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13D AGO

Horses for Courses: Rory McIlroy eager to rekindle Valhalla form from 2014

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Horses for Courses

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    Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott

    The PGA Championship, the second major championship of 2024, returns to Valhalla Golf Club for the fourth time.

    Opened in 1986, Valhalla is no stranger to hosting big-time events. In addition to the 1996, 2000 and 2014 PGA Championships, the Jack Nicklaus design staged the 2008 Ryder Cup and two editions of the Senior PGA Championship.

    The 106th PGA Championship features 34 players from the 96th edition in 2014 who teed it up at Valhalla, including 2014 champion Rory McIlroy.

    Players listed are in the field this week; 2024 season stats.

    RankPlayerFedExCup Rank
    1Scottie Scheffler1
    2Xander Schauffele2
    3Rory McIlroy4
    4Wyndham Clark3
    5Alex Noren45
    6Sahith Theegala5
    7Akshay Bhatia21
    8Ludvig Aberg7
    9Hideki Matsuyama8
    10Si Woo Kim23
    11Stephan Jaeger14
    12Russell Henley19
    13Erik van Rooyen44
    14Doug Ghim75
    15Maverick McNealy67

    Major championship golf is designed to test every facet and every club of the best players in the world. The field is all professionals, the only major championship without amateurs playing. Identifying the best of the best begins with examining the total package.

    A winner 10 years ago, Rory McIlroy (+750) returns to the Bluegrass State searching for his third PGA Championship. The winner at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island by eight shots in 2012 claimed his fourth and most recent major here in August 2014. Missing the cut only once at a wet Baltusrol in 2016, his eight top-10 results from 14 weekends at the PGA include recent paydays of T7 at Oak Hill in 2023 and solo eighth at Southern Hills in 2022. Posting four rounds of 68 or better in 2014, he led the field in SG: Off the Tee, Driving Distance and Driving Distance (all drives).

    RankPlayer
    1Scottie Scheffler
    4Rory McIlroy
    6Keith Mitchell
    7Alejandro Tosti
    8Xander Schauffele
    10Min Woo Lee
    12Chris Kirk
    13Ludvig Aberg
    14Si Woo Kim
    15Jordan Spieth
    T17Viktor Hovland
    T17Stephan Jaeger
    19Wyndham Clark
    20Nicolai Hojgaard
    21Byeong-Hun An

    For the second year running, the second major championship will feature plenty of doglegs, tight landing areas, and lush, thick rough that will swallow errant tee shots. Last year, Oak Hill featured 28 acres of fairway on a demanding test off the tee. This week, the Jack Nicklaus design rolls out just 23 acres of fairway. Tall fescue and Bluegrass, not surprisingly, frame the thin strips of Zeon Zoysia landing areas snaking through the almost 500 acres of property. The third-longest test on TOUR of 2024 features six par-4 holes measuring 472 yards or more. All four par-3 holes tip at 190 yards or more, including three holes 208 yards plus. Those giving it a ride off the tee will have less club from the rough or the fairway.

    The strips of rough guarding the bunkers have been removed. Tee balls and approaches have a better chance of rolling into the 62 strategically placed hazards. Water penalty areas are also in play on seven holes. The rain on Tuesday could widen the fairways but could reduce roll-out. The combination of power and accuracy will shine.

    In the last six PGA Championships, Brooks Koepka (+1400) has won half of them and tied for second once. Never missing the weekend in 11 previous attempts, the defending champion from Oak Hill will look to match Tiger Woods (+12500) in successfully defending the Wanamaker Trophy on two separate occasions. Setting the event scoring record at Bellerive outside St. Louis at 264 (-16), he returned the following year and opened 63-65 at Bethpage Black to stroll to his second consecutive title. Only Woods (4) and Valhalla course designer Jack Nicklaus (5) have more PGA Championship stroke-play victories.

    RankPlayer
    1Scottie Scheffler
    2Xander Schauffele
    3Alex Noren
    5Andrew Putnam
    8Ludvig Aberg
    9Si Woo Kim
    11Ben Griffin
    12Aaron Rai
    13Victor Perez
    14Aaron Rai
    16Denny McCarthy
    17Keith Mitchell
    19Tom Hoge
    20Christiaan Bezuidenhout
    21Tommy Fleetwood

    Major championship golf rarely features par-breaker opportunities around each dogleg. Maintaining a relatively clean card by keeping the ball in play, not compounding errors, and getting up and down goes a long way in these events. Fairways will be missed. Recovery shots into T-1 Bentgrass greens averaging only 5,000 square feet provide another examination. Short-sided recovery shots will not be for the faint of heart, and not many will have many recent memories of putting these greens.

