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2021 PGA Championship Spectator Recap


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PGA Championship Recap 

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@TBS and I are going to do a split recap of our experience. We had tickets for Saturday and Sunday. I’m going to review everything about the course and our Sunday experience. @TBS will review our Saturday experience and anything else you can think of (food, fans, etc) Sit back and enjoy as these might be longer than usual posts.

Course Review

The hype had been building for a while now after they announced that this course was going to be the longest in major history. How much of a factor would this actually be on the golfers? Add in wind, does it make it impossible? We were about to find out! Spoiler, it went something like this...

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I’ll review some of the layouts of the holes along with a fan’s perspective of walkability/shade/etc.

Holes 1-6

Before actually teeing off on hole 1, the players had a small practice green to hit a couple chips and putts. I enjoyed being up close and getting to see last minute preparations before they started their round. Hole 1 offered a relatively easy hole for the players IF they found the fairway. 

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If they sent their drives left or right, a bogey was staring in their face (see how deep the dropoff was on hole 1 from just off the fairway) 

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With limited spectators this year, we were actually able to walk pretty close and be the first line along the ropes which is obviously not the case for majors usually. This allowed for some great pictures of the holes while watching the action. 

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Hole 2 was a unique snakey par 5. It was all about the tee shot. If the player found the fairway, you could set yourself up for birdie/par, but they had to carry off the tee over marsh and a bunker on the left. The bunker is where a lot of players went and struggled advancing the ball down the fairways more than 100-150 yards. Depending on the wind, this was a par 5 that could be reached in 2, but with OB just on the right side of the green, it was a true risk/reward.

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Hole 3 was the last of the real birdie opportunities of the first 6 holes. Depending on where the tees were (see Sunday), the players should have had less than 100 in for their second shot. The tough part with this hole was the green was extremely small and sat on a platform. We saw a lot of 2 chips 2 putts leading to bogies, but also saw some awesome up and downs. 

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Holes 4 (below), 5, and 6 were survival holes by trying to get away with par. Stay out of trouble and hope to make par/worst case bogey. 

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The whole course is very flat and walkable. The first 6 holes were relatively close from green to the next tee. The only hole with really any shade was hole 2 along the fairway. After that, the last three remaining holes with any real shade were hole 7 along the fairway and hole 8 and 9 by the green. No matter how much sunscreen I put on, I still got burned.

Holes 7-12

Hole 7 was a gettable par 5 depending on the wind. Hole 8 was where a lot of the fans hung out on the front 9 if they weren’t following a group. It was a fun atmosphere as they had a food tent set up on that hole as well. There was a big group of trees that offered great shade and a breeze that was constantly blowing through the trees (see below). Hole 9 depending on wind could give a lot of players trouble. They lucked out the first couple rounds as it was downwind, but Sunday was a different story.

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For the front 9, there were 2 main cut throughs that you could bounce back and forth between some holes. The back 9 was a different story as the holes were right next to each other. Hole 11 was next to 17, 12 next to 16, and so on. The back 9 was much closer to the ocean than the front 9 bringing the wind even more into play. From a fan perspective, we really enjoyed the holes being close together as we could just keep turning around for a hour and just watch 3 groups from one spot.

Holes 10 and 12 were pretty cookie cutter par 4s. The tough part were the greens. Hole 10’s green was tiny and tucked depending on the pin placement. I really enjoyed watching the par 5’s as they weren’t as straight away as it looked. Most of the par 5’s had a S curve through the hole making shots become placement shots or trusting you can shaping the ball enough to keep it in play. Hole 11 is another great example of that (see below). While it looked straight away, the fairway actually becomes narrower for second shot and had to keep it on the right side of the fairway before going back left towards the green.

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In terms of walkability and shade on the back 9. ZERO SHADE. So, you better pray the wind is blowing or you can get toasty quick, as a fan sitting and watching. Walking the back 9 was a little tougher as the sand became more of an issue. Even just outside the rough where spectators could walk, there was soft sand you were trying to walk through. This lead to me dumping sand out of my shoe many times when we were on the back.

