2021 PGA Championship weather forecast: How wind will affect golfers on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Normally, weather reports for golf tournaments are overrated unless they foreshadow rain or lightning delays for an event. This week on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, any wisp of wind or hint of inclement weather will affect the 2021 PGA Championship in a meaningful way.

First, let’s look at how the Ocean Course is routed. The first four holes run East while the fifth turns South into the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of the front nine runs back West along the ocean (the island is angled such that it juts out and you actually follow the coastline when you’re going East-West). Then, the first four on the back nine keep running West (though not on the oceanfront side), while the last five turn back East toward the clubhouse and along the ocean. Effectively, this creates a figure-eight loop of the 18 holes.

So if the wind is out of the East, you’ll be into it for the first four holes and last five holes (if you start on No. 1). If it’s out of the West, it would be the opposite. And with the last five playing as tough as they do on the Ocean Course (the final three are three of the six toughest on the card), you do not want the wind out of the East and into your face as your round (or the tournament) comes to a close. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the forecast for the next five days. 

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The wind is out of the East on Thursday and Friday, but then it changes on Saturday and Sunday where it will play very different than the beginning of the week (the practice rounds on Monday and especially Tuesday were with an East wind). Andy Johnson of the Fried Egg pointed out that hitting shots downwind might be even more difficult for pros at this tournament. 

CBS Sports on-course reporter Mark Immelman discussed the specific difficulties both of these winds engender for golfers this week at the Ocean Course. He noted that something around even par could win this golf tournament, which would be crazy for a PGA!

World No. 3 Jon Rahm discussed the difficulty of navigating seaside winds earlier this week, giving us an interesting look into the mind of an elite pro when it comes to trying to navigate a long track in nasty conditions.

“When you’re right on the ocean and you have a humid place, you have a lot more dense air, right,” said Rahm. “A 10-miles-an-hour wind might be here is definitely going to be different than 10 miles an hour some places inland. You’ve got to account for that. You’ve got to club it. You’ve got to adjust to it. Playing a couple practice rounds, you might be able to get an idea of how much it’s helping or hurting the ball because some of the downwind holes the ball is going a very long way. 

“I think that’s one of the challenges, right, being able to commit to the club that you have even though you might be hitting way longer clubs than you’re used to on certain distances into the wind.”

It’s interesting insight into how a professional prepares for even 10-15 mph. Imagine if it howls 25-30 mph like it did in the second round in 2012 when there were scores of 93, 90, three 87s and five 86s.

Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2012, said he shot 75 that day and was thrilled.

“I took advantage of the benign conditions on the first day, and probably the best round of the week for me was the Friday,” said McIlroy. “I think the scoring average that day was 78. I think I shot 75, which I was delighted with.”

The four-time major champion also said he tries to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to windy conditions, which Kiawah experienced on Tuesday.

“You just play golf,” said McIlroy. “I’ve been playing golf for 30 years, so … it’s automatic. I don’t really think about it. I get the wind, I get the number, I try to visualize what I’m going to do, and then I try to replicate what I have just visualized. 

“On days like [Tuesday], you can almost take on too much information. … You could almost eyeball it instead of having a number. You could have 110, but it just feels like a little 9-iron or a little 8-iron and just sort of go with that. It sort of goes back to playing golf as you did as a kid, without a yardage book and just sort of eyeballing it and playing it a bit more by feel.”

The good news here is that there should not be any weather delays like there were in 2012. The other good news is that none of us have to play a course that, as Joel Dahmen noted, a 5 handicap would not break 100 on when it’s windy like it was on Tuesday. And the last bit of good news is that we get to watch the best in the world have at it for the rest of the week on the longest major course in history in conditions that take them to the limits (and maybe even put some long irons into their hands on the par 4s!).

Watch the 2021 PGA Championship beginning Thursday with Rounds 3-4 streaming live over the weekend on CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports App and Paramount+. Check out the updated PGA Championship schedule for how to watch the year’s second major all week long.

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