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9D AGO

PGA Championship roundtable: Pressing questions heading into second major

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    Written by Staff @PGATOUR

    Gentlemen, welcome to horse country, bourbon country, and the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, where world No. 1 and first-time dad Scottie Scheffler will be going for his third win in as many starts and his fifth victory in his last six starts.

    (Which feels impressive to even type.)

    We have lots to talk about as we get ready for the year’s second major, so let’s begin:

    Let’s start with Scheffler, since he’s so far ahead of everyone else in both the FedExCup and the Official World Golf Ranking. He will be going for the second leg of the calendar-year Grand Slam, the potential completion of which suddenly seems, if not exactly imminent, not exactly impossible, either. What do we expect from him this week?

    Cameron Morfit, Staff writer: I’m bullish. He’s been on such a heater despite not knowing how the birth of his and Meredith’s first child, a son, was going to go. Now that it’s gone well, he couldn’t be looser. During his Monday practice round he got into a debate with Wyndham Clark and Sam Burns and the caddies regarding whether or not he could score any points against various NBA players in a game of one-on-one. (Scheffler believed he could, even if just by chucking up 3-pointers, as long as the game wasn’t make-it, take-it.) And he’s still splitting the fairway or covering the flag with pretty much every shot he hits.

    Paul Hodowanic, Staff writer: I expect the same thing we've seen from Scheffler lately – dominance. He's long been one of the best in the game at compartmentalization. He focuses on golf at the course and family when he's home. I expect nothing different this week. He was arguably more distracted during the Masters and RBC Heritage when the due date of his child loomed. Scheffler remained sharp during his three weeks away from the PGA TOUR, practicing back home in Dallas, and looked the part of the No. 1 golfer in the world through two practice rounds. My expectations are unchanged. Scheffler is the overwhelming favorite to win. That should remain a fact until Scheffler lays an egg in a big spot. I'll wait.

    Kevin Prise, Associate editor: There are reasons to pick against Scheffler – his sleep schedule could be out of whack after last week’s birth of his son; he’ll be without caddie Ted Scott on Saturday (who will attend his daughter’s high school graduation); and golf’s ebbs and flows mean 65s will eventually become 70s. Scheffler’s “great” golf must tick down to “good” at some point, right? But until that happens, we should expect him on the leaderboard’s first page and somewhere close to that top spot Sunday. With four wins in five starts, has earned that assumption. He might not win, but I’ll be shocked if he’s not in the mix with a few holes to play.

    Ben Everill, Senior Writer Golfbet: Kevin’s reasons to pick against his dominance continuing are valid – in fact I lay out my reasons why you should fade Scheffler’s +450 betting odds in my column this week – but at the same time he obviously can’t be discounted. No player has won two majors in a row since Jordan Spieth in 2015 and I think that continues – but not without Scheffler hanging around the periphery keeping the storyline ticking over.


    Tiger Woods on Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy's golf game


    What are your thoughts on Valhalla so far? Favorite/least favorite holes? And what course does it remind you of the most?

    Cameron Morfit: It’s true what everyone says about it being a big ballpark, and the 500-yard, par-4 second hole reminds me of Bethpage Black. On the other hand, Jon Rahm said the back nine reminded of him of Medinah Country Club, while Willy Wilcox said it was akin to Quail Hollow Club. The front and back nines are very different, and the par-4 13th, with its waterfall, is very picturesque. I’m curious about the par-3 14th and how the PGA will set it up. It’s around 250 yards to a back pin, a real brute. It will be fun to watch how players tackle it.

    Paul Hodowanic: The PGA Championship has a type, at least it's starting to. They've settled into big brawny venues like Oak Hill, Bethpage Black and Bellerive and adopted what Max Homa called "the old model of the U.S. Open, but a bit easier." They'll head to Quail Hollow next year. The courses are long with relatively narrow fairways, penal rough and small greens. That's Valhalla this year. Driver will be an important club, as will players' long-iron game. I don't love that type of golf every week, but it's a structure that's proven to test the game's top players. For that, I'm excited. As for favorite holes, I'd nominate the par-3 14th, as well. Wyndham Clark got to the tee and asked if it was a par 4. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods hit it to 15 feet. I'm excited to see how the field plays that. What's my least favorite hole? There are a few non-descript par 4s, including No. 1. By itself, it's fine. But it doesn't blow you away as a starting hole.

    Kevin Prise: This is a nostalgic week for me; the first tournament I remember watching is the 2000 PGA at Valhalla, Tiger’s iconic point and all (I was rooting for Bob May). I’m a sucker for an island green, so I’ll have my eye on the 13th hole and its limestone aesthetic; in the event of a three-hole playoff, this would be the opening hole, and I would enjoy that. I enjoyed Homa’s breakdown of each major and its identity, with the PGA Championship ethos requiring a simple yet demanding recipe: pure, repeatable strikes. You won’t be able to fake it around this place, especially from the soggy rough. Regarding a course comparison, I’ll side with Wilcox – watching the Wells Fargo last weekend, I kept thinking about how it was a perfect precursor to Valhalla.

    Ben Everill: I was here 10 years ago trying to will a young Jason Day over the top of a dominant young McIlroy and my lasting memories are just how important it is to get the ball in play off the tee if you want to ultimately be successful. Day was a scrambling savant back then, the only thing that kept some of his wild lashes off the tee from completely wiping him out. I see the same factors needed on this now lengthened beast. Long and accurate, particularly with the softness from some rains, is the obvious blueprint. Quail, Bethpage, even Torrey Pines have comparisons… get your muscles out. As for holes… the boys make great cases above, but I just want the par-5 18th to have a say in the result coming down the stretch.

