Preview: The PGA Championship

By Chris Havlicek

Updated 5/15/24 3:36am ET

The 106th PGA Championship gets underway at Valhalla in Kentucky on Thursday with defending champion Brooks Koepka in a field of 156 players. Scottie Scheffler is the world’s top-ranked player and also the tournament favorite at (+400), after skipping last week’s tournament to welcome the birth of his first child. Joining Scheffler and Koepka will be Rory McIlroy (+750), Xander Schauffele (+1400), and John Rahm (+1600).

Keopka won his third US PGA at Oak Hill last year and is one of 16 LIV players at Valhalla. The 34-year-old’s two-shot victory over Viktor Hovland and Scheffler saw him become the first LIV player to win a major and he arrives in Kentucky having won in Singapore earlier this month.

Rory McIlroy returns to the scene of the last of his four major victories – having won his second US PGA title in 2014 – on the back of last week’s dominant victory at Quail Hollow. McIlroy has won his past two starts, recording his 25th PGA Tour victory with Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans before winning Wells Fargo last Sunday. At age 25, McIlroy was the third-youngest player to win four majors when he won at Valhalla in 2014 but he has been unable to win another major in the past decade.

And don’t forget that four-time champion Tiger Woods, whose last tournament was the Masters in April, is also set to play. As a winner in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2007 he has a lifetime exemption for the US PGA, although he missed last year’s championship after having surgery on his ankle. Woods’ victory at Valhalla in 2000 was the third leg of the “Tiger Slam”, when he won four consecutive major titles – the US Open, Open Championship, and US PGA in 2000, followed by the 2001 Masters.

Dates/Location:

What: The PGA Championship

Where: Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky

When: Thursday-Sunday, May 16 – May 19

Purse: $17.5 Million

Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka

The Field:

The US PGA Championship prides itself on having the strongest field for a major with virtually all the top 100 in the world confirmed to play, including 21 club professionals teeing it up. Koepka was the last player to win successive US PGA titles, in 2018 and 2019, and will be joined in the field by fellow LIV player Phil Mickelson, who became the oldest major winner when he claimed this title in 2021 at the age of 50.

Scheffler is enjoying a stellar year with four victories in his past five starts, including becoming the first player to win successive Players Championships, before claiming last month’s Masters. He followed that with another PGA Tour victory before retreating to be with his pregnant wife Meredith. They welcomed their son Bennett into the world earlier this month.

Xander Schauffele, who McIlroy beat to win last week’s PGA Tour title, is chasing his first major victory, while fellow American and US Open champion Wyndham Clark cannot be overlooked. Also in the field,  Justin Thomas is a two-time winner of this title and won the PGA Championship in 2022.  Fellow American Jordan Spieth is making a seventh attempt to complete the career Grand Slam, having won the 2015 Masters and US Open and The British Open in 2017.

Europe is also sending a strong group of contenders to Valhalla. Matt Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open winner, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton are in the field, while two-time major winner Jon Rahm and rising stars Ludvig Aberg and Victor Hovland are Europe’s strongest players.

The Course:

Valhalla Golf Club (par 71) was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus and opened in June 1986. The Parkland-style course measures a mammoth 7,609 yards (151 longer than in 2014) and features rolling hills, tree-lined Zoysiagrass fairways that are firm and fast, four-inch Kentucky Bluegrass rough, 60 sand bunkers, seven holes with water hazards, and lightning-quick Bentgrass green complexes that are the third-smallest on the 2024 schedule. Valhalla features a standard par-71 layout, meaning there are 11 par-4s, four par-3s, and three par-5s this week.

Top 10 Odds: (Courtesy of FanDuel)

Scottie Scheffler +400
Rory McIlroy +750
Brooks Koepka +1400
Xander Schauffele +1400
John Rahm +1600
Ludvig Aberg +2000
Bryson DeChambeau +2800
Colin Morikawa +3000
Max Homa +3500
Joaquin Niemann +3500

Keys To Victory:

The Valhalla course is wide off the tee, with tree-lined fairways with undulating greens. The course layout is designed for drama, with the closing reachable par-5 likely to provide a tournament-changing eagle or two in the closing stages. The weather report for the PGA Championship calls for rain on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday leading up to the tournament. Expect soft turf conditions and soft greens for most of this tournament, making the course longer than usual.

Great length and accuracy off the tee, coupled with solid ball striking, are requirements to score well under normal conditions at Valhalla but will be even more imperative this week. Many approach shots will come from over 200 yards, so accurate long-iron hitters should fare well at Valhalla. Given that this is a Major – experience, controlling one’s nerves and player resolve will also be a factor.  

Photo Courtesy: Shutterstock

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