Hole 13-18

This is where the magic happened. Hole 13 was by far the hardest par 4 from a fan perspective. Forced carry from the tee. The fairway had 4 deeeep pot bunkers (See Mori hitting out of one below) on the left side of the fairway that you would try to avoid, but then had water all on the right side. The green was very hard and wouldn’t hold a lot of second shots from the rough. You didn’t want to miss in the greenside bunker either as it was almost impossible to get one close to the pin (See Zally below). I believe this is where most of the penalties occurred (haven’t checked the stats, maybe 17, not sure). 

Hole 14, par 3, didn’t provide any relief either with deep bunkers on the left by the green and deep swell behind it. Noren can relate and hit an impressive shot.

Hole 15 was one of the easier holes on the back to attack and try to ensure a par/look for birdie. After that, you had holes 16 and 17 which were really tough if playing into the wind. Hole 16 was easier once the wind shifted, but still made 17 super hard. It was a cool experience getting to watch from the beach side on holes 15-18. Watch a shot, turn around and see the waves crashing into the shore (Koepka and Bryson tee shots on 15 and 17 below)

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Hole 17 and 18 was an awesome experience both days surrounded by fans. Hole 18 was pretty unique as a lot of golfers chose to hit their shots into the barriers of the tents just off the fairway ensuring that they get a drop and decent look at the green. 

It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience getting to be so close to some of the players because of the limited spectators. The only time I felt like I couldn’t move was on Sunday at hole 3 (more on that) and hole 18 (obviously).

Sunday Experience

My group woke up a bit worn out from the past couple days. We decided to sleep in a little bit and get out to the course around 10-10:30 instead of the crack of dawn. We could tell right as we arrived that the fans were getting loud and excited for the potential of Lefty taking it home. Our plan for that day was to follow a couple groups from the 11-12:00 tee times for 5 out of the 9 holes on the front and then circle back and do the same for the last 5 groups. We started with watching Mori/Hatton and Rahm/Gooch off the first tee and followed them until hole 3. The wind had completely shifted from the first couple days, holes 1-3 and 15-18 were now downwind while the rest were into the wind.

We got to hole 3 and quickly realized that they moved up the tees and only had 297 to the green today. That’s when our plans changed. I followed Rahm/Gooch off the tee on 3 and to the green and decided to stay back to watch more groups go for the green. The ropes for spectators were actually pretty close to the green and landing area for the players.

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It was really cool tracking the ball of the tee and seeing if any balls would hold the green. Only 2 players, Reed and Casey (eagle putt of Casey below), held the green off the tee for the afternoon groups. 

We decided that we needed to grab some food at hole 8 and then had to get prime position by hole 3 green before the crowds got there. We posted up from Finau/Cantlay group to the last group of Phil/Brooks. We saw a lot of tough chips as everyone was going for the green.

We kept selfishly hoping that a ball would land by us and we might get some TV time. That didn’t happen until the very last group...Phil gifted us a ball in the rough. Everyone went crazy And quickly crowded around us. Below is a video of us filming Phil’s first chip and then a screenshot from us on TV (I'm sitting down in blue shirt and @TBS is standing next to me). I think one of the turning points was Brooks missing that short putt for birdie. Could be wrong, but that had to have messed with him.

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After hole 3, we let the leaders tee off on hole 4 and we decided to head to the back 9 to get prime viewing of the players in contention. What was cool was walking back down holes 1 and 2 without any fans and ropes up. Here’s a pic of us on hole 1 from the tees. 

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We wanted to get to our spot that we set up on Saturday, which was in between hole 13, 14, and 15 tee (see below, it's a panorama if you can picture it). 

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We ended up following Woodland/Casey group from 10-13. The first 4 holes were playing really tough with the wind straight in their face. It made hole 11 super long and a 3 shot hole. Then came hole 13. We sat in the fairway on hole 13 for the last 5 groups. Out of the 10 players, we saw 6 go water on their second shots. The wind changed going into the green and was pushing into the water. I don’t think any of the players realized it. I saw Louis throw up grass in the fairway and it went straight backwards, but where we were standing, the wind was a cross wind across the fairway leading to guys dumping their balls into the water right of the green.

