Shotgun Start: Previewing the PGA Championship

It's tournament time! The best golfers in the world head to Kiawah Island, S.C., for the 94th PGA Championship at the highly acclaimed Ocean Course. Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: If there's one thing that sticks out about the Ocean Course, it's the number of holes that run right along the Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of seaside courses in North America, but when players tee it up on Thursday at the PGA Championship they'll not only be playing the longest course in major championship history (7,676 yards), but one that houses more seaside holes than any course in the Northern Hemisphere.

When the wind blows at the Ocean Course, and it likely will at some point this week, players will certainly feel the gusts ripping at their shirt sleeves. If you have aspirations of taking home the Wanamaker, you better know how to flight the ball underneath the wind to have a shot. And without a prevailing wind to speak of, that also means the field will be at the mercy of daily weather forecasts and the possibility that a set of holes could play downwind one day and into a cross-wind/into the wind the next.

As far as the course's length is concerned, the layout will test even the longest hitters in the world. The Ocean Course has four par 5's measuring at least 558 yards, five par 4's over 458 yards, and two par 3's over 220 yards. In other words, you not only have to be accurate off the tee, but long.

Also, unlike two years ago at Whistling Straits, where the jagged bunkers were played as hazards, the PGA of America decided to play all of the course's sand dunes as "through the green," meaning players will be allowed to ground their club in the sand.

If you're looking for a couple of holes that could make or break the tournament, keep an eye on the par-4 12th, a risk/reward hole that plays 412 yards from the back tee. The good news for some players is that the PGA of America decided to add a new tee box for the tournament that could turn the 12th into a drivable 300-yard par 4 at some point during the week. The hole has the widest fairway on the course, but with a canal flanking the right side of the green, a flare shot off the tee could find the hazard.

The Ocean Course's closing stretch will likely decide the tournament, and rightfully so. The 228-yard par-3 17th has a narrow green, two waste bunkers on the left, and a water hazard that will come into play if you go right.

And then there's the 501-yard 18th, considered by most to be the Ocean Course's crown jewel. The toughest hole on the course, the wind will determine whether players can attack the flag or play for the safe part of the green. Hitting the fairway off the tee is imperative if you want to make par. With the Atlantic and the famed clubhouse as the backdrop, this hole is not only a massive test, it's likely the most picturesque on the course as well.

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on TNT from 1 to 7 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; and on CBS from 2 to 7 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

The field: Every major is loaded with top-tier talent, but as our buddy Ryan Ballengee over at the pointed out, the PGA Championship actually boasts the deepest field of the four majors. We're pretty sure you didn't see that coming. The 156-man field at Kiawah has every member of the Official World Golf Ranking top 100 and includes the usual suspects: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald ... and the list goes on and on.

The video: Check out this flyover video of the pivotal par-4 18th at the Ocean Course.

Your turn. Who are your picks for this week? Swing away!

What to Read Next