2024 PGA Championship course: Valhalla Golf Club will provide stern test,

It’s not an annual stop on the golf calendar, but Valhalla Golf Club has provided juice whenever it gets a nod. As host of the 2024 PGA Championship, the Jack Nicklaus design will return to the spotlight for the fifth time in competition having previously welcomed players to three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup — all since 1996.

Each instance was memorable in its own right. Mark Brooks defeated Kenny Perry at the 1996 PGA Championship in a playoff after the Kentucky native made bogey on the last hole of regulation and watched the remainder of the action from the broadcast booth. Brooks made birdie on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff to raise the Wanamaker Trophy.

Four years later, it was Tiger Woods’ turn to win a playoff as he defeated Bob May in dramatic fashion. Responsible for one of the most iconic moments of Woods’ career, Valhalla was the track which Woods chased his golf ball into the bottom of the cup on the first of the three-hole playoff. It marked Woods’ fifth career major championship at the time and became a part of his famous Tiger Slam.

The 2008 Ryder Cup provided its fair share of moments as well as when relatively unheralded U.S. team trounced the visiting Europeans. From Boo Weekley riding his driver down fairways to Anthony Kim baptizing Sergio Garcia in Sunday singles and unknowingly beating him, the Ryder Cup marks one of the American’s high points in the competition over the last two decades.

It has been a single decade since Valhalla served as the backdrop for Rory McIlroy’s fourth (and still most recent) major championship. Then a 25-year-old, McIlroy defeated Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in a race against the clock as a blanket of darkness was about to engulf Valhalla.

“It’s really funny, so going into Valhalla in 2014 I had won my last two starts, and going into this year, I’ve won my last two starts,” McIlroy said after winning the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday. “Just need to try to replicate whatever I did in 2014, just try to do that all over again. Yeah, I’m feeling really good with my game. I need to stay in my own little world next week and not get too far ahead of myself, but if you can step on to the first tee at Valhalla on Thursday and feel as good about my game as I did today, I think I’ll have a good chance.”

While some things have stayed the same 10 years later, others have not, including Valhalla itself. The main difference between the Valhalla of 2014 and the Valhalla of 2024 is somewhat-ironically the grass. (It is hosting in the Bluegrass State, after all.) A few years ago, Valhalla switched its fairways from bentgrass to Zeon Zoysiagrass, which is more conducive for firm and fast conditions. Whether that materializes given the weather forecast is another question, but we’ll cross our fingers.

The grass in the fairway has changed, too, while the grass around bunkers has been removed. Rough previously outlined fairway bunkers and stopped golf balls from rolling into the sand. This protective lining won’t be around for the 2024 PGA Championship, which may actually prove beneficial for players as they have more control of their golf balls from the bunkers than the rough.

Hitting fairways will continue to be a premium with the rough expected to be gnarly and the golf course lengthened by roughly 150 yards compared to 2014. The par-4 1st has added 50 yards thanks to a new tee, the par-4 12th has 20 more yards of distance, the par-3 14th can now play as long as 250 yards, and the par-5 18th has seen 30 yards added. In total, the par 71 will play to 7,609 yards, according to the PGA Championship website.

While beefy on paper, Valhalla does present a number of back-nine scoring chances — proven by Mays and Woods both posting 31s to close in 2000 and McIlroy’s closing at 32 in 2014. Between the two par 5s and the short par-4 13th (which Bryson DeChambeau may well try to drive despite it being an island green), players will have the opportunity to run down hill a little bit on the second nine at Valhalla. And if they do so, they might just run right into the winner’s circle come Sunday evening.

Winning scores at Valhalla

1996

Mark Brooks

(277) -11*

Playoff over Kenny Perry

2000

Tiger Woods

(270) -18*

Playoff over Bob May

2014

Rory McIlroy

(268) -16

One stroke over Phil Mickelson

* The 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships played at a par 72

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