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Who will win the PGA Championship? And, more specifically, can anyone stop Scottie Scheffler winning the PGA Championship?   

The recently-crowned two-time Masters champion has a good record at the season’s second major, with ties for fourth and eighth and a runner-up finish last time out only blotched by a missed cut at Southern Hills two years ago. 

But let’s momentarily put ourselves in a world that, given the World No 1 will head to Valhalla as a new dad, he is somehow immune to the effects of the Nappy Factor, and instead shows up in Louisville devoid of sleep and, more importantly, practice. How might that look? Let’s use our old friend data to help…  

What criteria are you basing this on?

I’ve gone back over the last ten PGA Championships to see if we can dig out a name or two that can stop Scheffler getting his name on the Wanamaker Trophy.

Before we start, it’s worth noting that Phil Mickelson is a massive outlier in almost every stat we’re going to look at here – and does skew the averages somewhat.  

But he won a PGA Championship in the last decade so who are we to decide if his achievement should be included? Exactly.

Age: Collin Morikawa pops in at the other end of the scale here, having triumphed at Harding Park shortly after his 23rd birthday. In fact, seven of the last ten PGA champions have been in their 20s, but the average age comes in at 31 thanks to Mickelson’s history-making victory. Take him out and that number drops to 28. Scottie Scheffler turns 28 a few weeks after the PGA. Coincidence? Absolutely, yes.   

Official Golf World Ranking: Rory McIlroy was the last player to lift the Wanamaker as World No 1, while seven of the ten were ranked inside the top 15 – and that’s without the perfectly reasonable assumption that Koepka would be comfortably inside the world’s top ten if he was still a PGA Tour player. Jimmy Walker and Phil Mickelson prove that there are surprises to be had, but the average ranking for the last ten PGA winners is 26. The World No 26 at the time of writing? Nick Taylor. Does that mean anything in any kind of context? Of course not. 

PGA Championship trends

PGA Championship experience: Collin Morikawa won not only on his PGA debut but his major championship debut, while Justin Thomas needed just two more attempts to put the Wanamaker in his trophy cabinet. Otherwise, experience pays in this tournament. The other eight players had played in at least six PGA Championships before they won it – while Brooks Koepka (in 2023 and 2019), Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas (in 2022), and Rory McIlroy all teed up having already won it on at least one previous occasion. Seven of the ten also had multiple top tens before they won.  

PGA Championship trends

Major experience: What about the majors? Jason Day, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas (in 2017) and Collin Morikawa all won the PGA having not won any other major before. The average number of major wins for each of the last ten PGA champions is two – so we can’t not mention Scottie Scheffler again, can we? 

PGA Championship trends

Season form: OK, but what about their tour form going into each of the PGA Championships they won? Seven of the ten had at least one victory in the season running up to the PGA Championship, with only Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas (in 2022) lifting their first title at the major. Meanwhile, a minimum of three top tens on the PGA Tour – or LIV, in Koepka’s case – and an average of five is the order of the day.   

PGA Championship trends

So what’s the point of all this? 

Well, we’re trying to work out if anyone not called Scottie or Scheffler will be hoisting that giant trophy into the Kentucky sky. 

What the last ten years tells us is we ideally want someone in their 20s, inside the top 15 in the world, with at least six PGA appearances – and preferably a victory but certainly a couple of top tens – to their name, and has already won this season with a handful of other top tens.  

Now the best metric with which to narrow it down is the world rankings, so let’s go through that. 

At 15 is Hideki Matsuyama. He falls at the first hurdle of being 32, but this will be his 11th attempt at the PGA and he has major-winning form AND a PGA Tour title this year, so consider him back in. Then 14 is Matt Fitzpatrick. The Yorkshireman is just this side of 30, this will be his ninth PGA appearance, but he hasn’t won it and has only had one top-ten. But I’m going to rule him out on the fact that, a fifth-place at The Players aside, he’s had a bit of a rocky time of it on tour this year. 

Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa is looking to add a second Wanamaker Trophy to his cabinet. (Credit: Getty Images)

At 13 is Collin Morikawa. In his 20s – check. Fifth PGA – check. Previous winner – check. No win yet this season but in decent form – half a check. OK, add him to the shortlist. And 12 is Sahith Theegala, who is catching my eye for his top-ten finishes in Hawaii, Phoenix, Bay Hill, Sawgrass and at the Heritage. Is it enough? Put a pin in it for now. 

Let’s flick through 11 to 8 – Tommy Fleetwood, Max Homa, Brian Harman and Patrick Cantlay. They are all far too old to lift the Wanamaker, though Fleetwood did just have a bit of a run at the Masters. Then 7 is Viktor Hovland, who we can rule out immediately for his ludicrous decision to change everything about his game. 

• Golfer, 61, quits game for 20 years – now he’s in a major!

