The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, host of the 2021 PGA Championship, is one of the most challenging and mentally demanding golf courses in the world. If you have any weakness in your game, whether physical or mental, this Pete Dye design will expose it.
This week, players will need to have not only outstanding control of their golf shots but also superior control of their minds and emotions in order to be in position to win on Sunday. Here are a few players in the PGA Championship field who fit that mold:
Xander Schauffele $9,600
Schauffele has all the right numbers. He has finished in the top 30 in 19 of his past 21 events and 17th or better in nine of his past 11 major championships. He is also one of only two players in the field to be top 30 in each of the four major strokes gained categories (Approach, Off the Tee, Around the Green, and Putting). But just as impressive is Schauffele’s mental game. His composure and patience have led to a lot of close calls at majors in his young career. Finally, he is an above-average wind player, able to flight his ball when necessary.
Joaquín Niemann $7,800
Thanks to his improvement off the tee, going from slightly above average in distance to ninth in this PGA Championship field, Niemann has finished 44th or better in 18 straight events. He is also 22nd in putting, 26th on approach, and field average around the green. Like Schauffele, Niemann is an elite wind player with the ability to hit it as low as anyone on tour. (Seriously, google “Niemann stinger.” You’re welcome.)
Oosthuizen has quietly finished 41st or better in 24 of his past 27 majors, and right now the South African veteran is in excellent form. His past six finishes have been eighth at the Valspar, second at the Zurich, 26th at the Masters, 41st at the Players, sixth at the Concession, and 11th at the Waste Management. Plus, Oosty’s mental game is as strong as it gets, built for majors where he can pick his spots to be aggressive and hang around the top of the leaderboard on the weekend.
Conners is a first-rate ball-striker who should be able to maneuver around the Ocean Course, avoid big numbers, and record consistently good rounds. The Canadian is the only player in the field to rank in the top 10 both off the tee and on approach. In each of his past seven events, he has gained strokes in both categories, leading to four top-eight finishes and only one worse than 21st.