    Rory McIlroy has two victories in his last two starts, and also won the 2014 PGA at Valhalla, which, oddly, remains his most recent major title. Does he break his 10-year drought in the majors this week?

    Cameron Morfit: The heart says yes, and so does the head, sort of. McIlroy can separate himself with the driver here, and he was crushing it at Quail Hollow last week. The problem, though, is one of expectations, because no sooner had he beat Xander Schauffele by five than he started talking about the stars possibly aligning. It seemed premature, and a bit like tempting fate given the way his last decade has gone in the majors. Not sure this is the week.

    Paul Hodowanic: Like Cameron, I'd love to see it. There's every reason to believe it could happen, too. During McIlroy's early-season struggles, his par-5 scoring let him down. He was 9-under on the par 5s at Quail Hollow, including two eagles in the final round. That will be key this week at Valhalla. I'm a bit emotionally exhausted from Rory's pursuit of this long-awaited fifth major. Wake me up when it happens. I can't keep riding the rollercoaster.


    Behind the scenes with Rory McIlroy after his win at Wells Fargo


    Kevin Prise: It’s time. I saw plenty on Sunday at Quail Hollow – 8 under for eight holes is silly – to think that Rory’s fifth major comes this week. His season started slowly but he has been gaining momentum, and he can beat anyone (Scheffler included) with his “A” game, particularly when he’s hitting moon balls like we saw at the Wells Fargo. His old swagger came back Sunday afternoon, and although it’s a new week, the similar challenge makes me think he’ll step up Thursday and keep it rolling. Valhalla rewards long, straight driving, even more so in wet conditions. Who’s known for playing well at soggy majors? Rory.

    Ben Everill: Short answer: yes. It’s well overdue. It’s time. We all love rooting for a great story and honestly, McIlroy has done too much in the world of golf not to nail a fifth major. Time is running out – I’ve been burned by the false dawns many times – but I’m still going to load up one more time. I don’t love the +750 odds; I’d be watching live and hoping they slip to +1000 or more to jump on. But if he fails here, don’t ask me again until the PGA gets to Quail Hollow next year.

    So who wins this thing?

    Cameron Morfit: Scheffler and McIlroy have each won their last two starts, but Brooks Koepka won in his most recent start, too, and there’s a reason why he has those five major titles. As soon as I got those Bethpage Black feels on the second hole, I thought of Koepka. Again.


    Tiger Woods on Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy's golf game


    Paul Hodowanic: Scheffler. Only one player has beaten Scheffler in the last two months. The last time we saw him, he won convincingly in Hilton Head despite being exhausted from his Masters victory. I'll be the brave soul who says it continues. Grand Slam talk, here we come.

    Kevin Prise: As I outlined above, Rory McIlroy. I can’t shake the memory from the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, when Rory bludgeoned the field into submission with four rounds in the 60s on a long, wet track – winning by eight. This week’s Valhalla feels like a comparable test. A lot has changed in the 13 years since, but nobody disputes that the talent remains. McIlroy will match Koepka this week with major title No. 5.

    Ben Everill: McIlroy. Send help my way… I’ve sipped the Kool-Aid again.

    What do we expect from Tiger Woods? And with so much focus on the big names, who are we overlooking? Who is this year’s potential Bob May?

    Cameron Morfit: I don’t expect Tiger to make the cut. I don’t remember him saying he wished his game were a bit sharper heading into a major. As for the sneaky contenders, Byeong Hun An is fourth in driving distance and is coming off a third-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship at brawny Quail Hollow. He also was T16 at the Masters. Not a bad fantasy pick.

    Paul Hodowanic: I expect one good round from Tiger over the first two days. He's shown he's capable of that and not much beyond it. Whether he plays the weekend depends on whether he can limit the damage on his bad stretch of holes. I have a sneaky feeling he will, even with unfavorable weather conditions. And I think we're overlooking a guy who should really be in plain sight: Ludvig Åberg. He finished runner-up at the Masters, his first major championship, and on paper he's a better course fit at Valhalla than Augusta National. I'm not scared off by the knee soreness, which kept him out of the Wells Fargo. That withdrawal also put him under the radar. I like that.

    Kevin Prise: It was a treat to watch Tiger navigate Augusta National for the first two rounds – setting a tournament record with his 24th straight made cut. It wasn’t as fun on the weekend, which made me realize that he might not seriously contend again on a Sunday afternoon until he turns 50 (on PGA TOUR Champions). He won’t consider that reality, of course, but Woods keeping up with the game’s elite on the biggest ballparks is a tall task. Still, it’s Woods, and if I were to select an over/under for finish, I’ll say a respectable T38. Cameron Young is by no means a dark horse, but I want to get him in ink as a player who could factor – his game fits Valhalla’s demands to a tee. As for a surprise contender, a la Bob May, consider Tim Widing. The Swede earned a special exemption by winning back-to-back Korn Ferry Tour starts (shooting a combined 51-under), and his long game is the stuff of envy among his Korn Ferry Tour peers. He also played high school golf with Åberg, who wasn’t exactly fazed by the moment in his major debut.

    Ben Everill: We should just be happy Tiger is playing. The legend put everything into keeping his Masters cut streak alive before predictably fading over the weekend. I’m not sure he can replicate that on this beast of a course, as much as I’d love to see it. For those who love a Tiger bet, stick to the number of birdies per round options as he can still rack them up… he just can’t avoid the mistakes. Who are we overlooking… well 2015 PGA Champion and 2016 runner-up Jason Day was a contender at Valhalla 10 years ago and he played nicely at Quail Hollow. At +5500 he’s a decent longshot. He’s no Bob May, though… if we need to go down the betting boards further, Nicolai Højgaard at 175-1 could surprise.

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