Sport - Golf - Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka is the defending champion Image Credit: Twitter - PGA Championship

Keep a watchful eye on these storylines at this week’s PGA Championship, the second Major Championship of the season, which returns to Valhalla Golf Club for a fourth time when play gets underway on Thursday.

Scottie Scheffler returns

Scottie Scheffler won the Masters Tournament for the second time last week
Scottie Scheffler won The Masters for the second time last month Image Credit: Masters Tournament

After skipping the Wells Fargo Championship following the birth of his first child, Bennett, World No.1 Scottie Scheffler returns to competitive action as he looks to continue his sublime run.

The 27-year-old is arguably on the most dominant run in the men’s game since Tiger Woods was obliterating everyone in his path in the early noughties. Scheffler’s win at the RBC Heritage, which came just a week after winning a second Green Jacket at The Masters, saw him become the first player since Woods (2007-2008) to win four tournaments across five starts.

As well as leading the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standing, Scheffler is also the Tour’s leader in Strokes Gained: Total (2.851), Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (2.835), Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (0.957), Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (1.398), Greens in Regulation Percentage (74.76%) and Proximity to Hole (34' 4) among others.

Those stats have made him almost unbeatable this year, but will a break of 24 days coupled with becoming a father for the first time affect his game this week in Kentucky? This writer doesn’t think so. You’d be a brave man to back against Scheffler becoming just the fifth player since 1960 to win the first two Majors of the year.

How will LIV golfers fare?

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson became the oldest Major winner when winning the PGA Championship in 2021 Image Credit: Reuters

Fans have been calling for more LIV golfers to receive invites into the Major Championships and it seems the PGA of America has been listening. A total of 16 players from the breakaway circuit will compete in Kentucky, including defending champion Brooks Koepka who is targeting a third successful defence of a Major Championship having previously gone back-to-back at the U.S. Open (2017-2018) and PGA Championship (2018-2019).

The American endured a difficult Masters Tournament last month, finishing on nine over par in a share of 45th, but has bounced back that from what he described as an “embarrassment” at Augusta National to become the first LIV player to win four times on the league in Singapore two weeks ago.

Jon Rahm will be desperate to prove his move to LIV Golf hasn’t impacted his game, with the Spaniard failing to win an event since his big money move in December. The two-time Major winner also endured a difficult Masters Tournament, finishing alongside Koepka in 45th in what was a pretty woeful attempt at defending his title at Augusta National.

Elsewhere, Talor Gooch gets a shot at Major silverware for the first time this season after picking up three wins on LIV Golf in 2023. The American, who has fallen outside the world’s top 600 since joining LIV, received a Special Invite from tournament organisers to compete, alongside fellow LIV players Dean Burmester, Lucas Herbert, Adrian Meronk, Joaquin Niemann, David Puig and Patrick Reed.

Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau. Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Tyrrell Hatton and Andy Ogletree complete the LIV players competing this week.

Will Spieth join the Grand Slam Club?

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth is looking to become just the sixth golfer to win the Grand Slam Image Credit: USA TODAY

Jordan Spieth once again has the chance to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win all four of golf’s Majors with victory at this month’s PGA Championship.

Spieth's best finish at the PGA Championship came when he ended runner-up to Jason Day in 2015, the year he won his first two Major titles, with the former World No.1 only posting one top-10 finish in his eight appearances since.

The PGA Championship is the only Major in which Spieth has never held the lead or been the co-leader after a single round. In comparison, he has led nine rounds at the Masters, five rounds at The Open, and three rounds at the U.S. Open. He hasn't gotten off to great starts, either. He has been inside the top 20 through 18 holes just once in his PGA Championship career.

If he is to complete the Grand Slam this week, Spieth will need a better showing than his last PGA Championship outing at Valhalla Golf Club in 2014, where he missed the cut after rounds of 71 and 77.

Block party resumes

Known for boasting the strongest field in golf, the PGA Championship also gives opportunities to club professionals with the top 20 from the PGA Professional Championship receiving an invitation.

But this week there will be 21 club pros instead of 20 after Michael Block booked a trip to Valhalla Golf Club with his heroics last year at Oak Hill.

Block, who works at Arroyo Trabuco in Southern California, quickly became a fan favourite with a hole-in-one playing alongside Rory McIlroy, his laid-back approach, viral interviews and plenty more incredible moments on his way to a tied-15th finish, the best by a club professional since 1986.

That result ensured he would receive automatic entry into this year’s edition, allowing his new legion of fans to continue their Block party when play gets underway on Thursday.

"There's really no way in God's green earth I do what I did last year!" said Block, who had missed the cut in his six Major outings prior to the 2023 PGA Championship.

“I feel like I have more pressure, because there are a lot more eyes on me, but at the same time I feel like I have a little less than ever before because I have already done it."

Rory seeking to end ten-year Major drought

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy won a record fourth title at the Wells Fargo Championship last week Image Credit: AP

The last time Valhalla hosted the PGA Championship in 2014, Rory McIlroy won by one stroke from Phil Mickelson in near darkness, just three weeks after the Northern Irishman was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year following his Open Championship triumph at Royal Liverpool.

That second victory at the PGA Championship made it four Majors in four years for McIlroy, all by the age of 25. Few would have guessed that a decade later he would have failed to add to his four Major titles.

McIlroy has had several near misses in the game’s four biggest tournaments since then, but perhaps the stars are aligning this week for the 35-year-old to finally end his Major drought.

When McIlroy arrived at Valhalla in 2014, he had won his last two starts. Ten years on, he finds himself in exactly the same position once again after victories at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, alongside Shane Lowry, and the Wells Fargo Championship, which he won four a record fourth time at the weekend.

He looked at his brilliant best last week at Quail Hollow, firing four rounds in the 60s to dominate the field and claim a 26th PGA Tour title – only 21 players in the history of the game have won more.

If he is to replicate his explosive game of the last few weeks in Kentucky, this could be his best chance to date of adding to his Major tally.