15 May 2023

PGA Championship – All eyes on Oak Hill Country Club

Beginning in 1916, just months after the birth of the PGA of America, the PGA Championship perennially showcases the strongest field in golf (a record 99 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking competed at Kiawah Island in 2021) and also features the top 20 PGA Club Professionals.

This year’s edition will return to a course that is no stranger to hosting prestigious championships – Oak Hill Country Club. Recently restored, the club’s East Course will host its fourth PGA Championship nearly a decade removed from Jason Dufner’s triumph in 2013, which came five years after Oaks Hill became the only club in the United States to have hosted all six of the men’s Major Championships that move around the country – U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Senior Open, Senior PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

This week a new generation of top players will look to follow in Dufner’s footsteps by etching their name onto the famed Wanamaker Trophy. After cruising to a first Green Jacket last month, Jon Rahm will no doubt be the man to beat followed closely by last year’s Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who remains one of the hottest players on the planet despite a disappointing outing, by his standards, at the first Major Championship of the year.

Phil Mickelson, Patrick  Reed and Brooks Koepka looked the brightest of the LIV Golf bunch at Augusta and who’s to argue against them proving the doubters wrong once again in New York? After all, Mickelson rolled back the year’s to become the first player over the age of 50 to win a Major at the 2021 PGA Championship, while Koepka won the tournament back-to-back between 2018-2019.

The likes of defending champion Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffle, Patrick Cantalay and Max Homa are sure to be in the mix, while Rory McIlroy will be looking to bounce back and capture a first Major title in nine years after a dismal display at the Masters. There’s also the small matter of Jordan Spieth joining the exclusive Grand Slam Club.

Here, we take a look at some interesting facts and stats in the only Major that is exclusively for professional players.

1.2%

Trailing by seven strokes, Justin Thomas’ chances of winning the 2022 PGA Championship as he teed off in Tulsa on Sunday were just 1.2%, according to a projection by ESPN. Against all odds, the 29-year-old staged a record-equaling fightback  before beating Will Zalatoris in a play-off to win the tournament for a second time.


Trophy Trivia

Did you know the Wanamaker Trophy is named after one of the most key figures in the history of the game?

Rodman Wanamaker was an American businessman with a key interest in golf. In 1916, Wanamaker invited a group of prominent golfers and other leading industry representatives to the Taplow Club in New York. This resulted in the formation of the Professional Golfersí Association of America. Wanamaker insisted that the newly formed organisation needed an annual all-professional tournament and put up $2,500 of his own money and various trophies and medals as part of the prize fund. Seven months later, the first PGA Championship was played at Siwanoy Country Club in New York. The trophy that Wanamaker put up was the very same that is competed for today. It stands at 28 inches high, 10 and a half inches in diameter, 27 inches from handle to handle and weighs 27 pounds.


-20 

Jason Day became the first player to finish on 20 under par in Major Championship history at the 2015 edition at Whistling Straits. Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson have since equaled that total at the 2016 Open Championship and 2020 Masters respectively.


First Champion

James ‘Jim’ Barnes won the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916 when it was contested at Siwanoy Country Club in New York. Back then, the format was match play with the Englishman coming out on top in the 36-hole final against Jock Hutchinson. The tournament was then postponed for two years after World War I broke out, but Barnes returned in 1919 and was again victorious. No Englishman has won since then.


8

Rory McIlroy’s eight-shot triumph at Kiawah Island in 2012 remains the biggest winning margin in the tournament’s history.


Lost Trophy

Walter Hagen first lifted the Wanamaker Trophy in 1921 when he defeated Jim Barnes in New York. He then won four consecutive titles between 1924-1927; something that is yet to be matched today. After his final victory in 1927, the Wanamaker Trophy was nowhere to be seen. So much so, it could not be awarded to the winners in 1928 and 1929 (Leo Diegel). It was later found in 1930, in the cellar of the company responsible for making Hagenís clubs!  Hagen claims to have trusted a taxi driver to transport it to his hotel but it never arrived. Luckily it was retrieved and is back in the arms of the winner each year.

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