The US PGA Championship: What to expect at Valhalla
The 2014 PGA will be played on a course that takes its name from Norse mythology. Valhalla was the Great Hall of Odin, where the bravest warriors who had died in battle lived forever.
Laid out in 1986 by Jack Nicklaus on rolling terrain 20 miles east of Louisville, it is now wholly owned by the PGA of America. It has hosted two PGAs and the 2008 Ryder Cup.
6th THE BEAR, 495 yards, par 4
Revamped ahead of the ‘08 Ryder Cup, the green is now 80 yards further back so even a good drive leaves an exacting 200-yard approach over water and sand.
7th PLAYERS PICK, 600 yards par 5
A split fairway allows players to cut over 50 yards off the hole – however this ‘island’ landing area is only 24 yards wide. And the approach is over water too…
14th TWO TEARS, 220 yards, par 3
Bunkers have been added at the back of the green, one next to the top tier and one by the lower. A wide trap also awaits at the front of this exacting par 3.
15th ON THE ROCKS
This 435-yard par 4 is one of Valhalla’s most scenic holes with a stream winding down the right – all
16th DOWN THE STRETCH
Dreams may well die here. It’s a 510-yard dog-leg and you must avoid the stream, trees, rough and two new bunkers (previously the hole had no sand) by the completely new green complex. Come Sunday, a four will be priceless on the course’s longest two shotter.
17th NO MERCY
The tee box has been lowered by eight feet so this now plays even more uphill… and with 50 extra yards. There is also now a right-hand drive bunker as well as one on the left, so the margin for error is reduced but players will still need driver as it is 475 yards with less roll-out.
18th Gahm over
Named after the man who founded the club (whose surname is pronounced ‘game’), there’s a fairway bunker on the left and a pretty water hazard (see above) to the right. A key hole in the Ryder Cup, it offers the opportunity to grasp glory but also the chance to invite disaster.
Who came tame Valhalla?
Rose is unspectacular but well-organised, and is not afraid to stare down quality fields Justin Rose – Rose has very quietly established himself as the outstanding golfer of England’s ‘golden generation’. He has built on his US Open win and his solid game and calmness will see him threaten in many more majors.
He is proof you don’t have to be an amazing putter to win majors. Rose is unspectacular but well-organised, and is not afraid to stare down quality fields. He picked up three points here on his Ryder Cup debut in 08.
He was one of Europe’s stand-out players in 2008, albeit in a week when few of the visiting party shone on or off the course. Even the match he lost, a foursome alongside Ian Poulter, was an unfortunate one-hole reverse. He then won two pairs matches… yet was left out of the second fourballs. Then saw off Phil Mickelson in the singles.
JB Holmes – He’s is a good ol’ Southern boy who is both from and went to college in Kentucky – so he will enjoy huge support at Valhalla. The enormous hitter looked destined for great things when he played in the Valhalla Ryder Cup (winning two and halving one of his three games) but needed brain surgery in 2011. Now he’s back – and he won the Wells Fargo in May.
Thomas Bjorn – The brooding Dane really ought to have won the ‘05 PGA (won by a scrambling Mickelson) and his career soon after began fluctuating depending on his mood. Motivated by a Ryder Cup return, the last 18 months have been very good though. He is yet to miss a cut, won the Nedbank and his six top 10s are notable for coming in the strongest fields. He is a warm putter away from a major title.
Chris Kirk – The ‘07 Walker Cup featured lots of stars in the making (Rory, Dustin, Rickie) but few were predicting huge things for Kirk. Yet after a few seasons on the Web.com Tour he secured a 2011 PGA Tour card and made it count with a ‘W’. Two steady seasons followed and this year he’s added a second title and nine top 25s to be in the top 10 of the FedEx Cup. Unspectacular, but has no weaknesses.
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