• Why this LIV golfer snubbed an invite from the PGA

OK, 6 is Ludvig Aberg, so now we’re talking. This tournament does have a history of debutant winners – recently, too, in the cases of Morikawa and Keegan Bradley in 2011. His PGA Tour form is solid, and that second at the Masters alone gets him on the shortlist. He pulled out of Quail Hollow due to an injury. Wink. 

At 5 is Jon Rahm, but he’s out on the basis the dude’s form is off a cliff and his body language reeks of someone who’s made a huge mistake. Then at 4 is Xander Schauffele, who is in his 30s, but only just, so let’s not rule him out just yet. What will make me turn on the Californian is his apparently lack of killer instinct. He’s a major championship and PGA Tour top-ten machine. Sadly he closes like a revolving door.  

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy was the last player ranked No 1 in the world to win the PGA Championship. (Credit: Getty Images)

At 3 is Wyndham Clark, whose short major career is somewhat Micheelian with that US Open win surrounded by missed cuts and ties for 70-something. His PGA Tour form, which includes a win and top-three finishes in some huge events might just tip him onto the shortlist. At 2, of course, is Rory McIlroy. As if he’s 35, by the way. When did that happen? Other than that, his PGA Championship record is ludicrous, with two wins and a bunch of top-tens, including in the last couple of outings. His PGA Tour form is decent, too, including that win at the Zurich alongside his karaoke partner Shane Lowry. 

And finally, we get to 1. Scott Alexander Scheffler. The top-ranked player in almost every metric – and by a considerable margin. 

But does he fit the profile of a recent PGA champion? Well, he’s 27, playing in his fifth Championship, a tournament in which he already has three top-tens, he has two major wins, and his PGA Tour record this season reads T5, T17, T6, T3, T10, 1, 1, T2, 1, 1.  

This was all just a great big waste of time, wasn’t it? 

And yet, somehow, he isn’t my pick to win.

He isn’t your pick to win?

Nope. Allow me to explain.

There’s someone quite significant missing from the top 15. Someone who, had he not moved to LIV, would be comfortably in there. You’re ahead of me, aren’t you? The defending champion, and three time PGA winner, Brooks Koepka.

Koepka left Augusta a frustrated figure. His Masters record is very good, but he was in curious form. The week before, in Miami, Koepka finished 46th in the 54-man field – sandwiched between Kalle Samooja and Jinichiro Kozuma and 18 shots behind champion Dean Burmester.

• 7 players who somehow never won the PGA

• The incredible history of the Wanamaker Trophy

Koepka was clearly irritated a couple of weeks ago in Singapore – his last competitive outing before his Valhalla defence. When asked how he felt ahead of the tournament, he snapped: “Clearly not very good, with Augusta the way that it went. I felt like I wasted all the time from December until then. I’ll just keep grinding away, keep doing the work, and hopefully something will turn around.” 

And turn around it did.  

Three days later, Koepka was lifting his fourth LIV Golf trophy – the first player to reach that number in the breakaway league. Winning for the first time in front of his infant son, Crew, was something he had described as “a dream”. But in the more formal setting of the post-round interviews, Koepka was back to business, showing little emotion as he discussed his victory.  

We shouldn’t be surprised. This is a man who has made no secret of the fact that major championships are the only tournaments that mean anything to him. And that’s reflected in his record. He has more major wins than he does regular PGA Tour wins. He has more major titles than he does LIV titles.  

He spends more time than anyone on the ‘List of Men’s Major Championships Winning Golfers’ Wikipedia page. He knows precisely how many of his peers are ahead of him in the pecking order.  

So when he has a week like he did recently at Augusta, which he described as an “embarrassment”, it hurts. And no amount of LIV victories, or tens of millions of dollars pumped into his bank account, is going to change that.   

He just wants to get his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy again. And then the focus will turn to a third US Open gold medal, then a first Claret Jug, then another go at the Green Jacket.

PGA Championship how to watch
Brooks Koepka won his third PGA Championship and fifth major in 2023. (Credit: Getty Images)

“Augusta really kicked things into overdrive for me and really having to put my nose down and grind it a little bit harder,” he added. 

“It’s all starting to come around. I’ve put in a lot of work, and it’s been a good two weeks to say the least.” 

So, should the rest of the field be afraid?

This is Koepka’s PGA record: T70, T15, T5, T4, T13, 1, 1, T29, T2, T55, 1.

Eleven starts. Eleven cuts made. Three wins. Six top tens.

And, as my fellow number cruncher Michael McEwan points out, he has made more money from this tournament than any other player. Ever.

Don’t worry, he’s done the maths for you: $9,338,764.

A fourth Wanamaker this week will mean only Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus have won golf’s professional major more times than Koepka. You wouldn’t bet against him tying their record or, indeed, pulling clear. 

If he beats Scheffler, he’ll have a chance.

We’ve previewed the PGA Championship in much more detail on The bunkered Podcast – so make sure you’re subscribed!

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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