- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The combination of the Ocean Course and the world’s best golfers has made tickets for the 2012 PGA Championship extremely hot items.

Tournament organizers said 94 percent of budgeted tickets to the event at Kiawah Island were sold between Nov. 15 and the end of 2010. It’s the biggest event at the course since Pete Dye built it to host the 1991 Ryder Cup matches.

Fewer than 1,000 tickets are available for the second round. Third-round tickets are sold out and less than 500 tickets are left for the final round. Remaining tickets won’t go on sale for South Carolina’s first major championship until after this year’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Organizers said there are also less than 500 weeklong Wanamaker passes, which had been capped at 10,000.

“I think we had internal goals of what we thought was reasonable,” said Roger Warren, Kiawah Island Golf Resort president. “We exceeded all those goals.”

Because of limited access to the Ocean Course _ Kiawah Island juts off the South Carolina south of Charleston _ planners had to cap the number of people on the course each day. They expect to limit the course to about 27,000 people a day, including competitors, support people, volunteers, media and fans.

Warren had said attendance at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National in Minnesota drew about 44,000 fans each round.

“That’s not something we could do here,” he said.

As a result, organizers encouraged interested fans to pre-register on line starting last summer and 20,000 people signed up. Those people were placed in groups based on when they registered, sort of like getting a numbered wrist band to buy concert tickets. Starting Nov. 15, they were given the chance to follow through with a purchase.

“To have sold 94 percent of available tickets at this time exceeds every expectation for an event 18 months in the future,” said Brett Sterba, the championship’s tournament director.

Those who want the remaining tickets will have to wait. Warren and Sterba say those tickets won’t go on sale until after the 2011 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Dye was commissioned to build the course for the Ryder Cup matches 20 years ago. The Ocean Course may have been the true star of the weekend as the United States took a 14 1/2-13 1/2 win over Europe. The result came down to a slithery, 6-footer missed by two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer.

He wasn’t the only pro brought to his knees by the course. Mark Calcavecchia went 8-over par on the final four holes to tie his match with Colin Montgomerie. Seve Ballesteros won a hole against Wayne Levi with a 3-over 7. Raymond Floyd declared that you should never play this course with a pencil and a scorecard.

“People ask if I designed the course like that on purpose,” Dye said in 2000.

The course, the backdrop for director Robert Redford’s film, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” has slowly re-emerged the past 15 years. It has hosted two World Cups, the Ryder Cup-style Warburg Cup and the 2007 Senior PGA Championships.

Seems like people can’t wait to see what pros like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson can do there in 2012.

“We had unprecedented demand to see a championship event on an iconic course,” said Warren, a past PGA of America president.