It’s finally here. The season’s second major golf championship gets underway this week with the 103rd edition of the PGA Championship.
Contested along the coast of South Carolina at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, the always-underrated major promises to be a table setter for the final three months of the season.
The 156-player field includes most of the world’s top-ranked players, including the entire top-25, and 49 of the top-50 in the current Official World Golf Rankings.
Can Collin Morikawa repeat? Will Justin Thomas secure a second Wanamaker Trophy? Can a resurgent Jordan Spieth finally complete the career Grand Slam? Or what about DJ… can he bust out of his slump and pick up the third leg of the Grand Slam on home soil? Then there’s big-game savant Brooks Koepka… can he overcome his injury to secure major No. 5?
The storylines are many, and overflowing.
Will the winner be one who’s historic, or a one-time supernova who was part of history.
Since 2000, the list of players to hoist golf’s biggest trophy include the likes of Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, Y.E. Yang, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Jimmy Walker. But it’s also included Tiger Woods – three times, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy twice, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas once each.
Here’s more on what to expect this week in South Carolina for the 103rd PGA Championship.
2021 PGA Championship
Dates: May 20-23, 2021
Where: Kiawah Island, SC
Course: Ocean Course
Distance: Par 72, 7849 yards
Architect: Pete & Alice Dye (1991)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,980,000
Defending Champion: Collin Morikawa
Top-10 Betting Favorites: 1. Rory McIlroy, 2. Dustin Johnson, 2, Justin Thomas, 4. Bryson DeChambeau, 4. Jon Rahm, 4. Jordan Spieth, 7. Xander Schauffle, 8. Brooks Koepka, 9. Collin Morikawa, 10. Hideki Matsuyama, 10. Patrick Cantlay, 10. Viktor Hovland
How to Follow the PGA Championship
TELEVISION: Thu-Fri: 1-7 p.m. (ESPN); Sat-Sun: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (ESPN), 1-7 p.m. (CBS)
ESPN+ APP: Thu-Fri: 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 8-10 a.m.
ESPN+ requires subscription
PGA Championship History
Today’s PGA Championship can be credited to the work of business mogul Rodman Wanamaker 105 years ago in New York City, who gathered a collection of golf professionals, which led to the formation of the PGA.
The first winner of the iconic tournament was Englishman Jim Barnes, who beat the great Scotsman Jock Hutchison, 1 up, in 1916 at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Barnes walked away with the Wanamaker trophy, a check for $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal donated by Wanamaker.
The next two editions were canceled due to World War I, but Barnes returned n 1919 and successfully defended his PGA title.
Barnes, who has been called the ‘Great Forgotten Champion,’ would go on to win the 1921 U.S. Open and 1925 British Open. (The Masters was not founded until 1934.)
The PGA Championship was a match play event for its first 39 editions, but by the late 50s due to the advent of TV and many of the big names (Snead, Hogan) no longer dominating, the PGA was pressured by network television broadcasters to switch to stroke play.
For most of the modern stroke-play era, the championship was played in mid-August on the third weekend before Labor Day, serving as the fourth and final major of the golf season, using a tagline of “Glory’s Last Shot.”
In 2013, the tagline had been dropped in favor of “The Season’s Final Major”, as suggested by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem who felt the slogan weakened the stature of its season-ending money grab: the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Beginning in 2019, the tournament was moved to May to provide a better flow to the golf season – with the PGA Tour’s two flagship events: The Players Championship (Mar.) and The Tour Championship (Aug.) bookending four consecutive months of majors (April: Masters, May: PGA, June: U.S. Open, July: British Open).
The Wanamaker Trophy stands nearly 2.5 feet tall and weighs 27 pounds. The trophy was lost, briefly, for a few years until it showed up in 1930 in the cellar of L.A. Young and Company. Ironically, this cellar was in the factory which made the clubs for the man responsible for losing it, Walter Hagen.
Hagen claimed to have trusted a taxi driver with the precious cargo, but it never returned to his hotel. There is a smaller replica trophy that the champion gets to keep permanently, but the original must be returned for the following years tournament.
Notable winners of the Wanamaker Trophy in the match-play era include Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, and Ben Hogan. Legends who won the PGA in the stroke-play era include Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Hagen and Nicklaus share the record for most PGA Championships with five apiece. Two surprising names missing from the winner’s list are Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, who had close calls, but were never able to claim victory and close the door on the grand slam.
Kiawah Island has hosted one previous PGA – the 2012 edition when Rory McIlroy captured his second major at just 23.
History: Recent Winners
2020: Collin Morikawa (-13)
2019: Brooks Koepka (-8)
2018: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2017: Justin Thomas (-8)
2016: Jimmy Walker (-14)
2015: Jason Day (-20)
2014: Rory McIlroy (-16)
2013: Jason Dufner (-10)
2012: Rory McIlroy (-13)
264 – Brooks Koepka (2018)
-20 – Jason Day (2015)
8 – Rory McIlroy (2012)
20 – Gene Sarazen (1922)
48 – Julius Boros (1968)
5 – Walter Hagen (1921, 1924-27)
5 – Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980)
4 – Tiger Woods (1999-00, 2006-07)
4 – Jack Nicklaus (1964, 1965, 1974, 1983)
The Course: Kiawah Island’s Ocean
Kiawah Island Golf Resort is located on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, situated along a 10-mile mix of inland and beachfront property. It is approximately 30 miles southwest of Charleston.
