The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla Golf Club for the first time since 2000, and here is a preview to get the week off and running. In addition to the 2000 PGA, this venue also hosted the 1996 edition as well as the 2008 Ryder Cup. It just so happens, that was the last time the U.S. squad won the Ryder Cup.
Let's start with the course:
Valhalla is a 7,458 yard par-71 layout, featuring three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. Of those 11 par 4s, three are 495 yards are longer, so length is a factor. The par 5s measure between 542 and 597 yards, so there are birdies to be found.
Tiger Woods defeated Bob May in a playoff at the 2000 edition, but then again that was Tiger 2000. The rest of the leaderboard was not exactly a who's who of Hall of Fame golfers, but it is worth noting that both Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson tied for ninth.
In 1996, Mark Brooks topped Kenny Perry in a playoff. Mickelson's name pops up here as well, tying for eighth after holding a three stroke 36-hole lead.
Recent PGA Championships, especially the last four, have identified elite ball-strikers. It began with Martin Kaymer in 2010 and continued with Keegan Bradley in '11, Rory McIlroy in '12 and Jason Dufner a year ago.
What to expect:
Ball-striking, with a tilt towards length, should be a factor this week. with six of the holes playing longer the 495 yards, confidence with the driver is likely paramount.
Birdies will be necessary, which brings both proximity and putting prowess in play. It's more than fair to consider Par Breakers and Birdie or Better statistical categories.
Probably the biggest thing to consider is current form. The WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone CC seems to offer a pretty good indicator as to who will play well on PGA Championship course layouts, so that's an excellent starting point.
If all of this seems to point to Rory McIlroy, it's not an accident. If Rory drives the ball with the confidence he displayed at Hoylake and Firestone CC in his last two starts, this could look a lot like Kiawah Island in 2012 or Congressional in 2011.
We will return tomorrow with our Power Ranking. Until then, happy research!