Who will win the 2024 US PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club?

The key stats to help you pick a winner for the 2024 US PGA Championship at Valhalla.

According to the dictionary, Valhalla is the great hall in Norse mythology where the souls of heroes slain in battle are received. A sort of Viking Hall of Fame, if you like. An alternative definition is that Valhalla is a place of honor, glory, or happiness. In short: heaven.

The field assembling for the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Kentucky will be hoping to avoid being slain and instead find golfing heaven and, if Rory McIlroy breaks his 10-year major championship drought, it probably would feel that way.

His last victory in the events that define a golfer’s career was in this championship, on this course, in more or less complete darkness in 2014. It was a dramatic conclusion and we’re all hoping for more of the same this week. 

Let’s dig deep into the history books in an attempt to identify this year’s champion.

Brooks Koepka won the 2023 US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

The numbers that count

The year’s second major might travel around the United States like a hobo but the PGA of America is always in charge of conditioning and enough constants have emerged to allow us to cut a field of 156 into a negotiable shortlist.

There was a time when the event was known for throwing up quirky winners but it’s not been the case recently and arguably the move to May makes this less likely (because one reason journeymen pinched the title was that the elite had lost a little focus and energy after the Open).

Eight of the of the last 10 winners were ranked top 30 in the world ahead of their victory and Brooks Koepka last year was one of those exceptions. He was ranked 44th ahead of his win and would have been inside the top 30 were he not with LIV.

Brooks Koepka warmed up for his PGA Championship defence by winning LIV Golf Singapore.

Good form? Nine of the 10 winners had a top-four finish in the year and eight had a top-20 finish in at least one of their two previous starts.

Championship form? Nine of the last 10 had already logged a tournament top 25 with eight of them already owning a top 10 finish.

Of the stats, Strokes Gained Tee to Green (which includes tee shots, approach shots, and recoveries around the green) has been key in the championship. In the 10 years that Strokes Gained data has been collected, seven winners ranked top four in the category and two of the exceptions were golfers who typically perform that highly in the same category’s seasonal rankings.

Eight of the last 10 winners had already ranked top-six for SG Tee to Green in an event that year – and the two exceptions (Koepka last year and Mickelson in 2021) had ranked top-10 in the category at the Masters.

Phil Mickelson won the 2021 USPGA Championship at the age of 50

Major contenders

Last year’s championship backed up a long-standing trend of the majors being won by golfers with very recent experience of contending in the four big ones.

Koepka had led the Masters through 36 and 54 holes before finishing second, he admitted he didn’t sleep that Sunday night as he dwelt on the near-miss. After going one better at Oak Hill he admitted: “I don’t think I would have won today if that hadn’t happened, right? Failure is how you learn. You get better from it. You realize what mistakes you’ve made. It’s more mentality than anything. It’s not really the swing or anything like that.”

He was the 23rd of the 25 most recent major championship winners to have either finished top eight or have been sat tied fourth or better with 18 holes to play in one of the four majors before their triumph.

Brian Harman maintained the trend because he’d been sixth at the previous year’s Open but Wyndham Clark was not a fit so the numbers are now 24 of 27 which remains persuasive.

What is most compelling is not that the likes of Rahm and Scheffler fit because, big deal, of course they fit. But outsiders such as Danny Willett, Gary Woodland, and Harman do, too. Experience of the heat in the kitchen matters.

Danny Willett won his first Major title at the Masters in 2016.

Valhalla Golf Club

Opened in 1986 Valhalla is a Jack Nicklaus design that has hosted three previous editions of the PGA Championship (in 1996, 2000, and 2014), two Senior PGA Championships (2004, 2011), and the 2008 Ryder Cup. It’s a par 71 that will play between 7,540 and 7,600 yards according to tee box positions.

The Nicklaus design principles are straightforward. He offers width from the tee (although one side of the fairway will often provide a better line into the green) and then asks demanding questions of the approach with distance control being particularly tested.

Which leads us to …

What the players said in 2014

Adam Scott verified it is a typical Nicklaus creation by saying: “It’s generous off the tee and quite demanding into the greens.” Rickie Fowler expanded on that theme saying: “As long as you’re driving it decent, you’ll play out of the fairways quite a bit. That’s going to make a difference on some of these longer holes. You may not be able to reach some of the long par-4s out of the rough. Having 4, 5, 6-iron into some of these greens, you’d better be coming out of the fairway.” Local man Kenny Perry backed that up, adding: “The bluegrass rough is as mean and nasty as ever.”

Phil Mickelson was a fan, saying: “The setup is sensational in that the fairways are a very fair width. There’s nothing tricked up about the golf course. It’s just a very well-thought-out, wonderful setup.”

Rory McIlroy first admitted “I don’t know much about the golf course” and then added: “Guys in the locker room say it will suit my game style pretty well.” They got that right.

Rory McIlroy is hoping to repeat his 2014 US PGA victory at Valhalla when it returns to the venue this year.

The Muirfield Village Connection

There are many Nicklaus courses that play host to regular PGA Tour events, some originals, some collaborations, others renovations. But Muirfield Village is Jack’s Place – the course he adores, the one he keeps tweaking, the home of his Memorial Tournament – and past results at Valhalla suggest it could provide significant clues for this week.

Consider that Tom Watson and Hale Irwin, the two winners of the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla, are both two-time winners at Muirfield Village.

Consider that Mark Brooks won the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla shortly after finishing top-10 three times in a row at Muirfield Village – and consider that the man he beat in a playoff, Kenny Perry, was a Muirfield Village winner.

Consider that Tiger Woods won the PGA in 2000 and he’s a five-time winner at Muirfield Village.

