Chip Harp, Sports Feature Writer
CHARLOTTE — The 99th PGA Championship teed off this morning from the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte. One-hundred fifty-six of the world’s best golfers will compete for the year’s final major. In anticipation of the tournament drama yet to come, here are some interesting facts about the tournament.
The tournament first began back in 1916 as a venue for professional golfers, at the time considered at a different social level that gentlemen amateur golfers, such as Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet. As times changed and professionals were seen as the “best” golfers and accepted in the best clubhouses, it, and the Master’s Tournament, replaced the US and British Amateur tournaments as part of each year’s Major Championships.
Qualifying for the tournament’s 156 spots can take various routes. All former PGA Champions receive an invitation each year. In addition, the 2017 Senior PGA Champion, as well as the last 5 Masters, US Open, and Open Championship winners also earn an invitation. With the reintroduction of golf at the Olympics, the reigning Olympic champion is also invited.
The lowest 15 scores from the previous year’s PGA Championship and members of the previous Ryder Cup teams are also invited. After that, it’s current season merit that earns your place. The top 70 golfers from the PGA Championship Points List over the past calendar year are invited.
The best part of qualifying goes to the heart of what the tournament is about. The PGA split off from the PGA TOUR back in the 1950’s. The PGA today is made up of club professionals, teaching pros at your local club. Each year, the PGA holds a PGA Professional Championship and the top 20 finishers at that tournament also qualify to play against the world’s best.
And what’s at stake, besides the beautiful Wanamaker Trophy? The winner earns $1.8 million of the total $10 million purse, as well as the honor of having his name inscribed on the great silver trophy.
FAVORITES TO WATCH
Jordan Spieth, at 24, will be seeking to become the youngest player in history to earn the Career Grand Slam, a championship at all 4 of the current major championships during a career. He only needs the PGA to complete that incredible feat. With his victory earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Spieth continued a streak of 5 straight years with a PGA TOUR victory.
Hideki Matsuyama shot a course-record 61 at the Firestone Country Club in Akron last weekend at the World Golf Championship event, winning the tournament in crushing fashion. He is a solid player, playing consistently low rounds and will look to become the first player from Japan to earn a Major Championship.
The buzz around the media center all week has been Rory McIlroy, who captured both the 2010 and 2015 tournament championships at this course, the Wells Fargo Championship. Many pundits believe McIlroy has the best game to suit this course.
Other players to watch include Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, 2015 champion Jason Day, and Spanish newcomer Jon Rahm, who has won this year already, at the Farmers Insurance Open held at Torrey Pines.
So, kick back and enjoy what should be a dramatic test of major championship golf this weekend. Valdosta Today will have more from Quail Hollow during the tourament.