We’ve been slacking on previews lately due to some real life complications, but we’re back with everyone’s favorite the final major championship of the year. In a shocking turn of events that does not correlate to the overall snooze-fest we’ve experienced in 2013-2014, we’ve got plenty of storylines developing before “Glory’s Last Shot” (said in my best Jim Nantz voice) at our Old Kentucky Home, Valhalla. The PGA Championship is the least prestigious and least glorifying major, but at no point does this tournament not feel like a major (insert Shaun Micheel joke here). In reality, it has given us some of the most memorable and exciting duels over the last pair of decades. Just look at the last fifteen years:
Sergio at Medinah in ’99 (golf.com)
- 1999: Tiger and Sergio’s duel at Medinah before they hated each other
- 2000: Tiger-Bob May in ’00 right here at Valhalla
- 2001: David Toms’ sickening lay up on 18 at Atlanta Athletic Club and 1 shot win over Phil
- 2002: Rich Beem holds off a charging Tiger Woods who birdies his last four holes
- 2003: Shaun Micheel stuffs it to inches on 18 to beat Chad Campbell
- 2004: Vijay wins by 5 and everyone pretends it never happened
- 2005: Phil birdies the 18th to win his second major (after tapping the Jack Nicklaus plaque from 267 yards out before hitting his approach in true FIGJAM fashion)
- 2006: Tiger holds off Shaun Micheel at Medinah (seriously! Micheel finished 5 shots behind Tiger, but finished SEVEN shots ahead of Phil for 2nd place)
- 2007: Tiger beats Woody Austin by two at Southern Hills (man, golf was weird 7 years ago)
- 2008: Padraig Harrington wins by two, but no one noticed because Tiger wasn’t playing
- 2009: Y.E. Yang beat Tiger by 3, as Big Cat limped home with a 75 on Sunday. Yang went on to military press his staff bag over his head
- 2010: Bubba collapses in epic fashion (#PrayForTedScott) in a playoff and loses to Martin Kaymer (this event best remembered for DJ grounding his club in the bunker on 18)
- 2011: Keegan Bradley edges Jason Dufner (two near no names at the time) in a thrilling playoff
- 2012: Rory blows the field away on Sunday and wins by 8
- 2013: Jason Dufner beats Jim Furyk by 2 which broke the hearts of TENS of Furyk fans all over the globe.
There are some less than memorable results mixed in there, but no other major has provided the drama that the PGA has in this century.
The site of Tiger’s legendary duel with Bob May in 2000, as well as the Tiger-less US Ryder Cup victory over the Euro’s in 2008 (RIP Anthony Kim), Valhalla is a big ballpark located outside of Louisville (I tried for way too long to think of a “ballpark” and “Louisville Slugger” metaphor here, but failed. Still shaking off the rust here.) Kentucky native and NLU staffer Dillon Mays has the breakdown:
Norse mythology describes Valhalla (that’s Wahalla for you Kaymer fans) as the Great Hall of Odin. Reserved for only a select group of warriors who die in battle, it is guarded by the mighty Golden tree called “Glasir” (golden tree, golden bear, who gives a shit), and its ceilings are protected by golden shields forged by Odin himself. Now what the 500 acre lot that sits just east of Louisville lacks in flamboyance, it makes up for in a proven ability to produce a deserving champion, and more often than not, incorporating its finishing holes in doing so. Perhaps the greatest testament to Valhalla’s quality is the recent news of the United States’ potential desire for making it the permanent site of Ryder Cups played on US soil. All that being said, let’s get to what is actually relevant; the PGA Championship being played at Valhalla this week and what one can expect from it.
Keeping with the trend of American golf, Valhalla is a long golf course that has only gotten longer as the years have gone on (in 2000, Tiger hit 2-iron/7-iron into a 404 yard 16th hole that now plays 508 yards with some of the thickest rough on the course). The 2nd hole, which for members is a dogleg left par 5 guarded by water down the left and a small green, will be a modest par 4 of 500 yards. It should be really fun to see long iron approaches into that green. During the 2012 renovations, the green was actually slightly altered and softened to accommodate such shots, however it’s still a daunting task just half an hour into your round in a major. Key holes should include, but are not limited to:
The signature 13th (golf.com)
- #6 – A dogleg par 4 with two fairways separated by Floyds Fork
- #7 – A par 5 giving the player an option to cut off distance by hitting to an alternate left fairway guarded by water
- #13 – The most famous hole on the course, and the signature, with the stone island green
- #16 – Hard….just…just hard
- #18 – Very difficult green that is 14 years into its Bob May voodoo spell. THAT PUTT DOES NOT BREAK BACK TO THE LEFT I SWEAR!
