Where: Augusta National, Georgia, USA
When: April 11-14
Defending champion: Jon Rahm
2023 purse: $18m
With so many recent major winners now on the LIV pay roll, and thus banned from competing on the PGA Tour, the majors present the only chance for golf fans to see the world’s best players all competing alongside each other, adding further tension and excitement to what are already must-watch events.
This year’s renewal of the Masters will have some extra added spice as its defending champion is none other than Jon Rahm, who jumped ship from the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf over the winter for a truly eye-watering sum of money.
The burly Spaniard joins the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel as past Masters champions who also signed up to LIV, and there’s a big chance that Rahm will join Bubba as a dual winner and the first to win back-to-back Masters since Tiger Woods back in 2001-02.
Talking of Tiger, there’s a big chance that the five-time Masters champ will tee it up again if his body can hold together until April. Having limped out of the event after 54 holes in 2023, it will be incredible if he makes the cut, let alone completes 72 holes, this time around, but you can bet that the TV cameras will be glued to his every move.
In other story lines, Rory McIlroy will once again hope to divert attention from what will be his 16th attempt to get his hands on a Green Jacket and complete the grand slam of major titles. This year also marks a decade since his last Major victory. Hard to believe, eh?
US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Valhalla Golf Club, Kentucky, USA
When: May 16-19
Defending champion: Brooks Koepka
2023 purse: $17.5m
The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla for the first time since Rory McIlroy’s victory in 2014, while McIlroy, quite incredibly, returns to the Kentucky venue looking for his first major victory since then.
Last year’s winner Brooks Koepka could emulate Tiger Woods by going back-to-back in the PGA Championship for a second time, while return to form player Jordan Spieth still needs the Wanamaker Trophy to complete the career grand slam.
As for the course, it was laid out by Jack Nicklaus and has a particularly unique design, with room off the tee to find the links-style fairways and a premium on accurate iron play. Measuring 7,458 yards, the par-71 layout has plenty of strong par 4s and also a gettable closing par five with a horseshoe-shaped green which provides the opportunity for dramatic swings of fortune if the tournament goes down to the wire.
Phil Mickelson says of Valhalla: “The fairways are always generous. I think the biggest thing is coming into the greens – the higher and softer you hit the ball, the more birdies you’ll be able to make.”
Where: Pinehurst Resort, Course No.2, North Carolina, USA
When: June 13-16
Defending champion: Wyndham Clark
2023 purse: $20m
Pinehurst No.2 is the only course to have hosted all five of the USGA’s most important events: US Open (1999, 2005, 2014), US Women’s Open (2014), US Amateur (1962, 2008, 2019), US Women’s Amateur (1989) and US Senior Open (1994).
Martin Kaymer won the last US Open here in 2014, but it’s probably better known as the course where Payne Stewart won his third Major in 1999 – two months before his tragic death in a plane crash – and where qualifier Michael Campbell became the first Challenge Tour graduate to win a Major, holding off Tiger Woods in spectacular fashion in 2005.
First opened in 1907 and designed by Donald Ross, Pinehurst No.2 is considered his best work and he continued to perfect it until his death in 1948. The 7,543-yard, par-70 course is famous for its exceptionally difficult upturned saucer greens, which are a signature of Ross designs. With three of the par 4s measure over 500 yards, and only two par fives – one if which is over 600 yards – scoring at The 124th US Open will not be low.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Royal Troon Golf Club, Scotland
When: July 18-21
Defending champion: Brian Harman
2023 purse: $16.5m
Following a shift in the schedule several years ago, The Open Championship now presents the last chance for Major glory in the season, and with that comes some added tension, especially if Rory has still yet to bag one.
Troon, which will be hosting its 10th Open this year, traditionally comes quite low down in the list in terms of crowds, but with the R&A operating a new policy of pre-selling tickets, it is likely that a new record will be set for spectator attendance in 2024.
The course has a habit of throwing up surprise winners like Justin Leonard (1997) and Todd Hamilton (2004), although the 2016 Championship saw the in-form Henrik Stenson prevail in a mesmerising duel with the magician that is Phil Mickelson, with both setting scoring records along the way.
First opened for play in 1878, Troon, like many classic links, is designed in a traditional out-and-back style, where the coastal wind can be your friend and as much as your enemy – although more often the latter. The club’s motto is ‘Tam Arte Quam Marte’ a latin phrase that translates ‘As much by skill as by strength’, which is a fitting description of how the course needs to be played. Requiring pinpoint accuracy and careful course management, Troon tends to favour players who are able to remain patient, rather than those that seek to overpower it with brute force.
Although famed for its 123-yard par-3 8th, the Postage Stamp – where the record highest score is 15 in the 1950 Open – it is a player’s performance on the long par fours, including the 483-yard 11th hole, that usually determines the destination of the Claret Jug.