Ahhh Valhalla Golf Club, in Louisville, Kentucky – a place rich with history. Wait a second… this course was only opened in 1986? Nevermind! Wait a second again… Valhalla is hosting the PGA Championship for its third time (1996, 2000, 2014), and has also hosted the Senior PGA Championship (2004), and the Ryder Cup (2008)? Maybe this place does have some quality history in its relatively short existence. And why not? It was built by Jack Nicklaus with a natural arena setting, set up perfectly for big stage golf.
The 2008 Ryder Cup saw the Americans winning their first since 1999, in convincing fashion. Standouts from that match included Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, J.B. Holmes (both Kentuckians), and Boo Weekley on the American side, as well as Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, and Henrik Stenson on the European side. Will any of these players be able to translate that success to this tournament? Obviously Furyk and Garcia, and Stenson and McDowell to a lesser degree, can complement their past success with current form as well.
In the 2000 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods earned his 5th major title in a playoff win over Bob May. Obviously, the signs are not looking good for Tiger Woods teeing it up in two days – as he has yet to arrive in Louisville. The only other notables from that year’s leaderboard are Thomas Bjorn who finished in solo-third, and Phil Mickelson who finished in a T9. I would prefer not to go too much into the 1996 PGA since it was nearly 20 years ago, but it’s worth it to note that in addition to being known for Kentuckian Kenny Perry’s closest attempt at winning a major (he lost in a playoff), Mickelson also finished in the top 10 with a T8 that year. Now coming off his best round of the season (62 on Sunday at Firestone), there could be a little hype left for Lefty this season.
Overall, the 96th PGA Championship looks to be a great one. Obviously, the heavy, odds-on favorite is the recently reclaimed world-number-one, Rory McIlroy. He looks to put his vice-grip on the end of this season by winning three of the biggest events with the deepest fields, all in a row. Such a feat would bring back memories of that other guy who sported a Nike hat and won nearly every tournament he entered in the late 90s/early 2000s. However, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer also will be playing for a chance to be the only two-time major winner this season, and both figure to be in the mix. Playing as the longest par 71 in major history, how can you not at least think about Bubba having an obvious advantage (See: his 424 yard drive last week)? Rickie Fowler figures to be in the mix as well, as the only player this year to finish in no worse than T5 in all three majors so far.
For the rest of the storylines, well, we will let you come up with those on your own. For us, we look forward to an action-packed major, and hopefully some continued success with predictions.