After Phil dumped his ball in the water and Brooks about killed a spectator on his second. We tried to get ahead of the crowds again and went to the 15th fairway. From there, we stayed with Louis/Streelman shot for shot and watching from behind what Phil/Brooks were doing. Louis had a real shot at getting close to Phil as we watched his birdie putt on 15 and eagle putt on 16 lip the edge. What could have been for the dramatics...We decided to stay back and watch Phil and Brooks tee shots on 16. 

The anticipation for Phil was building and building as we got closer and closer to the finish. Crowd really became rowdy when Phil hit his second on 16 and it hit the green. Brooks wasn’t going quietly though as he birdied 15 and 16. Then comes 17 and 18. Place is packed for limited spectators. There had to be more than 10,000 spectators at that moment. The place was electric especially when Phil’s first shot roled into the thick stuff. Since we didn't camp on 17, I couldn't get super close videos but here is one of Phil chipping from the thick stuff on the green.

So Phil survives 17. We push ahead after Phil’s chip shot and seeing Brooks miss his birdie putt. We hustled to get to the right side of 18 fairway to see Brooks/Phils tee shot. My buddy had a feeling people were going to go into the fairway so we positioned ourselves on the front of the ropes just outside the bunkers on the right side of the fairway. Brooks tee shot is ideal and Phil goes for the fans on the left side of fairway for a safety shot. Place is electric. 

Phil and Brooks make the walk from the tee box on 18 to the fairway. After about 20-30 steps onto the fairway for Phil, Brooks, and caddies, fans start to follow them. The “volunteer” officials that helped line the course did nothing to stop us who were watching from the ropes to go under the ropes and join the fans that were following. Since we were on the right side of the fairway, we sprinted around the bunkers and got behind Brooks for his approach shot. No, my group did not get close enough to Brooks to touch him or bang his knee.

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After Phil hit his second, madness ensued for about 5 minutes. People started running towards the green before Brooks ever hit the ball. One guy wasn’t paying attention and ran straight into Brooks trying to go follow Phil. Brooks was PISSED. I do applaud how Brooks handled that moment as he gave a soft nudge to that fan and then had to regain his composure to hit his second. He had shadows from the fans all in his peripherals. See video below.

Literally right after he hit, it was a sprint for the green. Fans were running right past Brooks and Phil to get a spot to watch history. I was very surprised that there were not more police officers protecting these guys, but at the same time, I bet the officials didn’t expect this to happen. 

I slithered my way between the fans...

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And got this video of Phil's final two putts.

Hole 18 was such an exhilarating experience. One of the top 3 sports moments for me to attend in person.

Recap of Recap

I had an absolute blast at the PGA Championship. While it’s the first of four majors to attend for me, it’ll definitely be a lasting memory with the limited spectators allowing us to get up close and personal with the golfers. Everything at Kiawah was well run and put together besides the potential security blunder on 18. I believe they should put Kiawah Island on a 5 year rotation as it was that good and maybe hire more security next time.

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 :ping-small:  G410 Plus, w/ X stiff 75 g Project X Evenflow Black shaft driver

 :adams-small: GT Tight Lies 3 & 5 wood

 :taylormade-small: SLDR AW - 4 iron S flex

:cleveland-small: Rotex 2.0 RTX 588 56°

:titelist-small: Vokey SM7 08M 60°

:scotty-small: Newport 2.5 putter

:Snell:MTB X golf balls

RH, Alabama

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(Place holder for my thoughts on Saturdays round, food, merch tent, transportation/logisitics, and player interactions)

 :taylormade-small: M6 12* Oban Kiyoshi Purple 65g stiff

:titelist-small: TS2 16.5* HL Oban Kiyoshi Purple 75g stiff

:ping-small:  G410 Hybrid 19* Tour stiff 

:ping-small: i210 KBS tour stiff 4-GW

:cleveland-small: 54* RTX Zipcore

:ping-small: 58* glide 3.0

:taylormade-small:  TP Black Copper Juno 34in

Oncore elixr or Snell MTBx

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Great review @Mtbryant01!  I was going to quote the post but then thought better of it.  Pretty amazing to have been witness to something that will very likely not happen again... or at least for a long, long time. But who know, maybe El Tigre has yet another surprise in him. Thanks for sharing.

