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PGA Championship: Kiawah Island’s 17th could decide tournament, says Collin Morikawa

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“The 17th is going to be a huge hole because no matter where you put the tees, there’s still nowhere to bail.”; Defending PGA champion Collin Morikawa believes the penultimate hole at Kiawah Island could decide the tournament

Collin Morikawa fears the 17th could decide the PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa fears the 17th could decide the PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa believes the treacherous par-three 17th at Kiawah Island will be a significant factor in the outcome of this week’s PGA Championship.

The penultimate hole on Pete Dye’s South Course is a 223-yard test, over water, that has been made tougher in the practice rounds by a strong headwind, with Morikawa having to use a fairway-wood to reach the green on Tuesday.

The PGA of America is believed to be considering moving the tees up if, as expected, the last five holes play into a stiff, easterly breeze for the first two rounds, with the wind direction forecast to switch over the weekend.

Morikawa landed his first major at Harding Park in August Morikawa landed his first major at Harding Park in August

But Morikawa, who has been getting used to being referred to as “DC” this week, a reference to his status as defending champion, thinks the 17th will still be one of the toughest holes on the course no matter how far the tees are pushed up.

“That’s a huge deciding hole, and there’s nowhere to bail,” said Morikawa, who is rated the best iron player this season on the PGA Tour. “When I played that hole during media day, it was straight downwind and I was like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to play this downwind or into the wind’.

“I wish they had built a full stadium and you wouldn’t have any wind! But it’s going to be a huge hole because no matter where you put the tees you still might be hitting seven-iron or six-iron, and there’s still nowhere to bail.

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“Usually you have somewhere just to kind of play away from the hazard, but it’s hard to play short left because you still have water, you still have wind, and you only have about 15, 20 yards. Are you just playing centre of the green? Are you playing at the bunker? It all depends on the wind.

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“I think coming down there on Sunday, even on Saturday, how people are going to have momentum for those last couple of holes is going to be huge. I’ll take four threes right now and get away with that because pars are going to be your friend those last couple of holes.

“But I look forward to it, I think you want that challenge. You want it to be hard, you don’t want it to be unfair, but you want it to be tough because that kind of really makes you focus a little more and it really shows what a good shot will be like.”

Morikawa insists he does not feel extra pressure as 'DC' Morikawa insists he does not feel extra pressure as ‘DC’

Morikawa is defending a title for the first time since his amateur days, but he insisted he does not feel any extra pressure on him as the holder.

“This is the first tournament I’ve defended since the 2017 Sunnehanna Amateur,” he added. “I haven’t defended any of my college events, I’ve never defended any of my PGA Tour wins. People came up to me and called me ‘DC’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means’! Obviously it means defending champion now.

“But I don’t feel an extra weight. I feel like people look at you and they know you won last year, but in my sense, like I’m coming out here to win and I see these guys every single day and I see them every week that it really doesn’t change much.

“We’re at a different venue, and I think if it were at the same exact venue and we were at TPC Harding Park again, I might feel a little different. But to be honest, I think everyone is coming out here to win, and I don’t think there’s an added pressure.

“And I don’t think there’s an added pressure I need to add to myself because I’m doing all my prep work that I normally would. I wouldn’t do something different because I’m defending. I’m sticking to what I know works and I’m going to do that Monday through Wednesday and hopefully be ready by Thursday and kind of go from there.”

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