PGA Championship begins with sunshine and soft turf at Valhalla in Kentucky


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A PGA Championship filled with various layers of intrigue began Thursday after a 10-minute delay for fog, which quickly gave way to sunshine and a morning that figures to set the tone for Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Weather has been an issue all week, with rain at times closing Valhalla Golf Club for brief periods during two days of practice.

McIlroy returns to the site of his last major 10 years ago that also was marked by weather when a two-hour rain delay on Sunday caused him to play into the group ahead so that he could finish before dark.

He starts this major just two days after news broke that he was getting divorced from his wife of seven years. McIlroy cut short his interview to 10 minutes with a request that all questions be related only to golf. Asked about his energy and how he was feeling, McIlroy said curtly, “I’m ready to play this week.”

Woods also is a past champion at Valhalla from 24 years ago, when he was younger and before back surgeries, knee surgeries and a 2021 car crash. He is playing for only the third time this year.

Spieth is playing alongside defending champion Brooks Koepka. At stake for Spieth, again, is a chance to become the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam if he can hoist the Wanamaker Trophy at the end of the week.

Koepka only has two legs of the Grand Slam, but his major count already is at five.

“I’m just looking forward to a major championship,” Koepka said. “That kind of gets my excitement going.”

Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, is among the few stars playing in the afternoon on a course that is soft and susceptible to low scoring. Scheffler hasn’t competed in three weeks, staying home in Dallas for the impending birth of his first child. A son they named Bennett was born May 8.

He still comes into Valhalla with a load of momentum — four wins in his last five starts, one of them a second Masters green jacket, the exception a runner-up finish in Houston.

Being at home gave him time to reflect, and it was all good.

“I married my high school sweetheart and I always wanted to play professional golf, and now I’m here,” Scheffler said. “I was sitting there with a newborn in my arms and the green jacket in the closet. It was a pretty special time.

“The competitiveness in me doesn’t let me reflect too much. And I was trying to do my best to get ready to play this week.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf



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