours away, here's a look at five intriguing storylines heading into Day 1.
The Ocean Course's incredible length — Much has been made of the Ocean Course's yardage, and rightfully so. At 7,676 yards, it's the longest course in major championship history and could play to its full yardage and then some if the winds pick up later in the week. Already one of the toughest courses on the planet, Kiawah didn't need an extra hundred yards to be an absolute terror, but the extra length could make for a very interesting week. Equipment has leveled the playing field over the years, but when you have a course that's this long, you have to wonder if it could relegate the shorter hitters to the back of the pack. The answer at this point is "maybe not." The longest major course in history before the Ocean Course was Hazeltine National (7,674 yards) for the 2009 PGA Championship. Y.E. Yang, clearly one of the shorter hitters on tour, ended up winning that week, so shorter players have a chance if you look at it based solely on history. On the other hand, we're talking about a completely different layout and test. And the wind at Hazeltine pales in comparison to what players will experience at the Ocean Course.
Keegan Bradley goes for back-to-back at the PGA — In the history of the PGA Championship, only Tiger Woods has managed to go back-to-back -- and he did it on two occasions (2000-01; 2006-07). Keegan Bradley has all kinds of pressure on him this week as the defending champ, but coming off a win at the Bridgestone, the pressure went up a a couple notches. The way Bradley's playing, there's reason to believe he could become only the second golfer ever to hold onto the Wanamaker Trophy. He has the game to contend this week on a lengthy layout, no doubt about it. The only question at this point is if the big win on Sunday will have a hangover effect on Thursday. Bradley was eight shots off the lead after the first round at the 2011 PGA Championship, so an off round doesn't necessarily knock him out of contention. But he still needs to post a decent score so he doesn't have to press and go flag hunting on Friday.
Keep an eye on the Doppler — You could say the same thing for just about every tournament on the schedule, but like the British Open, the weather could play a huge role this week. We've already seen a couple torrential downpours over the first couple of days and more rain is expected through Sunday. If the course is soaked come the first round, you could see the PGA of America move the tees up in an effort to ensure the course doesn't play stupid long. (Newsflash: It already does.) The weather could also turn the PGA into an absolute slog -- especially if play is delayed throughout the week. A boatload of patience, and a decent rain suit, could be key.
Watch out for the sand — Unlike the 2010 PGA Championship where the bunker areas were played as hazards, the PGA of America announced two weeks ago that all sandy areas at Kiawah Island would be played as "through the green," which means players will be allowed to ground their club in the sand. Will it make a big difference in the way players attack the course if they go off the fairway? Possibly. Kerry Haigh, managing director of championships and business development for the PGA of America, said in Tuesday's press conference that all sandy inside the ropes will be raked at the completion of play each day, while the rest of the sand will be fair game. That means players could potentially find their ball in a footprint or pile of sand resembling a sand castle your child made on that last vacation to the beach. Plus, there's no guarantee caddies will use the rakes provided to clean up after their guy. They're being asked by officials to do their part, but we'll see if that actually happens. No doubt about it, the gray area of Kiawah's bunkers could make things mighty interesting.
Tiger Woods' short game — This is it for Tiger Woods -- the last chance he has to win a major in 2012. If you've grown tired of hearing about Woods' major drought, don't worry: It's only going to get worse the older he gets. At 36 the window is still open, but he needs to start picking up major wins over the next few years. For Woods, getting to that point means he needs to break par on the weekend at a major (something he's failed to do this year), and find a fix for his sagging short game. With a course that's this long, Woods won't have to worry about firing at the flagstick, but he'll still need to find his touch on the greens. He commented after last week that his "start lines were good" on his putts; however, that doesn't mean he's going to have success with the putter.
There's no question Woods has struggled with the short game this year; it's been the biggest reason why he's failed to get anything going at the majors. If he's going to contend this week, he has to find something, anything with the short irons and putter.
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