82nd US PGA Championship
82nd US PGA Championship
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Event Features
Valhalla the exception in more ways than one
Mark Brooks looks forward to return to Valhalla
Ed Fryatt in as Steve Elkington withdraws
Lee Westwood leads European challenge
Is PGA really the poor man's Major ?
David Duval withdraws with back injury
Valhalla will prove a bluegrass test for everyone
Greg Norman wants golf to be an Olympic sport
Tiger Woods chasing down history
Mickelson might be the leading challenger
Appleby has plan to stop Woods
Press conferences - Curtis Strange, Greg Norman, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman, Sergio Garcia, Mark Brooks, Vijay Singh
Sergio Garcia hoping to go one better in 2000
Ernie Els hoping to shake off runner up tag
Montgomerie hoping improved fitness will improve game
Jack Nicklaus plays on despite mothers death
New playoff format could add to drama

Valhalla the exception in more ways than one

Jim Furyk has not been to Valhalla Golf Club since the PGA Championship was played there in 1996. But as he sat in front of his locker today and laced up his shoes for his first practice round, he already had an idea of what to expect.

Furyk kept his yardage book from four years ago and thumbed through the pages to refresh his memory. That's a luxury the 30-year-old doesn't have with most other major championships.

"It's rare to come into a major having already played the course,'' he said.

Indeed, Valhalla is an exception in more ways that one.

In the most heralded year of majors, it follows on the heels of Augusta National, Pebble Beach, and St. Andrews.

While Tiger Woods will be defending his title when the final major championship of the year begins Thursday, the PGA of America has been defending its selection of a course that is hardly steeped in tradition.

Valhalla only opened 14 years ago. The last time a major championship -- other than the Masters -- returned to the same course so quickly was in 1910, when the U.S. Open returned to Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Consider this: For the first time, the 24-year-old Woods will be playing a major championship on a course younger than he is.

"Tradition makes a lot of difference, especially in a player's own mind,'' said Steve Jones, who won the '96 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. "I won the U.S. Open and didn't care where that was because it was the Open. But you throw in Oakland Hills, to think my name goes on that rock next to Ben Hogan ... that's pretty awesome.''

The winner this week will go down in "history'' alongside Mark Brooks, who won his only major -- and his last tournament -- at Valhalla in '96.

Then again, Augusta National wasn't nearly as good when it opened in 1934. Pebble Beach was harshly criticized by the California Golf Association in its early years. Neither Bobby Jones nor Sam Snead fell in love with St. Andrews when they first saw it.

"This golf course only has 10 years of history to it,'' Loren Roberts said. "It's going to take 50 years to decide what this golf course is like. Fifty years from now, this might be one of the best championships played. It's just the fact the course is so new.''

And while Valhalla is far from a classic, the PGA Championship is still a major. That much has not been lost on the players who began arriving today to see huge crowds lining the fairways.

"I don't think anyone is going to feel lackluster about this week,'' Furyk said. "I hope they are because that'll mean less people who have to worry about.''

Don't count Woods among those who lose interest.

Woods, expected to arrive Tuesday, played Valhalla for the first time last week and began sizing up another run into the record books. The only other player to win three professional majors in one year was Hogan in 1953.

No one has really come close since. And no one has come close to Woods in the last two majors.

He won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, then became the youngest player to complete the Grand Slam with an eight-stroke victory in the British Open.

"If someone is going to set a record, it's going to be Tiger,'' Jones said. "Because that's all he is doing.''

The record score in relation to par at the PGA Championship is 17-under, set by Steve Elkington and Colin Montgomerie at Riviera in 1995. This is worth keeping in mind because Woods owns the records at the other three majors.

Whether Woods will have that much of an advantage at Valhalla is yet to be determined. Lee Janzen is among those who feel that because Valhalla looks more like an ordinary PGA Tour stop than a major championship venue, the playing field might be a little more level.

"I think we have a better chance of beating him here than anywhere else,'' Janzen said. "Guys remember the course and they have it their minds so when they come back, they have an idea what they're going to do.

"We were all pretty clueless the first time we were here.''

Then again, Woods has shown he has a game for all courses and all conditions. Along with winning 15 times in his last 29 tournaments, he has been a Sunday contender in the last six majors. He had never played Medinah, either, but won the PGA Championship there a year ago by one stroke over Sergio Garcia.

Hal Sutton, who beat Woods head-to-head in the prestigious Players Championship in March, was among those not ready to cede him another major.

"You know what?'' Sutton said after a heavy sigh. "He played great in the U.S. Open and the British Open. But this is the PGA."

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