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16th May 2024

Irish golfers hope to be in contention at Valhalla as Rory McIlroy says he’s ‘ready to play’

Paddy Morgan

“I’m ready to play.”

All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy this weekend with Valhalla Golf Course is the venue for this week’s PGA Championship.

This is the first major to be hosted in Kentucky since 2014, when McIlroy won the tournament. The Northern Irishman hasn’t won a major since that day, and will need to overcome a lot to win his fifth major.

McIlroy may find it difficult to focus on his game after a difficult couple of weeks. He was not re-elected to the PGA Tour policy board and then, more significantly, earlier this week, he filed for divorce from his wife Erica Stoll.

McIlroy, who won at Wells Fargo in great style last weekend, will play days one and two with LIV Tour member Dustin Johnson and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose.

He told reporters he was ‘ready to play’ when asked about his personal life in press conference on Wednesday.

McIlroy has won two tournaments since the Masters partnering Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and a fourth Wells Fargo Championship victory. He will be tested on familiar grounds this weekend.

Two of McIlroy’s four wins came at the PGA Championship but his last major victory was 10 years ago.

McIlroy’s strength is off the tee as he is currently ranked second in PGA Tour Driving Distance category. McIlroy has played 14 PGA Championships and finished inside the top 10 in both the 2022 and 2023 editions.

Valhalla is a 7,588-yard par 72 and was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

16 LIV Tour members will participate at Valhalla which includes 2023 PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka.

The field of 156 golfers includes major champions Scottie Scheffler, Tiger Woods, McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth has an opportunity to create history by becoming the sixth golfer to win all four majors this weekend.

Elsewhere for Irish golfers, Lowry will play the first two rounds with 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day and 2023 DP World Tour Championship victor Nicolai Hojgaard.

Lowry has played in 12 PGA Championships and his best finish was a tied fourth at Kiawah Island in 2021. The Offaly native won his first event since 2022 BMW PGA Championship in New Orleans three weeks ago but followed it up with a tied 47th at Quail Hollow.

Lowry has been poor on the greens as he is currently ranked 168th in the PGA Tour Strokes Gained Putting category and will need an improvement at Valhalla. Lowry is capable of winning a big event as he won 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.

Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, won the 2008 PGA Championship and will play at Valhalla as a past champion. The Dubliner has played in 24 PGA Championships and his best recent finish was a tied fourth at Kiawah Island in 2021.

Harrington comes into Valhalla off a tied-eight finish at Champions Tour major Regions Tradition. Harrington will play days one & two with Sam Burns and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed.

Scottie Scheffler has won four times in 2024 and is looking to win his first major as a father.

The 2024 Masters champion has been remarkable as he is currently ranked first in PGA Tour Scoring Average, Strokes Gained total, Birdie Average, Strokes Gained Approach the Greens and Greens in Regulation percentage.

Brooks Koepka has won three PGA Championships, holds the record for the lowest 72-hole score in Bellerive and comes into Valhalla off a win at LIV Tour Singapore. Jon Rahm’s best PGA Championship result is a tied fourth in 2018 and hasn’t finished outside the top 10 this year on LIV Tour.

In the space of 11 months, Ludvig Aberg has won on both PGA Tour, and DP World Tour, played in a Ryder Cup, finished runner-up at Augusta and has recovered from a knee injury for Valhalla.

After everything that has happened in golf, especially the lack of movement between the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund & PGA Tour, it would be nice if McIlroy ended his major drought this weekend.

Tommy Fleetwood is in great form after finishing tied third in this year’s Masters and is a great each-way bet for Valhalla. It would also be fantastic if both Lowry & Harrington make the halfway cut and are in contention going into Sunday’s final round.

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