The world’s best players head to Atlanta, Georgia this week for the final Major of 2011. Germany’s Martin Kaymer is defending champion at the 93rd USPGA Championship.
Atlanta Athletic Club plays host to the year’s final Major this week, it’s an event the club hosted back in 2001 when David Toms took the title. His winning total of 265 in that tournament was the lowest ever recorded in PGA Championship history.
But don’t expect a barrage of birdies this time round. Not only is the course long at nearly 7,500 yards, but the par of 70 is extremely strict. In 2006 Rees Jones was brought in to complete a redesign of the course and his work included the narrowing of a number of fairways and the expansion of bunkering to cause more problems off the tee.
A change has also been made to the greens. In 2001 they were bent grass – a grass that struggles to survive in the August, Atlanta heat (It could get up to 100 degrees this week.) Now, they’re Bermuda grass – a grass that thrives in hotter temperatures. So, this time out, the putting surfaces should be firmer and faster than in 2001, making it considerably more difficult to hold the greens.  
Six Majors have now passed since an American last claimed one – Phil Mickelson in the 2010 Masters – and pressure is building on the home players to deliver. The last two years have revealed the growing globalisation of golf with particular success enjoyed by golfers from Europe and South Africa. In addition, in that time only two World Golf Championship events have been won by players from the USA. The most recent – last week’s Bridgestone Invitational – going to Adam Scott of Australia. This week’s World Golf Ranking shows players from 11 different countries represented in the top 30.
At last year’s USPGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Germany’s Martin Kaymer came out on top after a playoff against Bubba Watson.

Venue: Atlanta Athletic Club, Georgia
Date: Aug 11-14
Course stats: par 70, 7,467 yards
Purse: $7,500,000 Winner: $1,350,000
Defending Champion: Martin Kaymer (-11)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Friday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Saturday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 4pm
Sunday 14 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm

Player Watch:
Luke Donald – Tied second last week at Firestone and still World Number 1. The Englishman is supremely consistent and is overdue a Major victory. This could be his week.

Jason Day – The young Australian has been second in two Majors already in 2011 and was in contention again at the Bridgestone last week. He clearly has all the skills necessary to win on golf’s biggest stage.

Adam Scott – He played so impressively last week in Ohio, it’s difficult to overlook him this time out. With Steve Williams on the bag and with that new broomhandle putter, he seems a rejuvenated player. He’s won a tournament on one of the major tours in every season since 2001 – nobody else in world golf can match that.

Key holes:
15th – An extremely daunting par 3 over water that can be stretched to 260 yards. The water lies all down the right side and round the back of the putting surface so anything leaked to the right will end up wet. In 2001 David Toms made a hole-in-one here on the Saturday. But, in general, scoring on this hole is high – it ranked as second hardest last time the USPGA Championship visited Atlanta Athletic Club.

18th – This is the hardest hole on the course. A 507 yard par 4, it requires two excellent shots to find the putting surface in regulation. It may have the widest fairway on the course but as the hole turns right to left, it’s still difficult to find the optimum spot from where to hit an approach. The green is guarded by water in front and the approach must carry all the way to the surface. In the final round in 2001, David Toms laid up short of the water and got up and down for a par and the victory.

Where next?
USPGA Championship
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