Golfnutter: Year’s last major: the PGA at Valhalla

first_imgRory McIlroy6-1Form and consistency. Look out golfing world. Rickie Fowler22-1Great year in majors without winning. Close. Henrik Stenson25-1Form of late last season returning. Will contend. Sergio Garcia14-1Always near the top these days. Putting fixed. Valhalla – longer and tougher than it was in 2000.First opened in 1986, the course is now owned by the PGA of America.  It hosted the PGA Championship in 1996 where Mark Brooks prevailed in a play-off over Kenny Perry.  Four years later, in 2000, it again hosted the PGA in the year that saw the “Tiger Slam” when Tiger won in a playoff with Bob May.  Valhalla was also the scene of the last US Ryder Cup victory, in 2008 – its first since 1999.Recognising this tournament as the last of the year’s majors, the US PGA used to refer to it as “Glory’s Last Shot.”  Now it is promoted as the tournament with the “strongest field in golf;” a claim based upon the fact that invites are sent to the world’s top 108-ranked golfers.  This is the event that, in 1991, saw a no-name ninth alternate drive through the night, to tee it up at Crooked Stick for his first crack at a major.  John Daly’s “grip it and rip it” style miraculously won the tournament and helped launch golf to the top of US TV ratings.Valhalla will be a last-chance-saloon for Tiger Woods in more ways than one.  While it is his last crack at a major this year, it could also be his final event of the season.  Through injury and bad form, Woods is well below the position he needs to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, meaning a high finish is imperative to avoid an early end to his golfing year.  Valhalla may also be Woods’ last chance to persuade Tom Watson to grant him a captain’s pick in the US Team for next month’s Ryder Cup.  Against this, Woods has history at Valhalla, good history, but 14 years is a long time in golf.Woods won’t be the only one concerned about Ryder Cup implications during this event.  This is the final tournament for Americans to qualify for Team USA, with the first nine in the standings earning automatic selection.  With Dustin Johnson out that threshold now moves to ten.  Phil Mickelson is at 11, whilst other notables ranked close but out of the top ten include recent major winners Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley.  In all, six Americans from the 2012 team are currently not eligible for automatic selection – not a good omen for Captain Watson.When Padraig Harrington won at Oakland Hills in 2008, just weeks after his Open success at Royal Birkdale in England, he became the first European to win the PGA Championship in 78 years.  Now the power of native-born Europeans is threatening to become golf’s dominant force.  Europe has never had three players win majors in the same year.  This year Germany’s Martin Kaymer won the US Open and Northern Ireland’s McIlroy the Open.  Who’s to say either one of them won’t be joined by the likes of Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, or Sergio Garcia as winners of a major in 2014?Since 2010 there have been 19 majors.  Europeans have won eight of them, Americans seven, South Africans three and Australia one.  European players, wherever they are domiciled, are looking very strong currently.The battle between a rampant Tiger Woods and the unheralded Bob May, at Valhalla in 2000, gave us one of the most exciting and exhilarating back-nine finishes in recent golfing history.  Let’s hope Valhalla serves up something similar this time round.Golfnutter Golfnutter’s best VFM bets Valhalla (Norse mythology and legend): the great hall of Odin where warriors, who die in battle, are welcomed to dwell eternally.Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky, a place where aspirations of some top golfers will be vanquished, some eternally. This Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course normally plays as a par-72, but its 7,458 yard layout has been reduced to a par-71 for this week’s PGA Championship, the last of this year’s majors. (with odds from Paddy Power as at Sunday 3 August) Brandt Snedeker40/1Back to form. One of the best putters on tour. Jim Furyk33/1The Tour’s grafter. Has to be in top-ten. Justin Rose18-1The best iron player around? Will compete. Harris English66/1A strong year. Has the game to create upset. Billy Horschel100/1Performs above his ranking in majors. Good odds. Paul Casey100/1last_img

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