6 Biggest Storylines Ahead Of The 2023 PGA Championship

Here are some of the main talking points ahead of the second men's Major of the year

A picture of Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Seth Waugh, Rory McIlroy and the PGA Championship trophy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The second men's Major of the year is upon us, as the best golfers in the world prepare to battle it out at the 2023 PGA Championship.

Oak Hill is the venue for this year's showdown, meaning it's likely players are going to have to overcome more than just the golf course if they want to get their hands on the beast that is the Wanamaker Trophy.

Located in America's cold north-east, weather tends to wreak havoc on any great championship held over Oak Hill's East Course in Rochester, New York, and there's no reason to expect that trend to be bucked this week.

But it's not just the temperature outside that is likely to be frosty. The times they have a changed and Majors now hold extra significance as the only occasions when golf's warring tribes - LIV Golf and the PGA/DP World Tours - come together. And for all the players remain respectful to each other, further up the command chain, the same cannot be said.

We delve into all that plus more in six of the biggest storylines ahead of the 2023 PGA Championship...

Justin Thomas holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2022 PGA Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

LIV Golf vs The PGA 

Most of the Major organisations have maintained a fairly neutral stance on LIV Golf. None have lauded it with any hint of praise but neither have they aimed what could be considered strong disdain in its direction. That is until PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh spoke to The Times last week.

According to Waugh, who also sits on the OWGR board, LIV's entire business model is "flawed." He also said the only way the Greg Norman-fronted enterprise will survive is if it agrees a settlement with the PGA Tour. 

"I don’t think people really care about it," Waugh added. "And I don’t see how it’s a survivable business model. They can fund it for as long as they want to, but no matter how much money you have, at some point burning it doesn’t feel very good. I don’t see they are accomplishing much."

Eighteen LIV golfers were eligible for this year's PGA, with 17 set to feature following Martin Kaymer's withdrawal. Among them, two-time PGA champion Phil Mickelson wasn't best pleased that some of his colleagues didn't receive an invite, and let his feelings be known in a now deleted tweet.

Could be an awkward presentation ceremony should one of the LIV contingent emerge victorious...

Will home comforts help Rory end drought?

Rory McIlroy, as ever, will come into the tournament as one of the favourites, despite his iffy form. The Northern Irishman had a Masters to forget and required a few weeks off to recover mentally from his Augusta National horror show. A T47 at the Wells Fargo Championship in his only start since will have done little to ease concerns about his winning credentials, but perhaps that is what makes him one to watch this week. That and the fact he is a member of Oak Hill and describes Rochester as "almost a second home."

Rory McIlroy smiling during a practice round ahead of the 2023 PGA Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

McIlroy's wife, Erica Stoll, is from the area, meaning there will be some familiarity for the 34-year-old as he bids to end a nine-year Major drought. Recent course changes should also work in his favour. At almost 7,400 yards and with a plethora of trees removed, McIlroy will be able to lean on his driving more than he could in 2013, when he admitted it was a layout that didn't really suit his eye.

He's perhaps coming into this Major more under the radar than he has in quite some time, which could be just what he needs to get over his slump in the game's marquee events.

Ryder Cup ramifications

The Ryder Cup puzzle has been largely solved for Team Europe, following the DP World Tour's victory in its legal dispute against 12 LIV Golf players. Sports Resolutions UK ruled that Keith Pelley acted reasonably in sanctioning players for teeing it up in the inaugural LIV event without a conflicting-event release, forcing the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson to resign their memberships, thereby easing Luke Donald's Ryder Cup headache.

However, on the US side, players can still qualify for Zach Johnson's team. Their hopes are still slim given they cannot earn points through LIV Golf and remain suspended from the PGA Tour, but good finishes in the four Majors might be enough to book them a seat on the plane to Rome, whether automatically or through a captain's pick.

Brooks Koepka, Mickelson and Patrick Reed all finished in the top five at Augusta, while Dustin Johnson comes into the PGA Championship on the back of his first LIV win of the season. It's hard to argue at least some of those names wouldn't bolster the American ranks, on paper anyway...

Phil's belated defence

Mickelson chose to skip last year's tournament as the fallout from his controversial remarks about LIV Golf's Saudi bankrollers continued. The left-hander admitted to author Alan Shipnuck he was merely using the breakaway series to "leverage" more money out of the PGA Tour before ironically agreeing to join LIV Golf for a signing-on fee reported to be in the region of $200 million. 

Phil Mickelson sizing up a shot at the 2021 PGA Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That means his last appearance in the PGA Championship was his epic victory in 2021 at Kiawah Island, where he became the oldest Major champion in history at the age of 50, eclipsing Julius Boros by two years. No matter was has happened since, it was one of the greatest feats by any golfer ever. 

Now, Mickelson returns to the event where he will be looking to build on his surprise second-place finish at The Masters and defend the title he won in 2021, which remains his most recent victory on any tour. Given his objections to the way LIV Golf has been treated by the game's established institutions, a win this week would likely carry even more significance, and he would be just the man to pull it off.

The weather

As mentioned, conditions are certain to play a pivotal role in determining the outcome. The course is virtually in Canada it's that far north, so expect to see players battling the elements as well as their 155 opponents.

All things considered, the forecast is reasonable, with light winds and only a small amount of rain set to descend upon Rochester, but the temperature is to be cold, far colder than these players are used to in the sunnier climes of a regular PGA Tour stop.

That means the 7,400-yarder is going to play all of that and more, meaning it will require both skill and strength to tame Oak Hill. 

Beware the injured golfer

Like McIlroy at The Masters, every time the PGA Championship rolls around Jordan Spieth has another chance to complete the career grand slam. However, the Texan is battling an untimely wrist injury that ruled him out of the AT&T Byron Nelson. 

Jordan Spieth hitting a shot during the second round of the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It remains to be seen whether he will tee it up at Oak Hill, but should he decide he is fit enough, this more low-key preparation for the highly strung three-time Major champion could prove to be just what is required. He was, after all, in good form prior to his injury. It's a long shot, of course, in an age of massive strength in depth, but as the old saying goes, 'Beware the injured golfer'.

Andrew Wright
Freelance News Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he decided to go freelance and now covers a variety of topics for Golf Monthly. 

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Mizuno mp32 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x