The resort, which opened in 1976, is home to The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a 255-room hotel and spa, 500 private villas, and more than a dozen restaurants.
It is also home to five championship golf courses, most notably The Ocean Course, which debuted in 1991.
The most famous course at Kiawah Island, the Ocean, was designed by Pete and Alice Dye. The course was designed so that players have a constant view of the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, but also to expose golfers to the often-strong winds in the area.
The Ocean Course has been consistently ranked as one of the best courses in the world by a series of golf publications. Measuring 7,849 yards from the tips with a USGA course rating of 79.1, the par-72 Ocean Course is considered one of the toughest courses in America as well.
Fun nugget: The Ocean Course was featured in the 2000 film The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Name: Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
Owned By: CCA Financial
Stats: 18 Holes, Par 72, 7849 Yards
Architect: Pete & Alice Dye
Defending PGA Champion
Collin Morikawa shot a final-round 64 to claim a two-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey at the 2020 PGA Championship.
Morikawa finished his final day in San Francisco with 13 pars, four birdies and one highlight-reel eagle en route to his first major.
With the win, Morikawa earned $1,980,000 and 600 FedExCup points. He also picked up 100 Official World Golf Ranking points to move to No. 5.
Final Top-5 Finishers
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Collin Morikawa -13 (-6)
2. Paul Casey -11 (-4)
3. Matthew Wolff -10 (-5)
3. Jason Day -10 (-4)
3. Bryson DeChambeau -10 (-4)
3. Tony Finau -10 (-4)
3. Dustin Johnson -10 (-1)
The PGA Championship Field
The field this week in South Carolina will include most of the world’s top-ranked and marquee players, headlined by world No. 1, and home favorite, Dustin Johnson.
DJ will be joined by world No. 2, and reigning Players champion, Justin Thomas; three-time major winner Jordan Spieth; reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau; four-time major winners Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka; newly-minted Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama; defending PGA champ Collin Morikawa and world No. 3 Jon Rahm.
The betting favorite this week is McIlroy, who won here in 2012. The diminutive Northern Irishman is listed at 10-1. DJ and JT were next at 12-1, followed by a trio of stars in DeChambeau, Rahm and Spieth. They were 14-1.
As he did last week at Quail Hollow, Rory returns to a place of past glory – this time hoping to break a seven-year major drought – so it’s not a huge surprise to see the 32-year old offered as the top favorite.
DJ, though, has been in a serious slump, and WD’d last week at the Byron Nelson, citing a knee injury. So we see him as way over-valued here. JT, too, has not played particularly great since a win two months ago at the Players.
Spieth, meanwhile, will enter the PGA in his best form since 2017, as he seeks to claim the career grand slam. Same with DeChambeau who owns two wins on the season, and comes off a top 10 at the Wells Fargo. Rahm missed the cut in North Carolina but has consistently produced top-10 results for most of the season.
Xander Schauffele was next at 16-1. He is having another banner season, despite being winless. He finished T14 at the Wells Fargo, and T3 at the Masters before that.
One man who is very questionable is the big-game hunter Koepka. Thought to be out for the season with a knee injury, he returned for the Masters, only to miss the cut, then missed again this past weekend at the Byron Nelson. He was 18-1 – mostly due to reputation, and the only other player with better than 20-1 odds.
Additional top-15 ranked stars to keep an eye on this week include world No. 6 (and defending champ) Morikawa at 22-1, world No. 8 Patrick Reed at 33-1, No. 9 Tyrrell Hatton (33-1), No. 10 Webb Simpson (33-1), No. 11 Viktor Hovland (25-1), No. 13 Patrick Cantlay (25-1), No. 14 Tony Finau (33-1), and Matusyama (25-1).
All four of the reigning major champs will be on hand this week at Kiawah Island: Morikawa (2020 PGA), Shane Lowry (2019 British Open), Matsuyama (2021 Masters), and DeChambeau (2020 U.S. Open).
Several former PGA champions will be joining the likes of the aforementioned Koepka, McIlroy, and Thomas, but with longer odds. They include Phil Mickelson (2005), Padraig Harrington (2008), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2011), Jason Dufner (2013), Jason Day (2015), and Jimmy Walker (2016). Legacy names such as Rich Beem (2002) and Shaun Micheel (2003) are the longest of long shots.
PGA Championship Field & Odds
Final Top-10 Betting Favorites
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Rory McIlroy (10/1)
2. Justin Thomas (12/1)
2. Dustin Johnson (12/1)
4. Bryson DeChambeau (14/1)
4. Jon Rahm (14/1)
4. Jordan Spieth (14/1)
7. Xander Schauffle (16/1)
8. Brooks Koepka (18/1)
9. Collin Morikawa (20/1)
10. Hideki Matsuyama (22/1)
10. Patrick Cantlay (22/1)
10. Viktor Hovland (22/1)
Carey Hoffman contributed to this report. Credits: Tour Media, Getty Images