Wind switch on Sunday set to be big factor in US PGA title battle

Forget the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island measuring 7,876 yards. Well, maybe not, when it will be the longest layout in major championship history, beating Erin Hills playing at 7,471 yards for the 2017 US Open.

Defending champion Collin Morikawa during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course in South Carolina. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

An even bigger factor, though, in this week’s US PGA Championship is likely to be the weather and, more specifically, the wind direction in the battle for the Wanamaker Trophy in the second men’s major of the year.

Though no more than what would be termed as a “gentle breeze” in Scotland, it is set to blow straight from the east for Thursday’s opening round before coming from a similar direction on Friday and Saturday.

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It’s been the same wind in practice rounds, meaning players will feel familiar with the test on the first three days, but then they could be in for shock in Sunday’s final circuit.

By then, the wind is forecast to have moved 180 degrees, coming out of the west south-west, which, according to defending champion Collin Morikawa could sort out the men from the boys at the 1991 Ryder Cup venue.

“Overall, I think this golf course is going to test your ability to adapt and then be ready for change,” said the Californian. “You're going to have nine holes that are into and nine holes that are against, and it will be about figuring out how to just stay patient and play some great golf.”

Morikawa, who claimed his maiden major victory at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco last August, is hoping to be able to take advantage of a visit for a media day last month ahead of his title defence.

“I think I got lucky,” he said of that. “We had the wind that we might actually see on Sunday, which is I think really beneficial for me just to see the course in a different way.

“In my head, I was ready to play 10 through 13 just nearly impossible hitting 4-irons and 5-woods into the greens, and I think I've hit 9-iron into a few of those greens this week so far.”

Rory McIlroy, the winner by a record eight shots on the event’s last visit here in 2012, is the bookies’ favourite, having shrugged off a missed Masters cut last month to land the Wells Fargo Championship for the third time in his next outing.

“I played great here last time, but, just because I did, that doesn't mean that I'm going to find it any easier this week than anyone else,” said McIlroy. “It's a really tough test, especially when the wind is blowing like this.”

As well as extra yardage, a change from August to May has made it a different test to nine years ago. “I think one of the biggest differences that I've noticed is it's not going to be as easy around the greens as it was last time,” he added.

“Last time, it was hot, humid, the paspalum was really strong and dense and lush, so the ball would just sit right up on top and it was so easy to just get your lob wedge out, clip it, spin it.

“I feel this year they're a little more bare, a touch linksy in places, especially with the wind and the dry weather.”

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