The breeze was stiff enough off the Atlantic coast that Jason Day hit a bullet of a 4-iron into the par-3 14th at Kiawah Island and watched it tumble down a shaved slope 10 feet below the green.
As he finished the back nine on the first official day of practice for the PGA Championship, he ripped a 3-iron into the closing hole on the Ocean Course.
The holes were vaguely familiar to Day, just not the clubs he was using.
"I don't remember it playing that long," Day said with a laugh.
That's to be expected. It has been nine years since the PGA Championship was last held at Kiawah, a week that featured strong wind one day, heavy rain the next and ultimately an eight-shot victory for Rory McIlroy.
"It's a fine line between missing the cut and winning a tournament, especially out here." - Jason Day.
What feels like even longer ago was Day hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy for his lone major, even though that was only six years ago at Whistling Straits when the Australian was on his way to No.1 in the world.
"A lifetime ago," Day said.
Day, without a victory in three years, is now at No.65 in the world, his lowest ranking since the week he made his PGA Championship debut in 2010.
He has three children at home in Ohio.
His wife is expecting their fourth child in the next two weeks, and if it's sooner rather than later, he might not be at Kiawah for long.
Never mind that he has missed three cuts in a row. Day arrived at Kiawah Island with hopes that he's finally heading in the right direction, even if the results don't bear that out.
"You may not be getting results, but you know it's around the corner," Day said.
"It's a fine line between missing the cut and winning a tournament, especially out here.
"It's hard to say that and mean it. But it's true. How many times do guys miss a bunch of cuts and then they win? What changed? Nothing changed. It's a lot of work that leads into that."
But Day is putting in the work and feels he has the right team around him. His career has been trending the wrong direction since he parted with swing coach Colin Swatton some three years ago.
He has been working with Chris Como, who also counts Bryson DeChambeau as a pupil. He has returned to Jason Goldsmith, his long time performance coach who was at his side when he was No.1 in the world in 2017.
He has a trainer who has his back feeling better than ever, and he recently had putting coach John Graham visit him in Ohio.
"For the longest time, I didn't have direction. Now I do," Day said.
"I'm working toward something. I'm getting confidence back in my putting, and that's slowly releasing pressure in the rest of my game."
The Ocean Course can apply plenty of pressure on its own.
McIlroy won at 13-under 275, but only 19 other players broke par at Kiawah Island in 2012.
It measures 7838 yards at sea level – the shore is only about 50 yards from the edge of the closing five holes – and while the fairways are wide enough, plenty of trouble in swales and seaside grasses and steep bunkers add to the test.
- Doug Ferguson