PGA Championship 2014: Complete Guide to the Tournament
Time flies. It feels like just yesterday Adam Scott was handing the green jacket over to Bubba Watson, and now here we are preparing for the final major of 2014, the PGA Championship.
This year's tournament heads to the Valhalla golf course in Louisville, Kentucky. The last time the PGA Championship was held here was way back in 2000, when Tiger Woods won the fifth major of his career.
Things are quite different 14 years later. Woods is struggling with his back and hasn't won a major in over six years, and Jason Dufner is the defending champion. Plus, a Northern Irish golfer named Rory McIlroy, who was only 11 the last time this tournament was hosted at Valhalla, is looking to establish his dominance over the rest of the PGA Tour.
With the best golfers in the world trying to finish the major season on a high note, the PGA Championship is shaping up to be a memorable one. Here's everything you need to know before the first round tees off on Thursday.
All About Valhalla Golf Club
The Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course located in Louisville, Kentucky, is ready to jump back into the spotlight this week as the PGA Championship comes to town.
The course has been the site of big events before. It first hosted the PGA Championship back in 1996, when Mark Brooks took home the Wanamaker Trophy, and then hosted again in 2000, when Woods was the victor.
Since then, the course has held the Senior PGA Championship twice—2004 and 2011—and, perhaps most memorably, the 2008 Ryder Cup.
The par-71 course is 7,458 yards long and opened in 1986 after being conceived by Dwight Gahm and his three sons in 1981. In 2011, the course underwent a major redesign, and all 18 greens were updated.
Where to Watch on Television
Need some more Jason Dufner in your life? You're in luck. The final major of the year will be televised by TNT and CBS and streamed on CBSSports.com. Here's when to watch (all times ET):
1 p.m. to 7 p.m, TNT
1 p.m. to 7 p.m., TNT
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., TNT
2 p.m. to 7 p.m., CBS
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., TNT
2 p.m. to 7 p.m., CBS
Can Sergio Garcia or Rickie Fowler Win A Maiden Major?
Garcia and Fowler have both had great seasons, and a few weeks ago at the British Open, the BFFs ended up tied for second place.
Both charismatic stars are looking to cap off their solid 2014s with their first major victory, and all eyes will be on them at Valhalla to see if they can turn their dreams into reality on Sunday.
How Will Tiger Woods Play?
Last Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods had to withdraw from the tournament on the ninth hole due to a back injury he had aggravated on the second. As he limped to his vehicle and winced as he tied his shoes, it was hard to imagine Woods playing this week.
However, on Wednesday, Woods told reporters he is playing in the tournament. In fact, not only does he plan on playing, he plans on winning, as reported by Golf Channel.
Woods is a story no matter where he goes, and it will certainly be worth watching his form this week. But given his struggles this season, it's hard to put much stock in his hopes of winning. More than likely, Woods will be a non-factor at Valhalla.
Can Rory McIlroy Be the First Male Golfer Since Padraig Harrington to Win Back-to-Back Majors?
The last time Woods won back-to-back majors was in 2006, when he won The Open Championship and the PGA Championship in succession. Padraig Harrington repeated that feat in 2008, but since then, no golfer on the PGA Tour has won multiple majors in a year, let alone back-to-back majors.
Rory McIlroy has a great chance to change that this week and provide some much-needed consistent dominance to golf. But can he pull it off?
Will There Be Sunday Drama?
Let's face it: The men's majors this year have not been must-see TV. Bubba Watson was in full control of the Masters on the back nine, nobody got close to Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open, and Rory McIlroy's lead was insurmountable at The Open Championship last month.
With Tiger's health in question and Dustin Johnson's suspension for cocaine, according to Michael Bamberger and Mike Walker of Golf.com, receiving lots of press, the PGA could certainly use a big duel on the back nine Sunday in hopes that the action on the course will at long last overshadow the drama off of it.
The Top Pairings
Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood (Thursday, 8:15 a.m. ET)
Spieth's star has faded a little bit in the last month, Scott just lost the No. 1 ranking, and Westwood has missed the cut in four of his last five tournaments. But still, this group knows how to play well at majors and should be a blast to watch.
Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods (Thursday, 8:35 a.m. ET)
With 22 majors between them, it doesn't get much more star-studded than this group. Harrington is the last man to win two majors in a year, Mickelson will look to keep his good form from Sunday at Bridgestone going, and Tiger will be looking to prove everyone wrong. None of them are likely contenders, but they should be a treat to watch nonetheless.
Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy (Thursday, 1:45 p.m. ET)
Does this really need an explanation? The three major winners of 2014, all in one group. Can't beat that.
