PGA Championship 2024: Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy enter

The second major championship of the golf calendar has arrived, and the storylines entering the 2024 PGA Championship are abundant. What’s most interesting about this year’s tournament is how different the landscape of the sport seems just one month after the 2024 Masters kicked off the major championship campaign.

Brooks Koepka is once again center stage. Scottie Scheffler is going for something historic. Rory McIlroy joins both men as a trio of golfers entering the PGA each having won their last two starts. And then there’s this young guy — perhaps you have heard of him by now, Ludvig Åberg. Turns out he’s pretty good at major championship golf, too.

Throw in McIlroy’s quest for the career grand slam, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson playing but probably not contending, the Jordan Spieth roller coaster. All of a sudden, we have the makings of a special week at the 106th edition of this tournament.

2024 PGA Championship storylines

1. Scottie’s slam: It still seems a bit incomprehensible that, given the way modern golf is structured and how competitive the sport has become, a grand slam could be on the table. But that’s how good Scheffler has been playing so far in 2024. He has won four of his last five starts and comes in as the immense favorite to make that five of six. Why not? The only mark against Scheffler is that he didn’t play at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, but he’s been so dominant every time he has played that it seems irresponsible to not at least mention the possibility of a true calendar-year grand slam.

Perhaps even more impressive than the run of wins this year is the startling record at majors. In his last 15 such attempts — since the start of 2020 — he has one missed cut. Everything else has been a top 25, and 10 of those were top 10s (including two victories). Here are your top five in strokes gained at majors since the start of 2020 (minimum 20 rounds).

Scottie Scheffler

15

2.96

2.72

Will Zalatoris

10

2.82

2.26

Rory McIlroy

16

2.49

2.26

Jon Rahm

16

2.43

2.01

Collin Morikawa

16

2.36

2.01

2. Six pack for Brooks? The stratosphere Koepka, 34, is attempting to enter with a second consecutive PGA Championship is dizzying. There are a number of different ways to look at what Koepka is trying to accomplish, but here is one that best illuminates what’s at stake for the five-time champion: Since 1980, only one golfer has won six majors by age 34. He is also one of just three golfers who have won the PGA Championship four or more times, another club Koepka is attempting to join. You migh tknow that golfer’s name: Tiger Woods.

3. Rory’s quest: McIlroy is chasing both his own performance from the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, which remains the last major he’s won, and Koepka, who captured last year’s PGA Championship to pull one major ahead for his career. Rory was far from playing his best golf this year, but he seems to have turned a corner over the last month. First, he got his mind right in the Zurich Classic, teaming with friend Shane Lowry to pick up career victory No. 25 in New Orleans. And then this past week, McIlroy got his game right in the Wells Fargo Championship, charging up the leaderboard over the weekend and posting a 65 Sunday — buoyed by two eagles on his back nine — to pick up his 26th win in the friendly confines of Quail Hollow in Charlotte.

Further bolstering McIlroy’s confidence should be this return to the site of one of his four major wins. Combining that with the realization that he’s no longer his generation’s most decorated major golfer, could provide a mental edge. Whether that results in his first major victory in a decade likely depends on a straightened-out iron game (especially short).

4. The Swede: Ludvig has quickly become a one-name player in the men’s professional game. So good was Åberg’s debut at Augusta National that it made one wonder how well he might play now with actual major championship rounds under his belt. He has all of the gifts, but you never know how a megatalent is going to react with the lights on until the lights are actually on. He’s exceeded every expectation thus far and has now become one of the five biggest favorites.

5. What’s up with Jon Rahm? It became clear at Augusta National that something was amiss. It may be that he got got by signing with LIV Golf thinking he could turn the tide and marry the top of the men’s professional game. With that not happening — and still appearing quite far away — he is probably feeling unfamiliar emotions that are difficult to reconcile (even with all that money). Is it affecting his game? Tough to say. He’s been solid on the LIV Golf tour, though he played poorly at the Masters. The next few majors will be a better test. There are ebbs and flows, of course. Rahm’s two major victories sandwich a 2022 in which he did not finish in the top 10 across a single major. I have a lot of confidence that he will figure everything out in the long term, but I do not go into this week thinking he is surely going to contend for what would be his third major in the last four yeas.

6. The LIV boys: There are 16 LIV Golf players in this year’s tournament. And while only a handful have a legitimate chance of winning, they will receive attention as a whole — mostly because of Talor Gooch’s ridiculous (and now infamous) comments earlier this year “If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his grand slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk,” Gooch told Australian Golf Digest. “It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

Gooch ultimately received an invite, and as a top 40 player on Data Golf, he deserved it. Too big of a deal was made of this invite — Gooch and other LIV golfers were welcomed a year ago as well — and perhaps not enough of a deal has been made of how poorly he has played in majors (no top 10s in 11 starts). On the flip side, not enough attention has been given to how good Patrick Reed has been at majors since the start of 2018. He ranks 10th in that span in terms of strokes gained at the four biggest events.

Obviously, LIV Golf also sports heavyweights in Rahm and Koepka. So, there is some good and some bad in there. Overall, the spotlight will shine on this group, perhaps brighter than in the past, amid Gooch’s comments earlier this year and his first start at a major championship since making them.

7. A PGA type? The PGA Championship has, in recent years, overtaken the U.S. Open as golf’s biggest, brawniest test. Look at the venues: Bethpage, Oak Hill and now Valhalla. Monstrous, difficult courses where driving it forever is a skill upon which there is loads of value (some would argue too much value). What the PGA of America does with the rough will be interesting, but I suspect it will be similar to last year and several previous iterations. They will have grown it up, and that will force a type of bomb-and-gouge mentality that, while it might produce a big name winner, likely will not produce the most beautiful golf.

8. Torch passing? Valhalla is the site of one of the great torch passings in modern sports history. Jack Nicklaus, in his final PGA Championship, played the first two rounds with Tiger Woods, who was about to win his third straight major. “I knew that I was getting to where I couldn’t compete, [and] it was brought to me very abruptly, in 2000 at Valhalla, when I played with Tiger,” Nicklaus said recently. “I had realized that before, but that was … boom! Right in the face. Thirty-six holes of playing with him and seeing how well he played, how he just dominated what was going on. I did that earlier, but I don’t do it now.”

Woods, 48, is not at the stage of his career now that Nicklaus was then when he teed off at age 60, but Tiger is not that far off. There will be no literal torch passing like there was in 2000 (or nearly literal, see photos below), but we may look back on this week as a metaphorical one if Scheffler is able to grab his second major of the year and continue to roll toward at least a few of Tiger’s records.

9. Is Wyndham Clark for real? It’s one thing to go out and win a few big events and take your first major. It’s quite another to hold two of the four majors at the same time. That’s what Clark will try to do. For whatever reason, he doesn’t get the same respect or attention as some of his peers, but his follow up season to a U.S. Open victory a year ago has been stellar. If not for Scheffler, he’d have 2-3 more wins. Clark should thrive on this golf course given his ball speed, and a second major win in his last four starts — before going to Pinehurst looking to defend that U.S. Open title — would be an historic eye-opener.

10. Jordan Spieth’s slam: This is a different kind of slam than Scheffler is attempting, but Spieth has a one of his own on the line as he’ll try to join Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only golfers to win all four majors over the course of their careers. Here’s a spoiler as it relates to Spieth: It’s not going to happen. He’s been mediocre at PGAs (arguably his worst major) and downright bad on the PGA Tour of late. It’s such a massive and momentous potential feat that it requires coverage, but the odds of it actually taking place are too high to give it a ton of weight going into the week.

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