Kiawah Island clues: what the top players know about next week’s PGA Championship venue

Some of the world’s best reveal whether they’ve seen the course and give their takes on how the South Carolina track could play.

It's nine years since Kiawah Island last staged the PGA Championship.

And with many of golf's leading stars still in their 20s, it means they didn't contest that 2012 edition won in a canter by Rory McIlroy.

So have any of them taken the opportunity to go on a reconnaissance mission to the famed South Carolina track which hasn't been used since for a PGA Tour event or Major?

The evidence is starting to emerge in recent press conferences.

Here Planet Sport looks at what we know so far.

Dustin Johnson16/1 (Paddy Power)

DJ played the 2012 PGA at Kiawah but had to settle for tied 48th. He opened with a 71 but then only just made the cut after slumping to a second-round 79. Rounds of 72 and 71 on the weekend left him in the middle of the pack.

The World No.1 is a South Carolina resident, living in nearby Columbia, so that local angle could aid his chances. He's said in the past he likes to play Kiawah Island when not in tournament action.

One obvious negative is that he was forced to pull out of this week's AT&T Byron Nelson due to "knee discomfort".

Rory McIlroy11/1 (Paddy Power)

Kiawah Island obviously has a special place in Rory's heart. It was there that he won the second of his four Majors, blitzing the field by eight shots.

McIlroy opened with 67 to sit second after day one and then dug out a 75 in tough conditions, dropping to fifth. But over the final 36 holes he took flight, firing 67-66 to romp to victory.

He said after winning the Wells Fargo last week that he hasn't been back.

"Obviously I played really well there last time. I'm honestly not sure whether they've made any changes to the golf course since, but I'll go up there and try to do my homework and re-familiarise myself with the layout a little bit."

Justin Thomas14/1 (Paddy Power)

Here's an exchange from the recent Wells Fargo Championship.

Q: "Have you been to Kiawah Island lately or recently?"

Justin Thomas: "Not since I was about 8. I'm hoping to go a day or so early."

Jon Rahm14/1 (Paddy Power)

Responding to a question ahead of the AT&T Byron Nelson, Rahm replied: "Never been". He then talked about how he'll prep.

"It doesn't really change from what you do every other day, right? It's a golf course you got to see, and obviously as I understand, wind can change. It can be really windy one direction one day and then be another direction the next day.

"Honestly, I'll play nine holes Tuesday and nine holes Wednesday for sure. I don't know what I'm going to do Monday. It all depends how this week goes. If I finish late here on Sunday I'll probably arrive there Monday.

"So it's a golf course that has such variety you just got to see it when you get there on the tee. What I do usually is try to it get the touch around the greens and on the green. As a general norm I usually like Pete Dye golf courses, so I'm excited to see this one. I've heard great things about it. A lot of times it's better to be mentally and physically rested than trying to spend a lot of time trying to analyse every part of a golf course."

Bryson DeChambeau14/1 (Paddy Power)

DeChambeau also admitted ahead of the AT&T Byron Nelson that he hadn't been to Kiawah.

"Kiawah, I've never played it. I've seen it on TV obviously watching Rory do what he did. He played really well out there, and I think his game, his length, is a tremendous advantage, as well as mine hopefully will be next week. I think it's one of the longest championships we've ever played. And I'm excited for that, because any time it's a super long golf course I think it fits into my hand quite nicely.

"Every time I've had a few weeks in the row, that third or fourth week I seem to play pretty well. Hopefully this week kind of solidifies it, and maybe I play well and win this week and I am feeling really good going into next week."

Collin Morikawa25/1 (Paddy Power)

The defending champion, who lifted the Wanamaker Trophy at Harding Park in San Francisco last year, got to see Kiawah Island in a media day last month.

His early take: "I think it's definitely a ball striker's course. You have to be able to control your ball. You have to be able to flight different shots, work it left to right, right to left, and that kind of suits me. Greens are pretty small, but man, talk about that back nine, starting from hole 9 and on, it's a very good finishing stretch of golf, especially with the wind, the way it picked up. You're going to be tested on every shot.

