96th PGA Championship
Valhalla Golf Club
Valhalla Golf Club
Yards: 7,458 via the scorecard
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: T1 Bentgrass; 6,500 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass and fescue at 4”
Water Hazards: With two ponds and Floyds Fork running through the property, water can be found in plenty of places.
Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1986); Jack Nicklaus (2011) redesign
Winner’s Share: $1,800,000
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Defending Champion: Jason Dufner won his first major last year at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., as he defeated Jim Furyk by two shots.
Dates: Aug 7 – Aug 10
Notes: There will be 156 players 136 TOUR pros and 20 club professionals who will play 36 holes. The top 70 and ties will advance to the weekend.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has won 24 of 39 events in 2013-14 but none of the last four. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman and Brian Harman have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy joined Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy (TWICE) represent Europe and two of the three major wins so far this season. Angel Cabrera flies the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 39 events in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38) and Geoff Ogilvy, 37, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy TWICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) FINALLY has some company in the winner’s circle this year for the old folks as Angel Cabrera won at Greenbrier. Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk led the oldies last week with T15 finishes and Mickelson’s included a season-low 62 on Sunday. Well, then!
Turn Back the Clock
At this point in the season last year there were 11, first-time winners and just four players with multiple victories Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar and Snedeker. Only Kuchar has cracked the winner’s circle this year and all that took was a hole-out from a bunker on the 72nd hole at RBC Heritage!
This year, Walker, Reed, Watson, Kaymer and now McIlroy have won multiple times and there are 10, first-time winners.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
There will be 99 of the top 100 players in the OWGR teeing it up this week as only Dustin Johnson is not in the field. Tiger Woods, as of Monday afternoon, has NOT withdrawn.
Speaking of Woods, he’s the only player to defend a PGA Championship in stroke play and he’s done it twice (1999-2000; 2006-2007).
The PGA dumped match play for stroke play in 1958.
Woods is the last player to win a TOUR event the week before a major who has gone on to win the following week. Mickelson won on the European Tour last year before claiming The Open Championship. McIlroy has won his last two events, The Open and the WGC-BI.
McIlroy is looking to join Woods as the only player to have won The Open, WGC-BI and PGA Championship in the same season. Woods did this in 2000 and 2006.
Jason Dufner became the 85th American to win the PGA last year. Only 13 foreign-born players have lifted the Wannamaker trophy.
Here are the winners since the epic Bob May-Tiger Woods playoff here in 2000:
2013: Jason Dufner
2012: Rory McIlroy
2011: Keegan Bradley
2010: Martin Kaymer
2009: Y.E. Yang
2008: Padraig Harrington
2007: Tiger Woods
2006: Tiger Woods
2005: Phil Mickelson
2004: Vijay Singh
2003: Shaun Micheel
2002: Rich Beem
2001: David Toms
2000: Tiger Woods
David Toms holds the lowest total with 265 at the Atlanta Athletic Club and Woods and May share the record total in relation to par as they were 18-under-par in 2000 at Valhalla.
Half of the last 14 championships have been decided by a one shot or a playoff.
The other seven events have been essentially blow outs.
Heading back to Padraig Harrington, the last player to win back-to-back majors in 2008, 15 of the last 21 players to win have won their first major championship.
The first three major champions of 2014 are repeat offenders as Bubba Watson took home his second Masters. Martin Kaymer added a U.S. Open to his PGA title at Whistling Straits and Rory McIlroy has fulfilled three legs of the career grand slam with his victory at Royal Liverpool.
McIlroy holds the largest margin of victory in stroke play as he won by a stunning eight shots at Kiawah Island in 2012.
Of the last 14 winners at the PGA, eight of them have been first timers, including four of the last five.
There are only 14 players to win a major and a WGC title as Rory McIlroy joined the party last week at Firestone.
Julius Boros, 48, is the oldest winner and Gene Sarazen was 20 when he collected the hardware in 1922 as the youngest winner.
Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Stricker all have over 60 major starts without a win.
Just eight of the 95 winners have won the PGA on their first try.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Only Francis Ouimet, Ben Curtis and Keegan Bradley won the first time they ever teed it up in a major.
Inside the Ropes
Playing at 7,458 yards and par-71, the PGA returns to Valhalla for the first time since 2000 when Tiger Woods defeated Bob May in a playoff. The first crack at the big time was the 1996 PGA championship were Scott Brooks defeated hometown hero Kenny Perry in playoff. After that championship, the PGA bought a share of the golf course. After Woods’ victory in 2000, they bought the rest of it. Today, it’s all theirs as they set up their third PGA Championship on top of two Senior PGAs and, of course, the 2008 Ryder Cup demolition of Europe.
The course was originally designed by Jack Nicklaus in the mid-80s as Louisville didn’t have a signature course. Nicklaus developed two different nines as the front runs in a flood plain and the back is routed as parkland. As with many courses throughout the 90s, Valhalla was in need of a facelift to keep up with the demands of new technology and equipment. With the 2008 Ryder Cup looming, over 300 yards were added to its original 7,100 to stretch it out.
After the Senior PGA here in 2011, all of the greens complexes were rebuilt from top to bottom and new T1 Bentgrass was put in to handle the complex heat and humidity of Kentucky. After 15 years rebuilding greens isn’t out of the question and Jack Nicklaus came back and did just that especially for the PGA in 2014. Slopes had to be softened in most cases to give the greens multiple hole locations. Drainage was also a problem and that was addressed. Bunkers and closely mown areas were also added here and there.
If you’re wondering how much of an advantage it will be to guys who played the Ryder Cup on this track, team member Kenny Perry suggested in an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal that one might as well take any notes from 2008 on the greens and throw them away. Adam Scott remarked Monday afternoon that there will be plenty of birdies this week so that doesn’t suggest difficult anything. Steve Flesch, another native Kentuckian along with Perry, suggested on Twitter that this course isn’t long and three-wood can get the players around.
Jack Nicklaus courses USUALLY have nice, wide landing areas off the fairway but that’s not going to be the case this week. There are areas to land the golf ball but there is also four inches of Kentucky bluegrass lining the fairways and bunkers have been added both in the landing areas and near the greens. The greens play over 6,500 square feet so they are by no means smallish in nature. But they are big enough to attack if players miss the fairway from the tee.
Nicklaus loves him a good, tough par four and he has plenty of tough ones this week including No. 2 which was played as a par four in 2000 and at the Ryder Cup. Now, it’s over 500 yards and a par four that gets the players attention early in their rounds. As three of the four par threes sit at 215 yards players will be tested with their longer irons or their short games to make pars and get out. With only three par fives players will have make do with a double fairway on No. 7, an end-of-road fairway on No. 10 on top a cliff and a gettable par five coming home at No. 18.
Remember, the winning score here last time was 18-under and that was with burned out, sloping greens. Now, everything has been rebuilt, replanted and “softened” so it will be very interesting to see how low scores go this week. From the 2000 PGA, 23 players return and 18 of the 24 Ryder Cuppers will also take the stage. If the weather cooperates, I’m guessing they can trick it out quite nicely but if there is rain, I’m not sure how much of a fight it will be able to put up.