KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Here’s a sight you don’t normally see at a major championship: a fan jumping in a mud puddle along one of the spectator paths near the practice range.
But jump he did, all while a buddy captured the moment on his cell phone, and then the drenched fan was gone.
Such were conditions Tuesday at The Ocean Course, which might leave players all wet at this week’s PGA Championship. With the course playing right next to the Atlantic Ocean, wind figured to be their biggest challenge. But so far this week, rain has been the story.
The island has been hit hard by rain already, and more thundershowers are in the forecast for the rest of the week.
“In terms of the golf course setup, my best friends this week will be the weather people,” said Kerry Haigh, the managing director of championships for the PGA.
Not even Tiger Woods could keep the rain away Tuesday. The 14-time major champion got caught in a storm during his morning practice round, and during his news conference he strained to hear questions over the crackle of thunder and torrential rain that leaked into the media center.
“No matter how much rain we get – we are getting dumped on right now – it’s going to drain pretty quickly,” Woods said.
The biggest change in play for the professionals this week is how the PGA of America treats the sandy areas. All sandy areas, including bunkers, will be deemed as “through the green” and players can ground their club, take practice swings and move loose impediments.
The PGA used those conditions in previous competitions at The Ocean Course, including the 1991 Ryder Cup Matches.
The PGA posted a “No Bunkers” notice for all competitors to make sure they were aware of the deviation in normal play. At the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits, Dustin Johnson was assessed a penalty on the final hole when he grounded his club in a bunker. Johnson, who didn’t realize he was in a bunker, missed out on a playoff.
“We look at each golf hole on its own, on its own merits, and this is a totally different design,” Haigh said. “It’s all sand-based. Whistling Straits is not all built on sand.”
Less than two hours after Tuesday’s midday downpour, players were back out in full force. That included Blake Adams, who played at Georgia and Georgia Southern and now lives on the outskirts of Swainsboro. He was another player who praised the course’s ability to drain quickly.
“I was here on Sunday and it absolutely poured,” he said. “We sat in the caddie tent and watched the other golf tournament. It rained for a couple of hours, pretty hard, and we walked out there and it was perfect.”
But he offered a note of caution.
“If the wind howls like it can, it can be a pretty big animal,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”