KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – It’s an inviting target.
Heck, you can’t miss it when you’re standing on the 18th tee.
And many players didn’t miss it in the first round, a few more in the second round.
The target in question? The two-story hospitality row that runs some 300 yards down the left side of the fairway on the punishing par-4, 505-yard 18th on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
With the grandstand just 12 yards from the left edge of the first cut on the left-to-right finishing hole, it not only provides optimum views of the ocean and the 18th hole but is being eyed by the players looking to avoid the danger that runs the entire right side of the hole.
To many, it makes sense to err on the side of caution because the grandstand has been deemed a temporary immovable obstruction, which allows players a free drop. Better still, a long portion between the grandstand and the rough left of the fairway on the 18th is flat and features matted-down grass that tees up welcomed lies. Further, the angle to the green is just fine.
So, seriously, who wants to mess with the right side of the fairway that is home to all kinds of nasty vegetation, uneven lies and sand areas?
“It’s definitely comforting that it’s there,” said Keegan Bradley, who shot 69 in the first round to get on the first page of the leaderboard. “The right side of the hole, the bunkers are so dead over there.
“I wasn’t trying to hit it in there by any means, but definitely from that up tee, it’s in play. I feel bad for all those people up there. They’d better have their hard hats on today. They’re going to be firing them in there all day.”
Bradley did hit the grandstand and after taking his drop, just missed the green but two-putted for par. Sebastian Munoz’s tee shot in the first round ended up in a garbage bag smack up against the grandstand. No worries. He took his drop and made par. Brooks Koepka took a drop in the area in the first round and made par, too. Scores of players, including Rory McIlroy, missed the fairway to the left in the first round.
Still, the hole played as the second hardest in the opening 18, trailing only the brutal par 3 that precedes it.
So the very large obstruction is comforting. Is it controversial? Some in golf circles think so and took to social media to express some outrage.
But the grandstand may not prove pivotal at all on the weekend. It will depend on how the PGA of America sets up the course.
Players were peppering the grandstand in the first round when the tee was moved up 31 yards and the hole played at 474 yards. The second round, the hole played from 486 yards, which is one reason far fewer players are reaching it on Friday.
And if the hole does play from 505 yards, into the wind?
“I don’t think from the back tee it’s in play at all,” Bradley said.
We’ll find out come the weekend.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/21/pga-championship-grandstand-18-ocean-course-great-views-bail-out-area/