9 Things You Might Not Have Known About The PGA Championship
Today begins the PGA Championship, a golf tournament that is self-important enough to declare it far more important than every other golf tournament, despite the fact that it’s on a different course every year, and it features roughly the same field of players as every other PGA event.
HOWEVER, this one has “Championship” in its title, which commands our respect. This year’s tourney will take place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
It’s an annual treat, but one that gets taken for granted. Let’s talk about nine things that make this August golf tournament pretty cool.
*Note we are not referring to these as “Fun Facts.” We aren’t arrogant enough to presume to know what you, the reader, finds “fun.”
Golfers have only a handful of chances to compete on an international stage, and the biannual Ryder Cup affords not only that opportunity, but the opportunity to play in a true team format, country against country. Only ten players earn automatic spots on the Ryder Cup team (three others can be selected by the captain). Considering the points in the Championship count double towards qualifying, it’s fitting to say that the stakes in Valhalla are almost twice as high this year.
9. It’s the Last Qualifier for the Ryder Cup
Valhalla was the design of none other than Jack “Golden Bear” Nicklaus, the winning-est PGA Championship golfer ever. Nicklaus is tied with Walt Hagen for the most Championships with five. That alone probably qualified the golfer to design the course, which opened its doors (for the purposes of this idiom, golf courses have doors) in 1986.
8. The Course Was Designed by a Pretty Famous Golfer
Rather than just play extra holes until someone comes out ahead, holes 10, 17, and 18 are re-played by any tied parties. Should one player stubbornly refuse to lose after the three holes are played, then the remaining tied players will go one hole at a time until someone screws up and loses. (I’m paraphrasing from the rule book.)
7. Ties Are Settled with a Three-Hole Playoff
In addition to the thrill of victory and a ton of cash, the champion gets some pretty sweet perks. Here’s a list from PGA.com: -- A lifetime exemption into the PGA Championship -- The Masters – Five-year exemption -- U.S. Open – Five-year exemption -- British Open – Five-year exemption -- A berth in the 2010 PGA Grand Slam of Golf -- A five-year exemption on the PGA Tour -- Points toward the PGA Player of the Year Award (Note: Should a player win more than one major Championship in one year, an additional 50 bonus points for each win are awarded toward the PGA Player of the Year Award.) -- The top four scorers and ties in the PGA Championship are eligible to compete in the following year's Masters. -- The top 30 scorers and ties are exempt from local qualifying (but not Sectional) for the following year's U.S. Open. -- The Players Championship – Five-year exemption
6. Championship Has Its Privileges
Ok, Gene Sarazen was 20 years, 5 months old if you want to get technical, but his performance, despite being in an arguably weaker era, took place when he was younger than Tiger was during his 1997 Masters run. And that win wasn’t a fluke. Gene Sarazen took home 39 trophies during his career, but few are as memorable as this one.
5. A 20 Year-Old Won the Championship in 1922
If you thought “club pro” was just some titled slapped on to guys that hit a hole in one at the course two-and-a-half decades ago, but still keep hanging out at the club…you’re kinda right, but those guys get a crack at the big time with this tourney. It’s pretty remarkable that one of these twenty can break in to the event and have a shot at being crowned “PGA Champion” despite not even being on the tour. Only three club pros have ever made it to the last day, but that just adds to the mystique, doesn’t it? It’s like a Kevin Costner movie that writes itself.
4. The Field of 156 Features 20 Club Pros in Addition to 136 Tour Members
This year, that pleasure is extended to Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, who is 0-2 in PGA tour events, including a loss in the 1995 PGA Championship in overtime. It’s actually called “extra holes,” but the point is he came damn close for a guy with virtually no experience on the tour. No one is expecting him to win, but he could have a surprise in store at the relatively young age of 50. The oldest winner of the Championship was 48, by the way.
3. The Reigning Senior PGA Champion Gets an Invite, Too
It’s not among the most-travelled courses in the country, but 32 is still a remarkably low number, meaning that we could be privy to a few more errors and lapses in judgment than we would see on a course like Augusta or Pebble Beach, which tour members visit so often they might as well get their mail forwarded there. The player with the most experience is Kentucky native Kenny Perry, who’s played four tourneys at the course, in addition to tons of non-competition rounds.
2. Only 32 Golfers This Year Have Any Tourney Experience at Valhalla
Twenty-seven pounds is a lot to hoist over your head if you’re in Tiger Woods-level shape. I’m guessing something with that mass would crush John Daly like he was a Mario Bros. villain. Golfers are getting in better and better shape these days, but I’m not sure that the old guard is really in a position to be tossing that kind of weight around. But it will be really fun to watch them try!