    Local legend Justin Thomas (+4000) will have his first chance to compete in a major championship in his backyard. The Louisville native and son of a PGA Professional has won this event twice in the last seven years, but he was on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2014. The 2017 edition at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte saw him capture his first major championship. The 2022 tournament at Southern Hills outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, saw him match the largest come-from-behind victory (seven shots) in winning his second Wanamaker. The only time he has missed the cut from eight tries was in 2021 at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

    Oddsmaker’s extras

    Tiger Woods (+12500): The four-time PGA Championship winner won back-to-back in 1999-2000 and 2006-07. The 2000 edition set the event scoring record on 18-under par (270) when Valhalla was a par 72. The last 10 editions for the 15-time major champion have produced only one top 10 – a solo second, two shots back of Koepka at Bellerive in 2018.

    Phil Mickelson (+25000): The only other multiple PGA Championship winner in the field, he won his second title at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 2021. Defeating Koepka by two shots, he became the oldest major champion in history at age 51. Playing in his 31st PGA Championship, he has cashed in the top 10 a total of 10 times from 27 weekend appearances including all three visits to Valhalla (second, T9 and T8).

    Jason Day (+5500): The 2015 champion owns the scoring record in relation to par. Posting 20-under 268 at a very calm Straits Course at Whistling Straits on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Aussie almost went back-to-back but fell one shot short of a playoff to Jimmy Walker at Baltusrol. Playing the weekend in 11 of 14 attempts, his last of six top-10 paydays was achieved at TPC Harding Park in 2020.

    Scottie Scheffler (+450): After cashing T4 on debut in the 2020 edition at TPC Harding Park, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking this week added T8 in 2021 and shared second last year at Oak Hill. The only time he did not play on the weekend was in 2022 at Southern Hills, his favorite course.

    Will Zalatoris (+6600): Making his first start since losing to Thomas in a playoff at Southern Hills in 2022, the transplanted Texan cashed T8 at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in his other appearance in 2021.

    OWGR Ranking/PlayerTopTopPGA Championship Notes
    (cuts made/starts)1025
    1. Scottie Scheffler (3/4)33See above
    2. Rory McIlroy (14/15)810See above
    3. Xander Schauffele (5/7)14T10 2020 TPC Harding Park best; T18 or better four of last five
    4. Wyndham Clark (1/3)00MC 2023, T75 2021, MC 2020; eight rounds all 71 or worse
    5. Jon Rahm (6/7)23T4 2018; T8 2021; T50-T48 L2Y; 11/26 rounds in 60s
    6. Ludvig Aberg First PGA Championship appearance
    7. Viktor Hovland (4/4)11T2 2023 with three rounds in 60s; T30 next best
    8. Patrick Cantlay (6/7)23T3 2019; T9 2023; MC 2022
    9. Max Homa (3/5)01T13 2022; 15 of 16 rounds 70 or higher
    10. Brian Harman (5/9)01T13 2017; T34 2022 next best
    11. Tommy Fleetwood (6/9)12T5 2022; T18 2023; Cashed sxi of last seven
    12. Sahith Theegala (1/1)00T40 Oak Hill
    13. Collin Morikawa (4/4)22Won on debut in 2020; T8 defense; T26-T55 last two
    14. Matt Fitzpatrick (4/8)12MC 2023; T5 2022 best
    15. Hideki Matsuyama (11/11)26T4 2016; T5 2017; nine T35 or better
    16. Cameron Young (1/2)11MC 2023; T3 2022
    17. Tyrrell Hatton (7/9)25T10 twice ('16, '18); T15-T13 last two years
    18. Russell Henley (7/10)02T12 2015; T22 2016; one top 50 last six
    19. Jason Day (11/14)69See above
    20. Keegan Bradley (11/13)24Won on debut in 2011; Cashed eight of last nine
    21. Sepp Straka (3/3)11T7 2023 closing with 65
    22. Matthieu PavonFirst PGA Championship appearance
    23. Byeong-Hun An (4/7)01T22 2020; DNS 2023, 2022
    24. Jordan Spieth (9/11)24second 2015; T3 2019; nine straight
    25. Chris Kirk (5/9)11T5 2022; T29 2023 best two
    26. Tom Kim (0/3)00Only one of six rounds sub-73 (70)
    27. Sam Burns (2/4)012023 MC, T20 2022, WD 2021, T29 2019
    28. Nick Taylor (1/3)002023 MC, 2020 MC, T68 2015
    29. Denny McCarthy (4/4)00T29 at Oak Hill best
    30. Tony Finau (8/9)33T4 2020; T8 2021

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