How low will they go at Kiawah?

And what does Tiger need to focus on for a strong showing?

Updated: August 7, 2012, 1:50 AM ET
ESPN.com

The year's final major is nearly upon us. In less than a week's time, someone will be raising the Wanamaker Trophy.

Will Kiawah Island's Ocean Course favor one type of golfer? And what impact will the coastal conditions in South Carolina have on the outcome of the tournament?

Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of PGA Championship Four-Ball.


1. Bigger impact at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course: the brutal length or challenging winds?


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Winds, definitely. Length is just a number if you have a hard, fast course. That was proved last week by the three top finishers in Akron. A 7,400-yard, par-70 ... a bomber's paradise, right? Wrong. The top three guys are all short knockers compared to most of the guys on tour. But wind ... it doesn't matter how long or soft the course is, if you're missing fairways and greens, you're not winning.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: At 7,676 yards, very few major venues combine wind and length like Pete Dye's Ocean course. The wind here won't be as unpredictable as it was for players at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for the Open Championship. The winds off the Atlantic Ocean will be a meddlesome presence all week, a much bigger annoyance for the players than having to hit hybrids and long irons into greens.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Length, but only because I cheated and looked at the forecast. It appears that the wind will not be strong. Without it, the likelihood of the PGA of America setting up the course to play longer increases.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Overall, it'll be the length. Some days the winds could be harsh, making players second-guess their club selection on nearly every shot. On other days, Mother Nature might take the morning or afternoon off. Each day, though, the 7,676-yard, par-72 Pete Dye-designed layout will be long. Even if the wind kicks up hard, don't expect the PGA of America to take it easy on the world's best golfers.


2. Will the 2012 PGA Championship winner shoot even par or worse?


Michael Collins: The winner should be about 4-under. Someone will go out every day and shoot a good number, and then blow up. And someone will play steady at about 1-under every day to hold the trophy on Sunday. Unless the wind blows harder than 25 mph -- then it's going to be ugly!

Farrell Evans: No matter how hard the wind blows or the difficulty of the course, the best players will find a way to shoot under par. Last year, many at the beginning of the week thought that the Atlanta Athletic Club would be unbearable, but 18 players finished that PGA under par, and Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner got into a playoff at 8-under. That's hardly unbearable or a sign of unfairness.

Bob Harig: No. The winning score will be under par. Length just does not inhibit the best players in the world, especially in warm temperatures with the ball flying farther. While Kiawah is difficult, it does offer some generous landing areas off the tees. A handful of players will be under par.

Kevin Maguire: This is very weather-dependent, but given the current forecast, I'll say red numbers will win. It doesn't appear the winds will eclipse the 10-15 mph range all week, so the Ocean Course's best defense might be negated.


3. What aspect of Tiger's game will be a good indicator of whether he'll have a chance to win on Sunday?


Michael Collins: His score. Just kidding, but that was way too easy for me to let go. It'll be all about his greens in regulation and putting stats. If he's under 30 putts a round, he'll be right there come Sunday, but he'd better be at 70 percent or better in GIR.

Farrell Evans: Tiger has to find the fairway with his driver. Period. I just don't think he can win without hitting a lot of drivers.

Bob Harig: Putting. It has really been the difference in when he's contended and when he has not. Woods was far down the putting stats at the Bridgestone, despite being near the top in greens in regulation -- and he finished 9 strokes back. Improved wedge play would also help.

Kevin Maguire: His wedge play. He's struggled with it in recent weeks, but if Woods can rank high in the field from 150 and 125 yards and in, he'll have a solid chance at becoming just the third five-time winner of the PGA Championship.


4. Will the Ocean Course favor any specific style of golfer?


Michael Collins: Kiawah is going to favor a guy who can flight his ball and work it both directions. When the wind kicks up, and it will kick up, it's a ball striker's course. You have to hit it low and be very comfortable with clubs that don't match up ... 7-iron 115 yards into the wind, 9-iron 190 downwind. You'd think for a pro it'd be an easy adjustment. Believe me, it's not.

Farrell Evans: The Ocean Course will favor a player on top of his game, a guy who has been on leaderboards often in recent weeks. This golf course is too demanding and nuanced to produce a surprise winner or a guy in a slump. You could be the best low-ball, long player in the world for this windy beast, but if you haven't smelled a victory all year, it's not going to happen this week.

Bob Harig: Length is always an advantage, especially if the course plays long, but the layout is such an unknown to the vast majority. And Pete Dye courses typically don't favor one type of player, as TPC Sawgrass has shown. Look for a wide-open PGA.

Kevin Maguire: Yes, the bombers. Sorry, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. With only two par-4s measuring in at under 400 yards (and three par-4s at 494 yards or more), the big hitters will be out in force on the South Carolina coast. That's not to say that a singles hitter won't make a run, but the deck is clearly stacked against them this week.