A record 42 European Tour Members will tee up for the final Major Championship of the 2003 season – including seven players making their debut in the event – when the US PGA Championship gets under way at Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York.
Brian Davis, Luke Donald, Bradley Dredge, Gary Evans, Alastair Forsyth, Trevor Immelman and Fredrik Jacobson will all participate for the first time over the course where Europe won The 31st Ryder Cup Matches under the leadership of Bernard Gallacher eight years ago.
The European entry originally totalled 43, six higher than the previous best total of 36 last year, but 1999 Open Golf Champion Paul Lawrie of Scotland was forced to withdraw due to an on-going neck problem which caused him to suffer headaches.
However there is no shortage of quality or quantity in the field which also contains every member of Europe’s 2002 Ryder Cup Team and seven European Tour Members to have won Major Championships - John Daly, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, José Maria Olazábal and Vijay Singh.
Denmark’s Thomas Björn resumes the quest for his first Major Championship less than a month after his exploits at Royal St George’s when he had victory in his sights but ultimately finished second behind American Ben Curtis in the Open Golf Championship.
Björn has continued in that rich vein of form, finishing second once more in the Nissan Irish Open behind Michael Campbell, who is also in the field at Oak Hill. Another Scandinavian eager to return to the Major stage is Jacobson, who made a huge impact in both the US Open Championship and the Open Championship.
Jacobson, a dual winner on The European Tour International Schedule in 2003, shared fifth place in the former at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois in June then tied for sixth after another mature performance at Royal St George’s.
Australian Stephen Leaney crosses the ocean to resume his quest for a Major after coming close in the US Open Championship, finishing runner-up behind Jim Furyk.
Construction work at Oak Hill began under the supervision of Scottish architect, Donald Ross, in 1923 and both the East and West Courses were open for play in 1926. The East Course has been the site of four Major Championships, three US Open Championships and one US PGA Championship.
Oak Hill, of course, was also the venue for Europe’s 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory over the United States in the 1995 Ryder Cup, which represented only the second time that Europe had won on American soil.
The course record is 64, six under par, established by Ben Hogan in 1942 and matched by 2002 US Ryder Cup Captain, Curtis Strange, on his way to victory in the 1989 US Open Championship.