Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy can bank on good memories of Valhalla ahead of PGA Championship

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be fighting for another major golf title at the PGA Championship. Picture: Warren Little /Getty Images /AFP

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be fighting for another major golf title at the PGA Championship. Picture: Warren Little /Getty Images /AFP

Published May 12, 2024


Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy return next week to Valhalla for the 106th PGA Championship, back on a course where each captured a dramatic major victory earlier in their careers.

Woods, a 15-time major champion, won a three-hole playoff over Bob May to take the 2000 PGA Championship, becoming the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in the same year.

He went on to claim the 2001 Masters and complete the Tiger Slam feat of four consecutive major wins.

World number two McIlroy won the most recent of his four major titles in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, racing the darkness down the last hole to edge Phil Mickelson by a stroke.

"I think the guys up ahead were pretty unhappy with how it all unfolded," McIlroy recalled. "I got the result that I was looking for in the end and that's all that matters."

McIlroy stubbornly finished as nightfall descended after Mickelson, a group ahead, birdied to pull within one. McIlroy found a greenside bunker and saved par for the victory.

"I'm not a huge fan of conflict, but when push comes to shove, I will," McIlroy recalled. "That was one of those times when I needed to sort of assert my will on a situation.

"I think if I wasn't as pushy as I was, I would have had to sleep on that lead and on that tee shot overnight. I just didn't want to do that."

McIlroy has not won a major title in the decade since, but has posted 20 top-10 major finishes, including a runner-up showing at each of the other three majors.

The 35-year-old from Northern Ireland has stretched his PGA Tour win total from nine to 25 and his DP World Tour total from nine to 17.

Woods, 48, has won 10 majors since but with a gap from the 2008 US Open, won on a broken leg in a playoff over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines, to a one-stroke triumph at the 2019 Masters.

Woods has struggled to simply walk 72 holes after suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash but finished 60th at last month's Masters and said he knew how he would work toward Valhalla.

"Well, just keep lifting, keep the motor going, keep the body moving, keep getting stronger, keep progressing," Woods said. "Hopefully the practice sessions will keep getting longer.

"I'm going to do my homework going forward... that's kind of the game plan."

In 2000, May held a one-stroke lead down the final holes but missed a birdie putt from inside four feet at the 15th hole while Woods sank a 10-footer for par and birdied 17 to set up a playoff. Woods birdied the first extra hole and both men parred the last two holes as Woods grabbed his fifth major victory.

"I've talked to him plenty about Valhalla," said Woods's pal Justin Thomas. "As soon as I bring it up, he always jokes that I was probably still in diapers it was so long ago.

"I always remind him he was one lip-out away from losing to Bob May in the PGA and not having the Tiger Slam."

Thomas said Woods doesn't relate the victory as some epic story.

"When he was going about it, it didn't seem very difficult, but he was just better than everybody else and it seemed pretty easy at the time," Thomas said.