Scheffler sizzles ahead of PGA as Koepka, McIlroy eye major win

rugby11 May 2024 05:40| © AFP

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, with four wins and a runner-up effort in his past five starts, is the clear favourite for next week's 106th PGA Championship at Valhalla.

But the 27-year-old American star has taken two weeks off ahead of the major showdown at Louisville, Kentucky, for a life-changing event away from golf – his wife Meredith soon to give birth to their first child.

Scheffler captured his second Masters green jacket in three seasons last month then became the first player since 1985 to follow up the next week by winning the Heritage tournament.

Scheffler won at Bay Hill and The Players Championship in March then lost in a Houston Open playoff before taking his two April titles.

"I do have fairly high expectations for myself," Scheffler said. "I've been putting in the work and been playing some good golf and it's nice to be seeing some results for that with wins.

"When things aren't going the way I feel like they should, it can be very frustrating."

Scheffler, who has until Tuesday afternoon to commit or withdraw from the Valhalla showdown, is the oddsmakers' fancy at the PGA with Spain's Jon Rahm and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy just behind.

They are followed by defending champion Brooks Koepka and Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, who skipped the final PGA Tour tuneup with a sore knee after finishing second at the Masters in his major debut.

US star Jordan Spieth will make his eighth attempt to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship.

Spieth, whose last PGA Tour victory was at the 2022 Heritage, has been nagged by a left wrist injury suffered just before last year's PGA Championship, calling it a "come and go thing."

The three-time major champion missed the cut in four of his past six starts, including the Masters.

Valhalla hosts its fourth PGA Championship with the others won by Mark Brooks in 1996, Tiger Woods in 2000 and McIlroy in 2014.

McIlroy has not won a major since capturing his fourth at Valhalla 10 years ago, racing the darkness to edge Phil Mickelson by a stroke.

The 35-year-old Northern Ireland star, a winner at Dubai in January on the DP World Tour, captured his 25th PGA Tour title last month alongside Ireland's Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic pairs event.

"I felt like I needed something like that to get me going and hopefully that's the case," McIlroy said.

McIlroy missed another chance at completing a career Grand Slam at the Masters but took a boost from his pairs title.

"I don't kind of remember a time when I've driven the ball that good," McIlroy said of his last round with Lowry. "It feels like it's all starting to come around, which is great to see."


Five-time major winner Koepka is among 16 LIV Golf players who will compete in the PGA Championship, with majors still the only place where stars from the rival tours meet.

Koepka became the first active LIV golfer to take a major crown at last year's PGA at Oak Hill. He won LIV's final PGA Championship tuneup last weekend in Singapore.

"It's nice to see some results and the hard work paying off," Koepka said. "It's all starting to come around. I've put in a lot of work.

"I like the way things are trending. We just need to go back next week, and make sure everything is kind of going, do the right stuff and go from there."

Several other major winners who have jumped to LIV are at Valhalla, including Spain's fifth-ranked Rahm, Australia's Cameron Smith, Americans Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and Germany's Martin Kaymer.

Also at Valhalla will be 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who won a major there as part of his Tiger Slam in 2000-01 when he beat Bob May in a playoff. Woods has struggled to walk 72 holes after a 2021 car crash and finished 60th at the Masters.