If the British Open is known for being the oldest , the US Open for its rich history and the Masters as the only one to feature on the same venue (Augusta National) every year, then the USPGA Championship can boast the strongest field of all four majors. It is an all-professional championship featuring players from the top 100 of the world rankings.
This week, golf’s elite gather in South Carolina to do battle at Pete Dye’s Ocean Course, Kiawah Island. A Par 72 layout measuring 7,676 yards, it is the longest in major championship history. Its course rating of 79.7 is also the highest in the country (USGA) and Golf Digest named it the toughest course in America in 2010. Besides its severe slopes, numerous bunkers and thick Bermuda grass, wind is the biggest challenge as the aptly named course runs along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.
At the mention of length and links, Dustin Johnson immediately comes to mind. His distance needs little elaboration, currently ranked 7th on the PGA Tour. His liking for links golf is evident as he is a multiple winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM and his best performing major championship is the British Open – finishing 14th-2nd-9th in last three years. He also famously (or infamously) contended in another two major championship when they were played in a links-style setup – surrendered a 3-shot lead to finish 8th at the 2010 US Open (Pebble Beach) and incurred a 2-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole to miss out on a playoff at the USPGA Championship (Whistling Straits, another Pete Dye design) in the same year.
Having contended and coming so close, I feel that Dustin’s time has come. He is definitely wiser for the experience. And we all know, experience plays a big part in winning majors. The long, windy Ocean Course at Kiawah Island looks an ideal fit for his game. If this is not enough, he is a South Carolina native and played his collegiate golf at nearby Coastal Carolina University. A bit of local knowledge and home support could just be the boost to help him pick up his maiden major win.