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:ping-small: G410 Plus, 9 Degree Driver | Official 2019 MGS Tester

:ping-small: G400 SFT, 16 Degree 3w

:ping-small: G400 SFT, 19 Degree 5w

:ping-small: G410 Irons 4-UW 

:ping-small: Glide 2.0 56 Degree SW   (removed from double secret probation 😍)

:ping-small: B61 Putter

 

 

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Thanks for the detailed recap! Must have been one hell of an experience!

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:cobra-small: SpeedZone 9* w/ Aldila Rogue Silver 60 S
:callaway-small: X2 Hot 3 Deep 14.5* w/ Aldila Tour Green 75 S
:taylormade-small: JetSpeed 5W 19* w/ Matrix Velox T 69 S OR :adams-small: Super LS 3H 19* w/ Kuro Kage Black 80 S
:mizuno-small: JPX919 Forged 4-PW w/ Modus3 105 S
:titelist-small: Vokey SM7 50/08F, 54/14F & 58/08M w/ Modus3 115 Wedge
:EVNROLL: ER1 34" w/ SuperStroke Fatso 2.0
MfleKCg.jpg Pro / 9dZCgaF.jpgH2NO Lite Cart Bag / :Clicgear: 3.0 / :918457628_PrecisionPro: NX7 Pro LRF

My reviews: MLA Putter // Titleist SM7 // PING i500 // PuttOUT

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Stellar review and recap. Well done and glad you enjoyed the experience. Thanks for putting that up and the work into that post!

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 ⛳🛄 as of Sept 24, 2020

SuperSpeed 2020 from 100-112 and climbing!

Driver:   :callaway-small: Epic Sub Zero - Set at 10* with Aldila Rogue Max 65 gram 

Wood:    :cobra-small: F7 3 wood 14.5* w/ weight back

               :ping-small: G410 Crossover - 2 and 4 iron

Irons:     :ping-small: i210 5-U w/ Nippon Modus 105 stiff (2018 Tester)

Wedge:  :ping-small: Glide 2.0 54* 58* w/ Nippon Modus 105 Stiff

Putter:   :odyssey-small: Stroke Lab 7 35* and oversized grip (2019 Tester)

Balls:      :srixon-small: Z Star

Other:     :Arccos: 360 (Caddie)

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What a tournament to get to witness history.   
 

Great recap. 

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:titelist-small: TSi2 Kuro Kage 50g R Flex

:titelist-small: TSi2 16.5 FW with GD AD IZ 6 Shaft

:ping-small:  G410 FW 7 Alta CB R flex 

:ping-small: G410 Hybrid 26 degree Alta CB R Flex

:titelist-small: T100S/T200 Combo 5-7 T100S 8-P T200 TT Black Oynx R Flex

:titelist-small: SM7 54.08 F 58.12 K 

:ping-small: Heppler Tomcast 

:titelist-small: ProV1X Play number 12

 

 

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Course showed great on tv, but still didn't realize how deep some of those greenside bunkers were.  Definitely a challenging test for a great PGA Championship.  

As  a fellow lefty that has followed and rooted for Phil my whole like, I was ecstatic to see him get the Win.

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Driver:  image.png.3c6db1120d888f669e07d4a8f890b3f1.pngMavrik Sub Zero 9* (Set to 10) Ventus Blue 6X

2 Hybrid: :titelist-small: 818 H2 Hybrid Tensei Blue 80 X

3 Hybrid: :titelist-small: 818H2 Fujikura Atmos TS Blue 8X

4 Iron - Srixon ZX 23* Recoil F5

Irons 5-PW: :mizuno-small: MP 18 SC Dynamic Gold AMT X

Gap/Sand Wedge:  :titelist-small: Vokey SM6 49*  SM8 54* 

Lob Wedge:  image.png.3c6db1120d888f669e07d4a8f890b3f1.pngJaws 5 Wedge 58* DG Tour Issue Stiff

Putter:  image.png.cca2328f4144a299c795aa9b8f3bf677.png Inovai 6.0              :scotty-small: Pro Platinum Newport 2 35"  

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