The world’s best golfers are in Louisville, Kentucky this week for the final Major of 2014. Jason Dufner is defending champion in the USPGA Championship at Valhalla.

Lowdown:
The world’s best golfers are in Louisville, Kentucky this week for the final Major of 2014. Jason Dufner is defending champion in the USPGA Championship at Valhalla.

An extremely strong field has assembled for this event. In fact, no fewer than 99 of the top-100 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are presently scheduled to tee it up.

World Number 1 Rory McIlroy will lead the European challenge. The Northern Irishman is in imperious form having won both The Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in the last three weeks.

Sergio Garcia, a runner-up to McIlroy in both those recent events will be looking to pick up a maiden Major title in an event where he’s finished in the top-three, three times in the past.

Hoping to add to their Major tally will be Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose of England. Rose is in great form, having won in Scotland then tied for fourth at Firestone last week.

Valhalla is a Jack Nicklaus design that has twice previously played host to the USPGA Championship: In 1996 when Mark Brooks was the winner and again in 2000 when Tiger Woods claimed the second of his four USPGA titles. The course was also the venue for the Ryder Cup of 2008.

The USPGA Championship owes its inception to the department store owner Rodman Wanamaker. At the start of 1916 he convened a meeting of leading golfers and other important golf industry figures to discuss the formation of a professional golfers’ association.

The result of this gathering was the founding of the PGA of America. Seven months later the organisation contested its inaugural ‘Championship’ at Siwanoy Country Club.

Wanamaker put up the prizemoney and trophies for that first tournament and suggested the event should be similar to the British ‘News of the World’ tournament – a matchplay event. From 1916 right up to 1957, the USPGA Championship was played to a matchplay format. Since 1958, the competition has been strokeplay.

Walter Hagen was five times a winner in the early years of the tournament and many greats of the game have taken the title. Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Payne Stewart, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have all won the USPGA. Woods has lifted the trophy four times, but his participation this week is in doubt after he withdrew from the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with an injury.

In last year’s USPGA Championship at Oak Hill, Jason Dufner came out on top. He beat his fellow American Jim Furyk by two shots.

The weather forecast for the week is for warm and muggy conditions. Thunderstorms will be a constant threat and the wind could be a factor.

Venue: Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Kentucky
Date: Aug 7-10
Course stats: par 71, 7,458 yards
Purse: $10,000,000 Winner: $1,500,000
Defending Champion: Jason Dufner (-10)

TV Coverage:

Thursday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Friday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Saturday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 4pm
Sunday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 4pm

Player Watch:

Rory McIlroy is hot favourite with odds of 5-1 at most bookmakers. Who else might be worth an each-way wager?

Sergio Garcia – The Spaniard came close at Hoylake and at Firestone, this could be his time.

Jim Furyk – The veteran American is on great form – fourth at The Open, second in Canada and a solid 15th last week.

Hideki Matsuyama – The supremely talented Japanese star won the Memorial Tournament and produced solid performances at The U.S. Open, The Open and the Bridgestone.

Patrick Reed – He hadn’t been on great form until a good showing at the Quicken Loans National then a fine tied fourth place last week in Ohio.

Thomas Bjorn – The big Dane is a good outside choice this week. He was third at Valhalla in 2000 and has been on solid form this season, he was tied 15th last week in the Bridgestone.

Nick Watney – Flying under the radar, Watney has been struggling of late but he played some great golf at the Barracuda Championship last week in Nevada. He might have challenged Geoff Ogilvy for the win had it not been for a poor final round

Key hole: 18th. A superb finishing par-5 of 542 yards. It’s reachable in two for the longer hitters but the tee shot must avoid a water hazard on the right side and a sprawling bunker on the left. The green is protected by a bunker in the front and the putting surface can be approached by two routes, either left or right of the sand. Eagles are a possibility here but the water means bogeys or worse could also come into the equation.