The fifteenth hole at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

There’s no question that wind will play a role in determining the outcome of the 103rd PGA Championship. The question is, where will it be coming from?

“Wind is a huge factor at the Ocean Course,” said Brian Gerard, the Director of Golf at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. “On Saturday, [the wind] was out of the southwest. Then, on Sunday it was a little bit more out of the south. Today, it’s coming right out of the east. We’ll see what Mother Nature wants to do come Thursday.”

In 2012, the PGA Championship was played for the first time on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The Pete Dye design sits on a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of South Carolina, but players felt more like they were playing in Scotland as the course produced conditions that rivaled those often seen during an Open Championship.

During the second round, players battled sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts upwards of 40 mph. It was a challenge to control the golf ball both in the air and on the ground as players had to read the wind more than the break of the greens.

“The putter, it's virtually impossible to take it back without it moving all over the place,” Tiger Woods said in 2012, having held a share of 36-hole lead. “There were a couple of times I played probably a foot more break because the wind is coming off sideways and it's just going to continue moving.”

Brian Cairns was one of the 20 PGA Professionals to qualify for the Championship. He told SiriusXM he can remember the wind howling as early as 7:00 a.m. and never letting up. In conditions he described as “brutal” and “above his means” he walked away from the experience feeling satisfied having survived what would become the toughest day of scoring in PGA Championship history. The field averaged 78.11 that day, shattering the previous record of 76.8 that stood for 54 years.

“All said and done, all the golf I’ve played since I was six years old, going on I’m close to my 15,000th round of my life this year, no question the most difficult conditions I’ve ever played in,” Cairns told SiriusXM about 2012. “No questions.”

There were 44 players under par at the start of the second round. By day’s end, just 10 players remained. One of those players would be the eventual champion, Rory McIlroy, who carded a 75 in Friday’s blustery conditions.

“One of the most important things is mentally prepare yourself that you are going to have to, if the wind is off the left, you're going to feel like you're having to hook it in just to hit it straight.

That's something I struggled with the first few holes was actually trusting how hard the wind was,” McIlroy said in 2012. “Once I got into that, I started hitting some better shots.”

Determining the wind direction will remain a challenge in the PGA Championship’s return to the Ocean Course. Joe Halvorson, the on-site meteorologist, expects the sea breeze to remain sustained around 7-15 mph with gusts from 17-20 mph.

“Part of the island is susceptible to a southern wind and part of it also susceptible to a southeasterly wind,” Halvorson explained. “You’re starting your round with maybe a westerly wind, but when the sea breeze picks up it completely flips around to a southeasterly. That’s the general experience here. It can flip 180 over the course of an hour.”

The forecast for this week’s Championship looks benign when compared to 2012. Halvorson

attributes the change to two factors - the Championship being moved from August to May and a pattern of high pressure positioned over the barrier island. While Halvorson wasn’t on-site in 2012, he learned all about it from his co-workers who shared stories about the conditions when
they arrived back at Kiawah on Monday.

“We’re not expecting that at all this week,” said Halvorson, comparing the forecast to 2012. “It’s a much more benign pattern with high pressure overhead.”

Warm temperatures, sunshine and a pleasant sea breeze. It’s a far cry from the forecast nine years ago. And while this year’s Championship might look much prettier than the first time it was staged at the Ocean Course, the challenge will be no less tough, as it will provide a formidable
test of players' ability to navigate varying wind speeds along with their seemingly ever-changing direction.

There’s no question that wind will play a role in determining the winner of the PGA Championship. Now, the question is, who will have the game to tame it?

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