By Len Ziehm

OCALA, FL. – Bizarre. I’d say that was the best way to sum up the 106th PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.

No question the golf was great.  So was the drama. Xander Schauffle was 21-under-par in finally winning a major championship on Sunday. You couldn’t beat the drama, either.  Bryson DeChambeau renewed the PGA Tour vs. LIV rivalry with a final-round charge that ended with him walking off the practice range, his chances at being in a playoff doomed when Schauffle’s six-foot birdie putt dropped on the 18th green to give him a one-stroke victory.

All that was well and good.  I’m afraid, though, that this PGA Championship will be better remembered for some strange things.

They started on Monday as players started arriving at Valhalla. Out came the report that Rory McIlroy had filed for divorce from Erica Stoll, his wife of seven years.

Divorces are sad things, but McIlroy’s timing was unfathomable. Here he’s coming off a big win at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday, then files for divorce the next day,  a few days before the next major championship – one where he had won in 2014.  A distraction, both for himself personally and for the tournament overall, was inevitable.  What was Rory thinking?

Stoll was quoted as saying, “There wouldn’t be a divorce if Rory was as faithful to me as he has been to Tiger.’’  To no one’s surprise, there was no comment from McIlroy. (Woods, incidentally, received little attention for good reason; he missed the cut after a second-round 77).

Anyway, the McIlroy scenario wasn’t the biggest news for long.  Scottie Scheffler, the world’s No. 1 player,  skipped the Wells Fargo the week before to adjust to becoming a father for the first time.  He got to Valhalla in good spirits until he drove to the course early on Friday for his second round.

An auto accident near the course led to the death of a man moments earlier, and Scheffler was arrested for an unrelated driving offense. He was slammed against the side of his car by a police officer, handcuffed, finger-printed, photographed in an orange jail shirt and put in a cell. He started his pre-round stretching there before a friendly police officer offered him a sandwich as he was being released.

Scheffler played well despite the unpleasant ordeal and – in sharp contrast to McIlroy – talked to the media for 13 minutes after his round, displaying concern for the family of the accident victim. How he regrouped to shoot 66 still amazes me. Scheffler faded in the third round, finishing in a tie for eighth.

His nightmare isn’t over, though.  Scheffler faces four charges, one a felony. His arraignment was to be on Tuesday, but it was later postponed until June 3.  Scheffler plans to play in the Charles Schwab Challenge this week in Texas.

There were a few other notable things that, of course, paled in comparison to the McIlroy and Scheffler episodes.

Steve Stricker’s withdrawal before the first round was noteworthy, though understandable. The 57-year old PGA Tour Champions star had tied for seventh in the 2014 PGA at Valhalla after playing his first Ryder Cup there in 2008. Those memories had Stricker looking forward to playing Valhalla again, even though he would be in the midst of playing three major championship in three weeks and making three title defenses in five — a stretch that even Woods didn’t have to face  during his heyday.

“I’m excited to get to play the PGA Championship in the middle of all this with the young guys,’’ Stricker had said.  Only he didn’t play.  After all, three Champions Tour majors coupled with his dual role as defender and host at his own tournament just became too much. He’s in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Michigan this week.

Collin Morikawa made five straight birdies in his Saturday round to get to the top of the leaderboard but didn’t make another until final hole on Sunday.  At least, as Schauffele’s playing partner,  he got a close-up view of the champion’s exquisite final round.

Jon Rahm, who had the longest streak of the season for avoiding missed cuts, missed this time.  Rahm had gone 18 tournaments before his letdown.  Now Hideki Matsuyama has the longest streak, at 16.

Schauffele’s 21-under-par 263 was a scoring record for a major championship.  He became the 11th wire to wire winner of the PGA, the first being Kentucky native Bobby Nichols in 1964. Shauffele’s first-round 62 tied a record in major championships and Shane Lowry matched it in the third round.  Only five players have shot that number in a major, and Schauffele has done it twice.  The first came in last year’s U.S. Open.

The nicest thing about the week, though, was a break in the frequently ugly confrontations between members of the PGA and LIV circuits.  LIV member Brooks Koepke won the PGA in 2023 and DeChambeau – with three birdies in the last six holes and two in the last three — made an emotional run at another win for the Saudi-backed circuit.  Though he didn’t get it, he was popular with the gallery and showed appropriate sportsmanship afterwards.

“I gave it my best and lost to someone who played incredibly well,’’ said DeChambeau.  “I put as much effort as I possibly could into it.  Xander is well-deserving of a major championship.’’

Kind words are especially nice to hear during these
turbulent times in professional golf.

Len Ziehm

Len has been covering golf for over 56 years. He was the golf columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 41 years and has been in the same role for the Daily Herald and several regional newspapers since 2009… Len is also a regular contributor to the Chicago District Golfer magazine and his travel pieces are regularly published in Pro Golf Weekly, New England.Golf, eSouthernGolf and the Ohio Golf Journal. His works for all publications are available at It is in its 15th year of operation and has been enhanced by the photography provided by his partner Joy Sarver… An inductee into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 (for his reporting and youth coaching, not as a player), Len was also inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2019. He is also on the Advisory Board of the International Network of Golf, is a lifetime member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a member of the Golf Travel Writers of America.

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