It was the late June of 2005. The PGA Club Professional Championship (now called the PGA Professional National Championship) was set to begin on Kiawah’s Ocean Course. During a press conference early in the week, then-Governor Mark Sanford, Pete Dye, various officers of the PGA of America and Kiawah Island officials announce that the 2012 PGA Championship would be held on The Ocean Course. At the time, it seemed a million years away.
In mid-2009, Championship Director, Brett Sterba arrived on site to set the framework on bringing a major Championship to coastal South Carolina – working through logistical challenges, developing relationships with local businesses and government officials as well as making initial
contacts with potential hospitality purchasers. Over the following three years course architect, Pete Dye, made subtle changes to the course to better accommodate patron flow and to challenge the world’s greatest players. About three month out from the Championship, a virtual city took root and rose until the second week of August when over 30,000 individuals a day came to inhabit it and enjoy an epic Championship.
Carl Pettersson’s 66 leads first round – On an excellent day for scoring, Pettersson, who won at nearby Hilton Head Island in April at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, led a number of players under par on Day 1. Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods also got off to good starts.
Calm conditions and a course softened by rain earlier in the week led to a number of under-par rounds including McIlroy with 5-under 67. Woods had an up-and-down round that included three straight birdies but still finished with a 69. Other notable scores included Gary Woodland (67) and John Daly, defending champion Keegan Bradley and Geoff Ogilvy.
Joost Luiten of the Netherlands was threatening the tournament’s 18-hole scoring record at 8 under through 14 holes, but bogeyed his last four holes to end up also with a 68.
While many of the early rounds started low, scores crept back up as the wind kicked up and The Ocean Course demonstrated why it has been called America’s Toughest Course.
On the toughest scoring day in PGA Championship history, winds blew at a steady 25 mph with a gust reaching 38 mph.
On days like this, par is a very, very good number. Three-time major champions, Vijay Singh scratched out five birdies in a remarkable round of 3-under 69. Only four other players managed to break par including Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland at 70 and Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter at 71.
Carl Pettersson stayed in the lead as long as he could until a few errant shots at the end of the round and settled for a 74.
Poulter was tied for the lead until a bogie on his last hole. “The golf shots this course asks you to hit time and time and time again … you really have to hit phenomenal golf shots,” Poulter said. “The room for error is so tiny, and when you get it wrong, you can be 15 feet below the level of the green in a bad lie with not much of a shot.”
The scoring average for Friday was 78.11. The previous record for the PGA Championship was 76.8 set back in 1958. There were 44 players under par after Thursday. Going into the weekend, there were only 10.
Rory McIlroy didn’t make a birdie until his 14th hole. His 75 left him at 2-under, just two behind the leaders.
Joost Luiten, already having a bad day, opted not to play the 18th on Friday. It was getting dark and play was technically suspended for darkness. His playing partners went ahead and finished up their rounds, but Luiten opted not to.
Luiten was already 5-over for the day by the time he got to 18, so maybe he was hoping to wakeup and try and birdie the hole on Saturday – Which he proceeded to do.
McIlroy opened with three birdies and two par saves, none bigger than on the third hole when his tee shot lodged in a branch about 7 feet off the ground. He reached up to remove the ball, took an unplayable lie, and then got up and down for an unbelievable par.
Tiger moved in the other direction. While Woods made everything Friday to take a share of the 36-hole lead, he made nothing on Saturday. He was already five shots behind and facing a 6-foot par putt on the eighth hole when the siren sounded to stop play. He was 1 under.
Bo Van Pelt and Steve Stricker each climbed the leaderboard with a pair of 67s.
Twenty-six players did not finish their round on Saturday due to weather and needed to return on Sunday morning to finish their third round. The final round was played in threesomes off both tees, a rarity in a major championship.
In stark contrast to the day before, Sunday’s weather was spectacular – sunny, warm with a 10-15mph breeze, which is next to nothing on The Ocean Course. The 26 players who didn’t finish their Saturday rounds teed off early so as to allow them to get done in time to play their Sunday rounds.
At the beginning of the day, Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh were tied for the lead. After a seesaw battle amongst the leaders, Rory took the lead on the 15th of the 3rd round and never looked back, finishing with back-to-back birdies for a 67. By the end of the third round, McIlroy leads at 7-under, and Pettersson is in second place at 4-under. Three are tied in third (Van Pelt, Immelman & Scott) at 3-under with four tied for 6th place (Stricker, Hanson, Singh and Woods) at 2-under.
Around 11:45am the final round starts with threesomes going off double tees (1 & 10). However, just like last year’s U.S. Open, this one was never seriously in doubt. No one got closer than two shots the rest of the way, and McIlroy closed out a remarkable week by playing bogey-free over the final 23 holes.
David Lynn, a 38-yar-old from England who was playing in America for the first time, was runner up after closing with a 68.
Woods never recovered from his ignominious start on Saturday, finishing the final round with a 72 leaving him at 2-under, 11 shots off McIlroy’s pace. Woods was gracious in the loss. “He’s very good. We all know the talent he has,” Woods said. Referring to his five missed cuts in a row earlier in the year, he said, “He went through a little spell this year, and I think that was good for him. We all go through those spells in our careers. He’s got all the talent in the world to do what he’s doing. And this is the way that Rory can play. When he gets it going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”
Ian Poulter put up the stiffest challenge, though not for long. Poulter, who started the final round six shots behind, made six birdies through seven holes to get within two shots. He then made three straight bogeys on the back nine and had to settle for a 69. He tied for third at 4-under 284, along with Justin Rose (66) and defending champion Keegan Bradley (68).
The entire staff of Kiawah Island Golf Resort is proud to have Rory McIlroy as champion of Kiawah’s first major.
"It means an awful lot to look at the names on that trophy, and to put my name alongside them is very special."