PGA known for being fair, Kiawah known for being a brute

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Bryson DeChambeau watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during a practice round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course Wednesday, May 19, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Whether it's a reputation or an identity that had been sorely lacking, the PGA Championship has become known for having the toughest field that faces the fairest test.

Being fair doesn't mean it can't be a brute, the overriding topic of conversation about the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

It's not just the length, tipped out at 7,838 yards. No course seems too long in today's game.

But throw in the stiff wind off the Atlantic coast — two loops that combine to offer nine holes in one direction and nine in the other, so it doesn't matter which direction it blows. Add putting surfaces that appear elevated because of the severe, shaved slopes.

“This golf course is a beast,” U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said Wednesday. “I'm sure the tee boxes will be moved up in certain areas, but for most players out there, if you don't hit it long, it's going to be a tough week.”

The real measure? Big hitters getting reacquainted with a 3-iron or more on par 4s and par 3s.

Dustin Johnson hit his 7-wood on the par-3 14th hole and on the 505-yard closing hole. It was either that or his 3-iron, and the fairway metal lands a little softer.

“I think I've used every club in my bag so far,” Johnson said Wednesday. "It just requires you to do everything well. Driving is definitely a big part of it. You've got to hit the fairways. They are fairly generous, but with the wind ... and the way the holes are angled, you've got to hit good drives to get it in the fairway.