2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island: Top things you need to know

Olympic rankings points are on the line as 156 of the world's best converge on South Carolina for the 2021 PGA Championship, the year's second major. All you need to know about the event including the tournament schedule, who the key men to watch are, and the course.

By ZK Goh
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

The PGA Championship, the year's second men's golf major is about to tee off, just over a month after Matsuyama Hideki became the first Japanese to win the green jacket at the Masters.

From 20–23 May, 156 players will take to the Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course in South Carolina in the hopes of following in the footsteps of last year's winner Colin Morikawa (pictured above) in being crowned the US PGA champion and hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy.

Unlike last year's tournament at Harding Park in San Francisco, a limited number of fans will be in attendance this year to provide an ambience and cheer the golfers on, albeit with safety measures in place.

The PGA Championship traditionally has the strongest field of the four men's majors, and this year will be no different, except for the likely absence of injured former world number one and four-time champion Tiger Woods, who was involved in a car accident three months ago.

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games golf rankings qualifying deadline on 21 June 2021 fast approaching, golfers will also be eyeing potential spots to play at the Kasumigaseki Country Club this summer.

Here's what you should know about the 2021 PGA Championship.

Players to watch

With the exception of Woods, nearly the entire world's top 100 are expected to tee off on Thursday 20 May.

World number two and current Olympic Golf Rankings leader Justin Thomas will look to consolidate his Olympic spot with a strong showing at Kiawah Island.

Dustin Johnson, the current world's top player, does not figure into the Olympic Games picture at the moment but should be counted on to make up for his disappointing missed cut at the Masters in April.

Can Matsuyama double up? The top-ranked Japanese golfer would no doubt love to make a statement ahead of a home Olympic Games this summer, and what better way to do so than by winning two of the three pre-Olympic majors?

Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy won by eight strokes the last time Kiawah Island's Ocean Course was the site of the tournament, so rule the former world number one out at your peril.

Watch out too for defending champion Morikawa, who's currently (as of 3 May) the fourth-ranked American on the Olympic Golf Rankings and would be the last man to qualify to represent the USA in Tokyo.

The course

The Kiawah Island Golf Resort, located near Charleston, South Carolina, will host the PGA Championship for the first time since 2012.

Originally built for the 1991 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course has a standard par of 72 across its 18 holes, with golfers aiming to go out in 36 and come in in 36.

There are four par-three holes and four par-five holes, with two of each before the turn and then again after the turn.

Olympic qualification ramifications

The number of qualifying events before the deadline on 21 June is fast decreasing.

With golfers in the top 15 of the Olympic Golf Rankings all qualifying for Tokyo up to a maximum of four per National Olympic Committee, all eyes are on the Americans as jostling for positions heats up.

Thomas, Xander Schauffele (4th), Bryson DeChambeau (5th), and Morikawa (6th) are the current top four (correct as of 3 May), but the latter three will all be looking nervously over their shoulders.

The next five U.S. golfers – Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, and Tony Finau – sit from 7th to 13th in the rankings, with only Tyrrell Hatton of Great Britain (8th) and Norway's Viktor Hovland (11th) separating them.

A strong performance from any of those five could see Schauffele, DeChambeau, and Morikawa miss out on Tokyo.

However, Simpson withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship due to a neck injury, and it remains to be seen if he will compete at the US PGA.

World number one Johnson has indicated he will not compete in Tokyo.

READ: Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

PGA Championship 2021 schedule

During the first two rounds on 20 and 21 May, the 156 golfers will play the course in 52 groups of three, beginning on either Hole #1 or Hole #10.

The opening group will tee off at 7:00 am local time (Eastern time; 11 am UTC) with the last three golfers starting their rounds at 2:42 pm.

Following the first two rounds, the golfers that make the cut – in 2020, the cut was one-over-par through two rounds – will advance to play on the weekend.

Players will be sorted into groups of two and start on Hole #1 on the last two days, with the first group at 7:45 am and the last beginning at 2:45 pm.

All timings are subject to change depending on the weather.

If players are tied through 72 holes, there will be a three-hole playoff involving the tied players on Holes #10, #17, and #18.