Tiger’s birdie on the first play-off hole was greeted with this iconic celebration

And consider that, while Rory McIlroy had a best of only fifth at Muirfield Village ahead of his win in 2014, he had thrashed a 63 to claim a three-shot first-round lead at the Memorial Tournament just two months before he won the PGA – and that score included a double bogey!

Muirfield Village winners in the field this week include Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay (twice), Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm (who would have won twice but for testing positive for Covid when six shots clear with 18 holes to play), Billy Horschel and Viktor Hovland.

The favourite

Whichever way you look at it, Scottie Scheffler is a worthy favorite.

He’s the World No. 1, he’s won four times in his last five starts and his major championship record is simply sensational: he’s finished top three in five of his last nine major starts and he won two of them. Oh, and his tournament record is pretty good, too (four starts, three times top eight).

He’s even has a good record on Nicklaus designs, finishing fifth at The Concession, third at Muirfield Village in his last two starts there and he won The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town on his last start. That’s far from a typical Nicklaus design – it was his first-ever project and a collaboration with Pete Dye – but it’s another tick in the box.

Another week, another win, and another jacket for Scottie Scheffler.

This season, he ranks second for Strokes Gained off the Tee, first for Approach and first for Around the Green. Sure, he only ranks 95th for Putting but the crucial factor is that he’s got himself in the red. His putter is warm enough that he’s not losing strokes to the field on the greens and that’s fuelled the four wins.

There are perhaps only two negatives. The first is that he and his wife Meredith are awaiting the birth of their first child. The second is that VegasInsider.com reports that in the 21st century, only five pre-tournament favorites have won the PGA Championship.

Who will win the PGA Championship? Our picks

Let’s not beat about the bush: the top four in the betting are there for very good reason. But Scheffler has distractions, McIlroy hasn’t won a major in a decade, Rahm keeps throwing in one ruinous score and Koepka’s very poor Muirfield Village record is off-putting. So we’ll take them on with this quartet.

Collin Morikawa: Each way at 25/1 with Skybet

Collin Morikawa's prizes for winning the 2020 US Open Championship

Contended in one of the last four majors? Third at the Masters

Strong 2023 form? Was also fifth at The Sentry and ninth at the RBC Heritage (ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship)

Best finish in the PGA Championship? Winner in 2020

SG Tee to Green form? Ranked sixth at the Masters and third at the Sentry

Nicklaus/Muirfield Village record? A winner (and second) at Muirfield Village, also a winner at Montreux and The Concession.

Might it be a case of deja vu and, for the second year running, the Sunday spectator at the Masters becomes champion at the PGA?!? Morikawa insisted after a flat final round at Augusta, played alongside the winner, that: “Watching Scottie today, I know it’s doable for me, I’ve just got to put the pieces together.” The clincher is his superb record on Nicklaus designs.

Bryson DeChambeau: Each way at 28/1 with Paddy Power

Bryson DeChambeau has rediscovered his form since joining LIV

Contended in one of the last four majors? Fourth in last year’s PGA and a career-best sixth at Augusta

Strong 2023 form? Five top 10 finishes

Best finish in the PGA Championship? Fourth in both 2020 and 2023

SG Tee to Green form? Ranked seventh at the Masters

Nicklaus/Muirfield Village record? Winner at Muirfield Village in 2018

He failed to crack the top 20 in his last two starts but otherwise, this year has been solid and, in addition to winning twice on LIV last year, he’s bubbling again at the majors: eighth at the 2022 Open, fourth in this event last year, T20th in the US Open and then that bold effort at the Masters after which he said: “It made me feel like I could do it. There were a couple of moments out there where I got the tingles.”

Max Homa: Each way at 33/1 with Ladbrokes

Max Homa won the Wells Fargo Championship for the second time in his career in 2022.

Contended in one of the last four majors? Third at the Masters

Strong 2023 form? Five top 25s (ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship)

Best finish in the PGA Championship? T13th in 2022

SG Tee to Green form? Ranked fifth at the Masters

Nicklaus/Muirfield Village record? Sixth and fifth in his last two Muirfield Village starts

For so long Homa was comically poor at the majors but can he do a Matt Fitzpatrick? The Englishman went from being equally rotten in them to contending in this event, then winning the US Open in his next start. Homa’s top 10 in the Open last summer was his first in the majors, his next best effort was in this championship, he improved on both at the Masters and his recent Muirfield Village form is reminiscent of Brooks before he won at Valhalla.

Sepp Straka: Each way at 100/1 with Skybet

Sepp Straka won the 2023 John Deere Classic

Contended in one of the last four majors? Seventh in last year’s PGA, second at the Open (and also T16th in the Masters)

Strong 2023 form? Fifth at the RBC Heritage

Best finish in the PGA Championship? Seventh

SG Tee to Green form? Ranked eighth at the Masters

Nicklaus/Muirfield Village record? A winner at The Nicklaus GC on the Korn Ferry Tour and also won at PGA National (a Fazio design that Nicklaus tweaked). Has two top 20s at Muirfield Village.

The Austrian has become a sneaky major performer. He was seventh in this event last year, second at the Open, and T16th in the Masters when excellent tee-to-green. That ability to perform on the highest stage, allied to that fondness for a Nicklaus test, makes him the pick of the outsiders.

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About the author

Matt Cooper is an experienced golf journalist who has covered countless Major tournaments.

Matt Cooper
Contributing Writer

Matt Cooper has been a golf journalist for 15 years. He’s worked for, among others, Golf365, SkySports, ESPN, NBC, Sporting Life, Open.com and the Guardian. He specializes in feature writing, reporting and tournament analysis.

He’s traveled widely in that time, covering golf from Kazakhstan to South Korea via Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

More straightforwardly, he’s also covered numerous Majors, Ryder Cups and Solheim Cups.

Follow Matt on Twitter.

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