PGA Championship

Wednesday Notebook from PGA of America Pool Reporter Jeff Babineau

May 15, 2024


Jeff Babineau



Koepka feels something major in the air

Brooks Koepka already owns three PGA Championships, having won his third a year ago at Oak Hill, but he remains thirsty for more. For Koepka, 33, it’s just part of his big-game mindset. He lives for the majors, and longs to keep adding to his career major victory total, which stands at five.

Koepka just finds a different gear at the game’s biggest stops, and on Wednesday, he seemed ready to go at Valhalla and the 106th PGA Championship. At majors, those around Koepka say that he turns into somebody different than the guy they see most weeks.

“I don't know. I mean, I've heard from just kind of the people around me, it's just different,” he said Wednesday. “Like my demeanor and focus is just different. I can't explain it. I don't really know how or what I really do different. But everybody on the team can kind of see it and they kind of know ... I can walk right past them and I don't even know that they are there sometimes.”

This week marks Koepka’s 12th start in the PGA Championship, dating to 2013 at Oak Hill, when he was just finding his way. He loves the fact that a player needs to focus intensely for four straight days to have any kind of chance, and cannot afford to let his guard down.

“It's just it's a grinding week. You've got to be fully locked in,” Koepka said. “I feel like you can't take one shot off. I love that. It's always, you're one shot away from making a double-bogey, and that's what I love.”

Koepka also won PGA Championship titles at Bellerive in 2018 and Bethpage Black in 2019 to go along with a pair of U.S. Open titles at Erin Hills and Shinnecock.

Phillips looks forward to his giant assignment

Tracy Phillips once was the hottest junior golfer in the country, coveted by every college in the nation, but after struggling at Oklahoma State and then early into his pro career, he decided to completely walk away from golf at age 26.

He taught golf for a living – Phillips is a PGA of America Golf Professional at Cedar Ridge in Tulsa, where his father was a legendary pro for 40 years – but from 1988-2008, he did not play the game.

So, yes, for several reasons, it is surprising that Phillips is in Louisville this week competing in the 106th PGA Championship. For one, it’s his first PGA Championship; secondly, he is 61 years old, the oldest player in the field. For Phillips, who is 5 feet 4 and doesn’t hit the ball all that long, competing this week on a 7,600-yard golf course is a tall task. And he can’t wait for the challenge.

“Counting the putter, I’ve got as many headcovers as I do irons,” said Phillips, who this week traded his 5-iron for a 6-hybrid, a club he can hit from 195-200 yards that helps him to get the ball in the air.

“Who would have thought a 61-year-old would be playing a major championship, let alone our major championship, the PGA of America?” Phillips asked. “I know the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are, but it knows how hard you hit it. My golf ball doesn’t leave like these guys do. It’ll be a great week. Just want to hit each shot, give it my best, 100 percent, and just kind of see what happens.”

Phillips tied for eighth at the PGA Professional Championship in Frisco, Texas, and is also entered in the field at next week’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. Two years ago at that event, Phillips played two days alongside four-time major winner Ernie Els and would tie for 17th.  

Captain, my Captain?

PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh was asked on Wednesday at Valhalla about who will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team at the 2025 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black.

It would appear the job could go to Tiger Woods if he opts to accept it, but thus far, the two parties only remain in talks about it. Wednesday, there was no news to report on the captain front.

“We have had conversations for months,” Waugh said. “We have also had conversations at the Ryder Cup Committee, multiple conversations about potential captains and a list of potential captains.

“You know, Tiger, he's been pretty clear. I think we all know that he can be pretty focused, and that's one of his many superpowers is that ability to sort of tunnel and decide. And he doesn't do anything that he's not fully committed to, and we totally respect that. And he's got a lot on his plate right now.”

Woods is heavily involved in representing the PGA Tour and his fellow PGA Tour players in negotiations toward trying to unify the Tour and the upstart LIV Tour, which signed some of the PGA Tour’s top players. Woods said on Tuesday that his discussions with representatives from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund consume a good deal of his time.

“You know, everybody sort of has a timeline for this,” Waugh said, “and I realize it's a news day and you guys want news, but we have picked captains later than this. We've picked captains earlier than this. Luke Donald (Europe’s captain) was named a year out a year ago (prior to the Ryder Cup in Italy) and they had a pretty good performance, for instance.

“We think there's plenty of time, and putting an artificial date on it is not something we need to do.”

Assessing Valhalla’s PGA Championship/Ryder Cup future

Valhalla Golf Club is hosting its fourth PGA Championship this week, hosted a pair of KitchenAid PGA Senior Championships, and also was home to the 2008 Ryder Cup, which resulted in a U.S. victory over Europe. (It is where Paul Azinger introduced the four-man “pod” system.)

But what of Valhalla’s future moving forward? As of a year and a half ago, the PGA of America no longer holds an ownership in the club, so PGA of America President John Lindert was asked if that means Valhalla could get left out of getting a big PGA event in the future.

“From my perspective, having had this as the fourth PGA Championship here, every single one of them has been extremely successful,” Lindert said. “I've talked to other venues about it. Part of is this is a community effort. The ownership group here is fabulous. The golf course is fabulous. The players love it.

“So as far as – the location, May date, it's beautiful out, more or less, if you'd like a little bit of weather here and there. I don't see why this facility wouldn't continue to be considered.”

Valhalla continues to receive great local support from the Louisville community. Tickets for the week are sold out and hospitality sales, according to Lindert, “has been off the charts.”  

“Two of the three PGA Championships we've had here have resulted in a playoff,” Lindert continued. “So it's a wonderful, wonderful venue. ... From that perspective, and for me, I would say it would continue to be considered.”