Ten lessons learned from Valhalla

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M. James Ward examines the moments and memories that resonate from the 106th PGA Championship.
Posted on
May 22, 2024
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

LOUISVILLE, KY. The fourth return to Valhalla for the PGA Championship provided a slew of opportunities and storylines that clearly had an impact on that event and what's likely to be impactful for the rest of this year's golf season.

1 - With the major-less monkey off his back now, Xander Schauffele has freed himself to secure other major titles. The talent is present - the will to succeed demonstrated by his final round 65 in claiming the Wannamaker Trophy. Leading a tournament from the opening round to conclusion is no small feat. Credit Xander's resiliency and resolve.

2 - Bryson DeChambeau is exciting to watch. The fire and emotion he played with during his closing 64 kept eyes front and center on him with every shot. Pro golf need not be emotionless and robotic. DeChambeau provided a genuine spark and one can only hope he continues in that vein. His 2020 U.S. Open win was no fluke.

3 - The return of Viktor Hovland to the world golf stage was good to see. After a stellar season in 2023, Hovland, until Valhalla, had been a subdued presence through the first several months with not a single finish in the top 20. Hovland had a golden opportunity at the final hole to secure a possible playoff spot but came up empty at the final hole. The tagline best player not to have won a major now seems to have fallen on Viktor's shoulders. Is he ready to reach the next level?

4 - Jon Rahm continues to be less of the player that he was at the top of the pecking order when winning the Masters in 2023. He missed the cut at Valhalla and played abysmally at Augusta with a T-45 finish. One can only wonder if he is having second thoughts about his move to LIV.

5 - Tiger Woods was at Valhalla but the man who won the PGA Championship there in 2000 is no longer competitive. Woods missed the cut again in a major and has not had a top 20 finish since winning the Masters in 2019. Woods stated he needs to play more to be competitive but his current body will likely not permit him to play more than a very limited schedule. The whispers of retirement from playing at the elite level are growing.

6 - Collin Morikawa played very well in consecutive majors but in both instances woeful putting held him back. Arguably the best iron player on tour, however, the flatstick is proving to be his nemesis. When you only have one birdie in a final round and that one comes on the final hole – it showcases a glaring weakness needing to be fixed.

7 - The controversy involving Scottie Scheffler during his attempted entrance to Valhalla early Friday morning prior to his second-round play was a black-eye on the administration of the event.

Matters were complicated with the tragic death of a volunteer working the tournament but the failure to have a workable transportation plan to/from the golf club meant a disruption that cast a pall on how matters were organized. Scheffler handled the situation very well and an initial court hearing is planned for June 3. Scheffler's claim the incident was a "misunderstanding" but the central focus on the championship itself was derailed for a time.

8 - Interesting how Shane Lowry and Justin Rose were both able to get into contention on rounds of 62 and 64 respectively during Saturday's third round. The 126 total is the lowest score ever shot by two golfers when paired together in a major championship. But, as often happens, the low scores they both shot were not duplicated during the final round when Lowry scored 70 and Rose 69.

9 - Rory McIlroy's winless streak in majors continues. Yes, he won convincingly at Quail Hollow the week prior to the PGA Championship but his play was uneven at Valhalla and when you have ideal scoring conditions you must not allow your foot to leave the pedal for even a second.

McIlroy has played consistently for much of the ten years in which he has not added to his four major total. However, with each passing failure the concern grows that he may be forever stuck with the four he has already won.

10 - Valhalla hosted its fourth PGA Championship and the scores were unbelievably low – Xander's -21 total is the lowest ever scored in a major. Is Valhalla worthy of hosting another PGA?

Thats a debatable point but fan attendance and corporate support were present and when events are contemplated that becomes a big deal. No doubt scoring was impacted by softer conditions because of rains that happened prior to the event and the lack of wind. The jury is out on Valhalla's next major given the nature of how competitive various bids to host have become.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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