By Ernie Els
Hard to believe we’re at the final major championship of the year already. Having turned professional in 1989 I’m sure the seasons are flying by faster and faster. Maybe that’s just an age thing! Who knows? Anyway, I arrived nice and early at Kiawah this week so I can really dial-in my preparations for this week’s PGA Championship. It’s only Tuesday as I post this report, but even now there is a real buzz around the property. Trust me, there’s nothing else like major championship golf.
I’m here with the family renting a house by the ocean so it feels pretty chilled, but obviously the excitement builds all the time. Part of the secret of playing well in these championships is keeping a lid on that excitement – basically, managing your emotions and your energy levels, pacing yourself and doing just the right amount of prep work, so that come Thursday you’re fresh but also 100 per cent ready. That’s where 20-odd years of experience helps. I’ll use all of that to my advantage hopefully.
The Ocean Course at Kiawah is an incredible golf course. It’s rated number one on Golf Digest’s list of the toughest 75 courses in America and, to be honest, that doesn’t surprise me. The architect Pete Dye doesn’t really do easy. It’s a fair test, though. There are very few blind shots and everything is right there in front of you. I like that.
I also like the prospect of another major championship where the elements, especially the wind, should play a big part. That was definitely a factor in me making up the deficit on the back nine in the final round of the Open, a day when the wind got up for the first time in the championship. I love using my imagination, creating different types of shots for the conditions, really adapting to what’s in front of you. That’s my kind of golf. Kiawah has 10 holes that run alongside the ocean. If the wind gets up I won’t mind one little bit. I think also the greens at Kiawah, which are more Lytham-like in pace rather than super-quick like at Firestone, will suit me pretty good.
In the first two rounds I’m paired with this year’s other major winners, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, which has become a tradition in this event. It’s a nice touch and I’m sure they’d both say the same thing as me – you want to prepare well and then just try to put yourself in position come Sunday to have another shot at a major. That’s the biggest buzz of all. That’s what we all play for.