PGA CHAMPIONSHIP '24: What golf was talking about the last time at Valhalla

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Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Valhalla Golf Club, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A look back at the trending topics in golf the last time the PGA Championship was held at Valhalla in 2014:

Tiger Woods nearly a no-show

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Tiger Woods had the first of what would be four back surgeries early that year and had played only three times since April. The week before in the World Golf Championship at Firestone, he withdrew after eight holes from landing awkwardly in a bunker after trying to play a shot. Photographers gathered around his empty parking spot at Valhalla until he arrived Wednesday afternoon. Woods said his sacrum had to be put back in place. A large number of media spent the rest of the afternoon googling “sacrum.”

Rory McIlroy was on a roll

Rory McIlroy already had won the BMW PGA Championship when he captured his third major at the British Open at Hoylake, and then won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone to return to No. 1 in the world for the first time in more than a year. He was hopeful of turning 2014 into a special year (it was).

The world ranking then and now

Going into the PGA Championship, Rory McIlroy was No. 1 in the world. He was followed by Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose. Two of them (Garcia and Stenson) now are with LIV Golf. McIlroy (No. 2) is the only player left in the top 50.

Justin Thomas was trying to get a PGA Tour card

Justin Thomas grew up in Louisville and his goal was to try to get his world ranking high enough to be considered for the PGA Championship. His father, Mike, was an officer for the PGA of America. Alas, Thomas spent that week playing a Tour event in Wichita, Kansas. He would win his first PGA Championship three years later.

Dustin Johnson was on “leave”

Dustin Johnson was No. 16 in the world and No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings when he announced he was taking a leave of absence to seek professional help for personal challenges. He asked for privacy “as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement.” reported he had failed three drug tests and was suspended. The PGA Tour said he had not been suspended. He didn’t play again for six months.

Tom Watson had some decisions to make

The PGA Championship was the final qualifying event for the Ryder Cup and the U.S. captain, Tom Watson, had some decisions to make. He said neither Phil Mickelson nor Tiger Woods was guaranteed a spot. Mickelson would take that off the table as a runner-up at Valhalla later that week that enabled him to make the team on his own for the 10th straight time. Woods withdrew his name from consideration and didn’t play until his Hero World Challenge in December. Watson ended up taking Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.

Purse increase at PGA Championship

The PGA Championship raised its prize fund to $10 million, a record for major championships and equal to purse at The Players Championship.

Bubba Watson was in protest mode

The PGA Championship brought back its Long Drive Competition for the first time in 30 years. Bubba Watson, who had a drive measured at 400 yards the previous week at Firestone, protested by refusing to participate on the final practice day. When he arrived to the 590-yard 10th hole, he hit a 3-iron off the tee. Louis Oosthuizen won with a drive of 340 yards.


AP golf:

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