Ideal ball flight here is Rory McIlroy’s exact ball flight a high, right-to-left ball. Right to left shots have the slight advantage due to subtle kicks in the fairways, and creating ideal angles into some of the more difficult pin locations (spoiler: Bubba’s cut is going to be pretty freaking handy). There’s really not one skill that provides a bigger advantage than any others at Valhalla other than the obvious assumption that the closer you are to the hole, the easier it should be to attack some of these pins, so swing hard in case you hit it, I guess.
In case you are unaware, the PGA owns Valhalla Golf Club, and while there are a few cons a purist may associate with this, there is one very obvious advantage, which is spectator experience. Today’s PGA Tour does a pretty good job carving out walkways, hospitality tents, merchandising tents, shuttle services, etc. in order to make spectators feel like they’re actually supposed to be there. However, while other courses accommodate this, Valhalla was built for this. Patrons (oh wait this isn’t Masters week?) err, spectators will notice how open everything is which creates a very smooth flow of traffic that regular tournament attendees will appreciate. That being said, just as you would see on any golf course, there are certainly areas of prime real estate awaiting those early risers wishing to camp in one spot for the day. For that, I recommend the following:
- Behind 14 green. Large bank acts as stadium seating for a great par 3. (Left of 14 is also nice for a view of the 13th green I’m just not sure what the rules will be for seating there)
- The grandstands behind 16 green. Watch some great long iron shots to tucked pins and realize how bad you need to practice.
- Behind 7 tee. The more aggressive players will be hitting some pretty impressive drives to that left fairway (We’ll also be passing around an offering plate for Ted Scott here. Every penny helps.)
- 6th green. Players are going to miss this green, so think of it as some “free” short game lessons.
While these locations are certainly a great way to spend a day, I can’t recommend walking the course enough. I’m not going to lie, it can be a bit tiring to walk Valhalla, but any golf nerd can appreciate the flow of the course from an architectural standpoint.
Lastly, Kentucky is a state without any professional sports teams, and with basketball season still quite a ways away, you can bet that the love of sport will really be channeled into this week’s tournament. While Kentucky may not be the epicenter of the golf universe, it is a place that knows competition and is extremely loyal to the home team. With JB Holmes and Kenny Perry (who has announced this is his final PGA Tour event being so close to home and the final round falling on his birthday) both in the field this week, you can expect some Happy Gilmore-esque galleries that want to see nothing more than everyone finish second to anything that has its roots in the Commonwealth. It’s also worth noting that Sergio’s recent good play adds an undeniable entertainment factor as he has been very vocal about his dislike for the people…err, course. Sergio’s play this week is almost a catch 22, because once those select good ole boys, who just needed something to do until basketball seasons starts, have had their 3 PM bourbon transfusions kick in, dew sweeping might not sound so bad to the young (Hogan was 34 when he won his first major) Spaniard.
All in all, we tend to be a little more critical of the PGA Championship than any other major, demanding a bit more from it in order to make up for its lack of “something,” but I really don’t think Valhalla will fail to produce this week. The top ranked player in the world is absolutely smoking it, it’s the last major before The Ryder Cup, a “hometown” hero and a hall of famer is retiring on his birthday, and the course really is fantastic. I may be biased, but I’m pretty confident you won’t be channel surfing late next Sunday afternoon. And on the off chance that it does get a bit boring, well, this is Kentucky, HAVE ANOTHER BOURBON, Y’ALL.
Duf Daddy! After stuffing every iron shot for 5 hours (remember, paired with Furyk), he caps it off with an IDGAF ass slap of his wife for the whole world to see. He also went on a legendary media tour, highlighted by his visit to the Howard Stern show. When asked if he was like “boxers that abstain from sex before a big match,” he replied with a simple: “Naaaaaa.” Duf Daddy. Legend.
GIF courtesy of Adam Sarson, aka the GIF Factory.
Check back later this week for Part II of our PGA Championship preview, which will include our picks.