By Tim Liotta
The Four Venues of the 2024 Major Championship Season
Looking ahead to the 2024 major championship season, which will focus the game's attention on four championship venues that have in the past produced great champions, unthinkable final rounds, even one-of-a-kind success stories.
88th Masters Tournament
Augusta National Golf Club
April 11-14, 2024
If a championship's list of winners is a measure of the quality of that championship's golf course - in terms of being a great test of golf in its ability to identify the best player - the Masters Tournament and the Augusta National Golf Club might be as close to perfect a championship can come.
The two most recent Masters champions - Jon Rahm (2023) and Scottie Scheffler (2022) - are the two players who have combined to hold down the No. 1 Official World Golf Ranking the most weeks this year.
Jack Nicklaus, who tops the list of major championship with 18, tops the Masters list of champions as the only player to have won the tournament six times.
Tiger Woods, who is second on the major championship list with 15 titles, is second on the Masters list with five.
And if the list of Masters champions history has compiled extends down the other five players who've won 3 or more - Arnold Palmer with 4, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson, there's not an imposter in the bunch.
Bubba Watson is the most recent Masters champion to add another title to his resume, backing up his 2012 Masters championship with his second in 2014. Since 2014, nine different champions.
Rahm follows Scheffler (2022), who follows Hideki Matsuyama (2021), Dustin Johnson (2020), Tiger Woods (2019), Patrick Reed (2018), Sergio Garcia (2017), Danny Willett (2016), and Jordan Spieth (2015).
106th PGA Championship
Valhalla Golf Club
May 16-19, 2024
The Valhalla Golf Club opened in 1986 with its course designed by Jack Nicklaus, previously crowning champions at the top of their game at that moment in golf's history.
The last time Valhalla hosted a PGA Championship, in August, 2014, Rory McIlroy won his fourth career major championship, his second major of the year, and his third tournament in a row.
Finishing in almost complete darkness, McIlroy beat Phil Mickelson by a shot, and Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler by two. Rory had won the 2014 Open Championship three weeks earlier, and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational the week prior.
In the PGA's final round, Rory eagled the 10th hole, and added birdies on 13 and 17 to reach 16-under-par. When McIlroy reached the 18th tee with sunlight fading quickly, Fowler and Mickelson allowed McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger, also in the final pairing, hit their drives alongside, saving time.
"Bernd Wiesberger said why don't we hit our drives and they go hit up their second shots," McIlroy said afterwards. "So it just makes it, at least we don't finish together, but saves a little bit of time.
"It was a classy move for those guys to do that. They could have had us standing and wait on the 18th tee while it was getting dark. It was great sportsmanship and shows the great character of those two guys and I'm glad they did it."
After the tournament, Jack Nicklaus, who designed Valhalla, said of McIlroy, ""Rory is an unbelievable talent. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing."
When Valhalla hosted the PGA in 2000, Tiger Woods edged Bob May by a single stroke in a three-hole playoff.
Tiger's victory was his second consecutive PGA Championship, his fifth major title and his third of his eventual "Tiger Slam" of four consecutive major titles, including the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the 2000 Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews prior to the PGA, followed by the 2001 Masters at Augusta National.
The first PGA Championship held at Valhalla was in 1996, when Mark Brooks won his only major title in the event's final sudden-death playoff. Brooks birdied the par-5 18th hole, the first extra hole, to beat Kentucky-native Kenny Perry.
124th U.S. Open Championship
No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club
June 13-16, 2024
Without a doubt, the No. 2 course, designed by Donald Ross, is an amazing venue for championship golf, and an example of what a great setting can do to raise the game to its highest levels, but its list of U.S. Open champions has produced a list of champions quite different from our first two venues.
No. 2's most famous moment came in 1999, on its 18th green, when Payne Stewart sank the winning putt to edge Phil Mickelson by a shot and claim the third major championship of his career. There's a statue of Stewart beside the green commemorating the moment.
In 2014, the last time No. 2 hosted the U.S. Open, Martin Kaymer won in dominating fashion, going wire-to-wire and prevailing by eight strokes.
Golf fans might overlook the heights achieved by Kaymer, a two-time major champion and former No. 1. His U.S. Open victory came a month after he won the Players Championship.
Kaymer's first major championship came at the 2010 PGA Championship, when he beat Tom Watson and Bubba Watson over a three-hole playoff. He also reached No. 1 in the world for 8 weeks in 2011.
Kaymer is also a huge figure in Ryder Cup lore, as he sank a huge putt on the 18th hole at Medinah Country Club on in 2012, one key to Europe overcoming a four-point deficit against the United States on the final day of singles matches.
The 2005 U.S. Open over No. 2 saw a Sectional Qualifier, Michael Campbell of New Zealand, survive one the craziest final rounds in the championship's history, holding off Tiger Woods in the end to win his only career major championship.
Starting the final round four shots behind third-round leader Retief Goosen, Campbell reached the top of the leaderboard while the other three players in the final two groups were unable to break 80. While Goosen (81), Jason Gore (84) and Olin Browne (80) struggled, Campbell shot a final-round, 1-under-par 69 for a two-shot victory.
Campbell's main competition turned out to be Tiger Woods, who, after a bogey-bogey start, birdied four holes on the back nine at one point closed to within one shot of Campbell. Woods was eventually undone by bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes, and finished two shots back.
The U.S. Amateur champions crowned at Pinehurst No. 2 are: Andy Ogletree (2019), Danny Lee (2008), and Labron Harris Jr. (1962).
Pinehurst No. 2 also hosted the 1936 PGA Championship, which was won by three-time major champion Denny Shute, who captured his second of two consecutive PGAs by defeating Jimmy Thomson 3 & 2 in the Final. Shute also won the 1933 Open Championship.
152nd Open Championship
Royal Troon Golf Club
Troon, Ayeshire, Scotland
July 18-21, 2016
The Open Championship returns to Royal Troon for the first time since Henrik Stenson set the record for the lowest winning score in a major championship in order to win one of golf's greatest final-round duels.
En route to his first career major championship, Henrik needed to tie the Open Championship final-round scoring record, and set the Championship's scoring mark by two strokes in order prevail over Phil Mickelson. The Championship's third-place finisher finished 11 shots behind Mickelson.
Stenson and Mickelson played together in the final group. With Mickelson posting two birdies and an eagle on the front nine, Stenson answered with five birdies of his own to hold a one-shot lead at the turn.
Tied with five holes to play, Stenson reeled off three consecutive birdies, making a 51-foot putt from off the green on 15 and a clutch up-and-down for birdie on 16 with Mickelson narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 16.
Stenson needed a birdie on 18 to complete an 8-under-par 63, tying the championship reccord at the time. His 265 total eclipsed Greg Norman's previous record of 267, set in 1993.
The 2016 Open Championship was the ninth to be held at Royal Troon. The previous 8 champions were: Todd Hamilton (2004), Justin Leonard (1997), Mark Calcavecchia (1989), Tom Watson (1982), Tom Weiskopf (1973), Arnold Palmer (1962), Bobby Locke (1950) and Arthur Havers (1923).