PGA: Mitchum Gets First Look at 'Long' Ocean Course
It’s been six years since Kelly Mitchum last played in the PGA Championship. So you can forgive him for soaking in the finer points of the experience this time around.
The Pinehurst professional arrived at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island on Sunday evening, eager to get an early look at the setup of a course he knows well. But Mitchum could also complete a lot of busywork that needs to be done before a major championship well before most of the regular PGA Tour players got into town.
“I was able to get in and get registered,” said Mitchum. “Picked up my Mercedes courtesy car — you know, get all those important things out of the way.”
Mitchum, who finished tied for second in June’s PGA Professional National Championship, will make his fourth career PGA Championship appearance when he tees off with the major tournament’s opening group at 7:20 a.m. Thursday. It is his first trip since back-to-back appearances in 2005 and 2006, and the 41-year-old former North and South Amateur champion is relishing every moment.
With Kiawah just a few hours away, Mitchum will have the benefit of having his family with him, making this appearance even more gratifying. His wife, Maria, and two children have made the trip with him, and Mitchum expects to see many family and friends in the gallery following him.
Mitchum, though, also has the benefit of playing a course he knows well.
He recently shot 67 at a sectional championship at the Ocean Course, but that was at 6,700 yards. The PGA Championship is expected to play near its Ryder Cup length of more than 7,600 yards, and after playing eight holes Sunday evening and 18 during a practice round Monday morning, Mitchum knows good and well the beast he is up against.
“Like at home in Pinehurst, they’ve had a fair amount of rain down here, and so what surprised me most was the course being much softer than I thought it would be,” Mitchum said. “And for me, it’s playing so, so long. I’m hitting a lot of hybrids and 4-woods and 4-irons into some of these greens.”
Mitchum expected the course to be long, but hopes the weather will stay dry for the manicured fairways to firm up.
“I hope it will dry out some so I can get some roll,” he said. “I need some roll big-time.”
Whatever the course conditions, Mitchum knows he has to stay in the fairways to have a chance to reach the weekend.
“I’ve just got to keep it in play,” he said. “The rough right off the fairway isn’t too bad, but if you start to spray it much at all, then you’re in real big trouble.”
Mitchum knows. He’s seen it.
“I had a little stretch today where I started to spray it, and I found some places you don’t want to find.”
Mitchum completed his Monday practice round alone by lunchtime, then headed to lunch, where he said he relaxed and eavesdropped on a conversation between British Open champion Ernie Els and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. As more players — and many more spectators — streamed into the area, Mitchum spoke with a Titleist representative next to his bag by the putting green.
It was there Mitchum noticed a 15th club in his bag — a Titleist wedge with “Big Ben” stamped on it. It seems Ben Curtis — or his caddie — mistook Mitchum’s bag and slid the wedge in by mistake.
After a few range balls and work around the greens, Mitchum finished for the day and headed back to nearby Seabrook, where he is staying to rest up for the remainder of the week. With the heat index well over 100 degrees Monday, Mitchum knows he can’t go full throttle before Thursday rolls around.
“I’ll hang out and take it easy, watch a little Olympics,” he said of his evening plans, not long before opening the door to the Mercedes.
No, playing these major championships isn’t a bad way to go. Not bad at all.
Alex Podlogar is the content and social media manager for Pinehurst Resort.
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