I have no idea.
That’s been my go-to response leading into this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Whether the question is about who is going to win, what the winning score will be, how difficult the Ocean Course will play, or how hard the wind will blow, my answer is, “No idea.” And I feel like I’m not alone.
It has been a while since we as a golf community entered a men’s major championship without the faintest idea of what to expect. Everyone—from the pundits on Golf Channel’s Live From the PGA Championship to the betting “experts” to the players themselves—everyone seems to be uncertain about everything at Kiawah. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, even an uncomfortable one. It’s also a sensation the PGA of America should chase, year in and year out.
Most men’s major championships are somewhat predictable. Players and fans even like that familiarity, especially when it comes to our annual springtime trip to Augusta National. We expect the USGA to set up U.S. Open courses with heavy rough and fast greens, and we know that the Open Championship will be about links golf and the vagaries of wind and firm turf.
Then there’s the PGA Championship, which has long struggled with its identity. Sure, the event always attracts a world-class field, but because of some uninspired venue choices and risk-averse setup customs, the PGA Championship can feel like a standard PGA Tour stop.
But that may change at Kiawah. At least for this week, the PGA can become the Unpredictable Major. With its many tee-box options and its ever-changing winds, Pete Dye’s Ocean Course will be a completely different beast from one day to the next. Setup can and will dictate how each hole plays, where the landing areas are, and which angles players will pursue. Add in winds that are projected to switch direction on the weekend, and you have a championship course that will truly test players’ preparedness.
Admittedly, the Ocean Course is a unique venue, impossible to replicate. Yet variety in setup is an idea the PGA can implement at any course. Day-to-day shifts create intrigue for the fans at home and challenge for the world’s top players.
So if the PGA Championship wants a distinctive identity, it has the opportunity to establish one this week. Don’t be the major that requires experience like the Masters, or a certain skill set like the U.S. Open, or links mastery like the Open Championship. Be the major that keeps players scratching their heads and fantasy analysts apologizing for their picks. Be unpredictable.
“I don’t know” might not be an insightful reply, but it certainly builds excitement.