"I was hitting a bunch of 6-, 5-, 4-irons into greens, even had a couple 5-woods. Yeah, you really can't get lazy on any of these shots. You can't take anything for granted because it'll bite you in the butt for sure.

"I actually had no clue what this course was going to be like. But it's good to see it for the first time because if I showed up on a Monday like I normally would before this event, it would take me actually a little longer on this course because this course is so unique on the second shots, not just the tee shots but the approach shots on where you have to hit it, where you have to miss it. Because there's some spots where you could easily miss it and there's some spots where you definitely don't want to be.

"We talked about these -- I guess they're not called bunkers, the sandy areas, the waste bunkers, whatever you're calling them. Usually we like bunkers. Usually you can get away with it, especially with greens that aren't too sloped out here, but you don't really know what kind of lies you're going to get, so we're going to have to kind of readjust and figure out what the best strategy is out here to make some birdies.

"The wind picked up the last hour and a half, two hours, and those final few holes, even though it was downwind, do not play easy. You get the greens, I'm sure they're going to be a little firmer, a little faster. It's not going to be easy to stop shots, whether it's with a wedge or a 4-iron."

Brooks Koepka25/1 (Paddy Power)

Another in the never played it club. Although he has had some insights from brother Chase.

"I've never played it. I just know my brother was here this week so he was just telling me a few things about it. I mean, it all depends. Weather changes things. He told me it's a good golf course. It's interesting. It's wide but it's tight is what he kind of explained it, how the ball can run into some areas where you miss the fairway. It's not necessarily a driver off the tee on every hole, but it's -- I've never played it, so we'll find out next week."

Webb Simpson40/1 (bet365)

Simpson knows more about the course than most although his hopes have potentially been hit after having to withdraw from the Wells Fargo with a neck problem.

"I have a minor neck strain which made it too difficult to swing this morning. I am optimistic for a speedy recovery in hopes of playing in the PGA Championship," he said last Thursday.

Given his local knowledge, Simpson had plenty to say on Kiawah earlier that week.

"You know, I love Kiawah. I didn't play that great that week (MC in 2012), but I love the golf course. I think this year is going to be a little different. We had PGA Championship in August then where we're dealing with a lot of thunderstorms, golf course is soft. You know, typical May in the Carolinas is pretty firm, not a whole lot of rain, and I think that's how the golf course plays best. So it's super challenging, a lot of demanding not only tee shots but approach shots. It is a golf course -- I remember leaving in '12 thinking I really like this place, I just didn't play well. I had a month off after -- I played Travelers after the U.S. Open that I won and then I had a month off. We were having our second child. I remember feeling a little down that I missed the cut, but feeling like, hey, if we ever come back, I really do enjoy it. I like the lines off the tee, I like the wind and kind of dealing with those crosswinds, so looking forward to getting back.

"It reminds me a lot more of golf at Open Championships with a lot of wind, a lot of crosswind. Certain tee shots that you can't really see exactly where you're going, you've got to kind of trust your lines over corners, over bushes, over marsh. You know, it's kind of like Sawgrass in a way that no matter how big a lead somebody gets, like anything can happen on that golf course. I feel like there's a 66 and an 80 every day for any golfer, which is exciting for a major."

Tommy Fleetwood45/1 (Unibet)

Has Tommy played there? "No. I'll probably turn up there like the Sunday before like I normally do at a Major and go from there. I remember watching (2012). But no, as of yet, I haven't been there, but I only hear like good things about it."

Rickie Fowler125/1 (Paddy Power)

Fowler has received a special exemption to play after failing to qualify.

He had this to say at the Wells Fargo: "I didn't play very well the last time I was there (MC), but I feel like it's a good golf course for me and can play a little bit more linksy and play in the wind, which is something I like to do. Obviously thanks to the PGA to get me a spot there."

READ MORE: Rory McIlroy is back: Getting inside his victory at the Wells Fargo Championship

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