PGA Championship 2021: Preview

Rory McIlroy will start as favourite as the 2021 PGA Championship returns to Kiawah Island, the scene of his record eight-stroke victory in 2012. Here’s everything you need to know.

One of golf’s four major championships, it will be played between May 20-23 at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Collin Morikawa will be the defending champion after winning his first major with a score of 13-under at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in 2020, two strokes ahead of runners-up Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson.

Will there be fans?

The 2020 PGA was pushed back from May to August due to the Covid-19 pandemic and held without spectators. For this year’s tournament, the PGA of America announced in February that 10,000 fans will be admitted on each day of the event.

Rory’s back!

The last time the PGA came to Kiawah Island, McIlroy won by a record eight shots to claim his second major after winning the US Open in 2011. He would go on to win two more majors in 2014, but has since drawn a blank at golf’s biggest events.

In April he missed the cut at the Masters and dropped out of the world’s top 10, admitting that a lack of fans at events and trying to add more distance to his game both contributed to a loss of form. But he has since added renowned coach Pete Cowen to his team who has heralded a back-to-basics approach and a refocusing on his strengths.

Last week McIlroy claimed his first win in 19 months at the Wells Fargo Championship and is now up to seven in the rankings. Back to winning ways and with the event at Kiawah Island, he will start as favourite.

Who are the other favourites?

Defending champion Morikawa will be hoping to defend his title but will face stiff competition from Jordan Spieth, who lacks only a PGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam. After a few years in the wilderness, Spieth is on a run of four straight top-10 finishes, including a win at the Valero Texas Open just prior to the Masters and a ninth-place finish at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

Jon Rahm, still looking for that first major; Players’ champion Justin Thomas, hoping to claim a second PGA; Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are the other players to look out for, along with Hideki Matsuyama, winner of the Masters in April. For outside bets, smart money could be on Xander Schauffele or Viktor Hovland.

How to watch

ESPN and CBS will share coverage. ESPN will broadcast the first two rounds with CBS taking over on the weekend. In Europe, the event will be shown on local channels such as Sky Sports in the UK. There are several ways to follow the PGA Championship online, via ESPN+ and Paramount+.

Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

The PGA returns to one of the most picturesque, and difficult, courses in America, which hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991 when the US won with the final putt of the ‘War on the Shore’. Every hole has a view of the Atlantic Ocean, which means every hole is subject to the unpredictable, almost constant, crosswinds.

This Pete and Alice Dye-designed links-like course follows a figure-eight out-and-back route along the water and its greens are elevated to give players a view of the water over the beachside sand dunes, which also allows the wind to affect putting. This year, the course will play 7,876 yards at a par 72, 200 yards longer than in 2012 and the longest in major championship history. Length off the tee will therefore be an advantage, but the wind, natural fescue rough and pot bunkers will punish wayward shots, so accuracy is also paramount for the likes of McIlroy and DeChambeau.

What is the total purse and how much does the winner get?

A prize pot worth $11m is up for grabs at the PGA. Whichever player emerges as the winner after four days will win $1.98m.

What else does the winner receive?

The Wanamaker Trophy, awarded to the PGA Championship winner, is named after Rodman Wanamaker, the founder of the PGA of America in 1916.

Rangefinders allowed for the first time

The PGA Championship will see caddies and players allowed to use distance measuring devices (DMDs), or rangefinders, for the first time in professional tournament play.

Who has the most wins?

Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagan won the PGA five times, while Tiger Woods has won four, in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007.

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