Jason Dufner, Y.E. Yang, Keegan Bradley (Thursday, 1:55 p.m. ET)
This threesome has a trio of Wanamaker trophies between them; Yang won the PGA Championship in 2009, Bradley won in 2011, and, of course, Dufner is the defending champion. Can one of them come away with his second major?
The Top Contenders
After finishing tied for second at the British Open last month and second at the Bridgestone Invitational last week, Garcia is certainly one of the players to watch at Valhalla.
The 34-year-old is still looking for his first major, but now that he's found happiness off of the course, particularly in his relationship with girlfriend Katharina Boehm, he's playing some of the best golf of his life.
As Jason Sobel of Golf Channel noted, "More than any other elite golfer in the world, Sergio Garcia’s success has always been dependent on his personal happiness."
Even Rory McIlroy has noticed a difference, as reported by Sobel: "I think a big thing with Sergio is you all know that emotionally he's in a really good place. I think that's really helping him on the golf course. He's in a good place in his life right now and I'm really happy to see that. That's really coming out in the way he's playing and his whole demeanor. It's good to see."
The Spaniard has been the runner-up at the PGA Championship twice in his career (1999 and 2008). He's struggled in the event recently, but he looks poised to contend this year.
The 25-year-old Fowler has taken a big step in his career this year. On the big stages he's been the most consistent player in golf, finishing tied for fifth at the Masters and tied for second at the U.S. Open and British Open. He's finished in the top 10 in his last four events.
It seems to be only a matter of time before the young American wins a major. Don't sleep on him this week.
Rose doesn't have a top-10 finish at a major yet this season, but I predict that will change this week at the PGA Championship. The Brit won both the Quicken Loans National and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open this summer. He also finished tied for fourth last week at Bridgestone.
The 2013 U.S. Open champion has had a fantastic summer—he just needs a major to top things off.
With McIlroy's booming success over the last month, Scott feels like the forgotten man. But the Australian is still the No. 2 golfer in the world, and he's had good showings at majors this summer; he finished tied for ninth at the U.S. Open and tied for fifth at the British Open.
With top-10 finishes in two of the last three years at the PGA, this could be his week to shine.
The Dark Horses
Jim Furyk finished in second place at the PGA Championship last year, and he certainly has the talent to sneak away with his second career major.
After all, the 44-year-old has quietly had a fabulous season. He's finished in the top 20 in his last five events as well as in the last four major championships. Last month, he was fourth at the British Open and second at the Canadian Open.
As the young guys continue to make waves on the PGA Tour, Furyk is proving that there's nothing wrong with experience.
On the other end of the age spectrum, Jordan Spieth has not won a title in over a year, even though it feels like he's been in contention more often than not. Newly 21 years old, perhaps Spieth is finally ready to one-up his tie for second at the Masters.
It's pretty laughable to think of Phil Mickelson as a dark horse, but he hasn't finished in the top 10 since January and hasn't won a tournament since The Open Championship last year. His 62 on Sunday at Bridgestone could be the turning point of his season, though.
My most out-of-the-box pick for a dark horse is Victor Dubuisson. The 24-year-old Frenchman has had a breakout season, finishing second at both the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships and the Nordea Masters. He also earned his first top-10 finish at a major last month at The Open Championship. He's rising fast and could certainly be a factor this week.
Also keep an eye out for defending champion Jason Dufner, runaway U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer and long-driving Masters expert Bubba Watson.
It's Rory McIlroy's world; the rest of us are lucky enough to just sit on our couches at home and watch.
After winning the British Open three weeks ago for the third major of his career, the 25-year-old showed no signs of satisfaction last week when he outdueled Sergio Garcia in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
That win took him back to the No. 1 spot in the rankings, and it's hard not to see him staying there.
As Steve DiMeglio of USA Today wrote, McIlroy is more than willing to wait to celebrate:
McIlroy's mindset was clear this week—don't dwell on his win in the British Open, don't become complacent, keep the pedal down.
"That's what I'll have to do after this win as well. I've just got to keep moving forward. I've got plenty of time at the end of the year to celebrate all these successes," said McIlroy, who won his first WGC event and eighth PGA Tour title. "...I feel like, with the way I'm playing, there's a few (wins) left in me this year."
Halfway through the weekend, I was contemplating picking Garcia to win the PGA Championship, but after McIlroy's performance on Sunday, it just seems downright nonsensical to bet against him.
Golf has been begging for some consistency at the top for the past six years. Finally, it seems like McIlroy is ready to provide it.