With the 2016 PGA Championship fast approaching, we thought it best to put together some facts about the year’s final major.
A course steeped in history
The 36-hole Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey is over 120 years old and upon its completion, it was the first in America to feature two 18-holes courses sharing a border.
The Upper and Lower courses provide different challenges to players. Both are top class and as a result, in 1985, Baltusrol became the first club to have hosted both the U.S. Open and Women’s U.S. Open on to two different courses.
Over the years, Baltusrol has hosted no less than eight majors and this year’s PGA Championships on the Lower Course will be the second time it has hosted the event.
The Wanamaker Trophy
To continue the theme, there are few golfing trophies with as much history as much as the Wanamaker Trophy.
Lewis Rodman Wanamaker was an American department store magnate that had a keen interest in golf. In 1916, he invited 35 prominent golfers and leading industry representatives to a landmark meeting, which lead to the formation of the Professional Golfers Association of America.
Wanamaker added that an annual event was needed and put up a trophy and a cash prize, thus giving birth to the PGA Championship.
Mickelson is defending champion
Last time around at Baltusrol at the 2005 U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson went wire-to-wire to win his second major, edging Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington by one stroke.
Lefty’s unbelievable short game came to the fore, with a flop shot from the deep rough 50 yards out rolling to within two feet of the pin on the 18th green in the final round. After Bjorn and Elkington missed their birdie putts, Mickelson tapped in to seal the victory.
With his heroics at the Open Championship still fresh in his mind, Baltusrol will no doubt cue a flood of positive memories for Mickelson, who is still searching for his first win since 2013.
Tiger still in the Woods
Once again in 2016, a major field will be without former world number one Tiger Woods.
The golfing world is still waiting for the 18-time major winner to return to the golf course following three surgeries on his back, the most recent being in October last year.
This marks the first time in his sensational career that he has missed all for majors in a calendar year. The PGA Championships is a favourite for Woods, who has notched up four wins at the event, going back-to-back in 1999/2000 and again in 2006/2007.
The Neverending Story
The Lower Course at Baltusrol has an unusual finish, with two par fives setting the stage for a thrilling finish.
The 17th in particular is one of the longest holes in major championship history. At 649 yards and plenty bunkers, it is a challenge even for the longest of hitters.
In fact, John Daly remains the only player to have reached the green in two. After landing a booming drive on the fairway at the 1993 U.S. Open, Daly was left with 287 yards up the hill. Out came the 1-iron and Daly’s ball would pitch between two bunkers and kick forward onto the green to make history. “I swung as hard as I could,” quipped Big John.
It will be interesting to see if the likes of big hitters Dustin Johnson and JB Holmes can recreate Daly’s success.
Following that behemoth, players tee off on the 18th, which is certainly reachable in two but an intimidating tee shot awaits. With water dominating the left and a series of bunkers on the right, one cannot afford to be wayward.
The Olympic irony
For the first time in over forty years, the PGA Championships will take place in July. This is to allow for adequate time for golfers to prepare for the Rio Olympic Games, which start on August 5.
The irony is that many of the golf’s biggest stars, including world number one Jason Day, U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, have chosen to skip the event altogether.
Nonetheless, PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua is seeing the move as positive, as they expect better weather and better crowds.
“I would tell you that we view it as a positive,” he said.
“We think that the end of July at Baltusrol just outside of New York City is actually a better time of year than August. We think the temperatures will be better, also, in terms of the activities of the residents of that area.”
Catch the world’s best golfers tee of on Thursday July 28 for the 98th PGA Championships at Baltusrol Golf Club.