PGA Championship 2014: Valhalla, The Louisville Slugger
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PGA Championship host Valhalla has hammered plenty of home runs in its brief history, from Tiger's clutch victory over Bob May in 2000 to Team USA's rousing Ryder Cup takedown. Behold, some of the venue's major moments.
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Valhalla is first referenced not in Tiger's yardage book but in Norse mythology as a vast, spectacular Hall of the Slain, presided over by the god Odin.
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Five years after conceiving Valhalla, owner Dwight Gahm (pronounced "Game") and his sons Walt, Gordy and Phil open the Jack Nicklaus–designed course to member play. Soon thereafter, the layout enters the rankings as one of the top courses in the U.S.
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Recognizing the strength and beauty of the new Valhalla layout, as well as its natural spectator areas, the PGA of America awards the club its first major: the 1996 PGA Championship. Most striking is the par-4 13th hole, its green a veritable island fortified by stacked rocks. Other standout holes include the split-fairway par-5 seventh and the risk/reward par-5 18th.
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As part of an investment strategy conceived by PGA of America CEO Jim Awtrey (right), the PGA purchases 25 percent of Valhalla. The idea is to have the PGA own and operate a select number of prestigious clubs that can host the organization's major events, à la the PGA Tour's network of TPC courses. Three years later the PGA will buy another 25 percent of Valhalla before becoming the club's sole owner in 2000.
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With Kentucky hosting its first golf major since the 1952 PGA, the presence of Louisville legend Muhammad Ali does not go unnoticed. On tournament eve, a friendly shadow-boxing match breaks out between Ali and Jack Nicklaus, two titans with claims to the title "Greatest of All Time."
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Kentucky's Kenny Perry holds a two-shot lead when he arrives at the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship but snap-hooks his drive into deep rough and eventually makes bogey 6. Inexplicably, he agrees to join Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi in the CBS booth after finishing play early, where he stays for 40 minutes and watches Mark Brooks make birdie on No. 18 to tie him at 277 (-11). Perry fails to hit a single practice ball before the sudden-death playoff, which Brooks wins with a birdie on the first hole.
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Nicklaus, 60, says "I'm basically ceremonial" after shooting 77 in an opening-round pairing with Tiger Woods, who cards a 66. It would be Jack's final PGA Championship appearance. On Sunday, in a thrilling duel with Bob May, Woods curls in his must-make six-foot putt on the 72nd hole to tie May at 270 (-18). Tiger goes on to beat the journeyman (one of Woods's junior-golf rivals) by one in a playoff. For the first time since Ben Hogan in 1953, a player captured three majors in a calendar year.
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With the PGA having surprised many by sending the 2004 PGA Championship to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, Valhalla's consolation prize is the Senior PGA Championship. In a rain-delayed event, with Valhalla playing as a par-71, Hale Irwin posts 276 (-8), birdieing the final hole to beat Jay Haas by one in Haas's debut on the 50-and-over circuit. It is the seventh senior major for Irwin, 58, leaving him one back of Jack Nicklaus.
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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger deploys a leadership strategy he learned from watching a TV show about the Navy SEALs: He puts his 12-man team into three "pods" of four to facilitate bonding and allow for more natural best-ball and four-ball pairings. It works, as the Americans take a 9-7 lead into the Sunday singles matches, where Boo Weekley rides his driver like it's a horse (and beats Oliver Wilson 4 and 2), Anthony Kim thrashes Sergio Garcia 5 and 4, and Jim Furyk beats Miguel Ángel Jiménez 2 and 1 to clinch the Cup for the U.S., which wins by a lopsided score of 16 ½–11 ½.
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If J.B. Holmes was one of the stars of the 2008 Ryder Cup -- the Kentuckian went 2-0-1 to tie Weekley for the best record among the Americans -- it's elementary that Tom Watson would triumph at the 2011 Senior PGA Championship.
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And he does. Watson posts a 278 (-10) total and beats David Eger in a sudden-death playoff by birdieing the par-5 18th, the first extra hole. "If this is the last tournament I ever win," says Watson, 61, "it's not a bad one to win." He hasn't won since, although he's come close.
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