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Golf notebook: PGA Championship to return to Valhalla GC

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- The PGA Championship will return to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. in 2024, it was reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.

The newspaper said a formal announcement will be made on Thursday.

Justin Thomas, a native of Louisville who captured his first major title in the PGA in August by two strokes over Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari of Italy and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at Quail Hollow, welcomed the news.

"Can't put into words how much this excited me to hear," Thomas wrote in a Twitter post. "The PGAChampionship is coming to the 502 (area code) again!! #louisvilleproud."

This will be the fourth time the PGA will be played at Valhalla, which has been at least partially owned by the PGA of America since 1993. The organization acquired full ownership in 2000.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Valhalla first hosted the PGA Championship in 1996, when Mark Brooks defeated Kentucky native Kenny Perry in a playoff.

The PGA returned in 2000, when Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a playoff, and Rory McIlroy claimed the final major of the year by one stroke over Phil Mickelson in 2014.

McIlroy's victory was memorable because it came in semi-darkness, but that probably will not happen in 2024 because the PGA Championship will be moved from August to May beginning in 2019.

--Robert "R.J." Harper, who worked at Pebble Beach Golf Links for 32 years and rose from course marshal to vice president and head of golf operations, died after a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

Harper, whose first job at Pebble paid $5 an hour, eventually became known as "Mr. Pebble Beach."

"R.J. had a lasting impact on Pebble Beach, and his smile, vibrant personality, and positive attitude and outlook on life will be missed by all, and never forgotten," Pebble Beach Company CEO Bill Perocchi said.

Harper grew up in Memphis, Tenn., graduated in 1978 from Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football and baseball, and is a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. He received his Masters degree in Education at from East Stroudsburg University (in Pennsylvania).

After teaching English and coaching football and girls' basketball at a high school in Miami, Harper showed up at Pebble Beach in 1985 looking for a job.

Harper was head golf pro at Pebble during the 1992 U.S. Open, championship director of the 2000 U.S. Open and general chairman for the 2010 and 2019 U.S. Opens.

During his final months, he helped Pebble Beach land the U.S. Women's Open for the first time in 2023.

Harper is survived by his sons, Tucker and JT; his grandsons, Caden and Hudson; his former wife, Kelly (Yost) Harper; and his sister, Cathy Carr.

--Sung Hyun Park of South Korea became the first rookie in LPGA Tour history to reach the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, but it lasted for only a week.

Shanshan Feng of China took the top spot from Park on Saturday by winning for the second straight week in the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island, China, but it doesn't minimize what Park has done in her first season on the LPGA Tour.

Park tied for third behind Feng, posting her ninth top-10 finish of the season and 18th in the top 25 on the circuit this season. She has made the cut in all 22 tournaments she has played.

"It is a great honor to me and my family," Park said of moving to No. 1 a week earlier. "There won't be any changes because of the ranking. I believe my future play is more important than the fact that I moved up in the ranking."

The 24-year-old Park moved past fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu, who held the position for the previous 19 weeks and she became the fourth golfer from her country to lead the rankings, joining Ryu, Inbee Park (who held the spot for 92 weeks) and Jiyai Shin (25 weeks).

Park, who clinched the points-based Rookie of the Year award with five events remaining on the schedule, claimed her first LPGA Tour victory in the U.S. Women's Open Championship in July by two strokes over amateur Hye-jin Choi of South Korea at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

She followed that in August with a two-stroke victory over Mirim Lee, also of South Korea, at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

Park has a chance to join LPGA legend Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only players to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.

--Henrik Stenson of Sweden, defending champion in the Race to Dubai who is 13th in the point standings this season, withdrew from the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week in South Africa, next-to-last event of the European Tour season.

Stenson, who lost two spots in the ranking by not playing, has been resting and receiving treatment for a bone bruise in his rib cage and hopes to play this week in the season-ending DP World Championship-Dubai, which he has won twice.

"I'm disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, as I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour," said Stenson, who also won the Race to Dubai in 2013.

"At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point."

There has been speculation that Stenson sustained the injury while being hoisted in a harness to simulate Superman for a TV commercial to promote the WGC-HSBC Champions a few weeks ago in China.

Stenson denied the claim, even though when he first announced the injury he said: "I'm not Superman, even though certain people thought I was Superman."

In announcing his withdrawal from the Nedbank Golf Challenge, he said: "My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them.

"I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event, and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal.

"The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100 percent."

Stenson captured the finale in Dubai in 2013 and 2014.

--When Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf next month for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Resort on the Bahamas, Joe LaCava will be back on the bag.

Woods, returning from his fourth back surgery in recent years, tried to line up LaCava for a few other jobs since he hasn't been able to play since February.

"I told him, 'Hey, if you want, I can go out and get you a bag, get one of these young, upcoming guys, and you can go out and caddie for them," Woods said. "'Hopefully you enjoy it and love it, but when I come back, I hope that I can call you up and maybe pry you away from that bag for a little bit.'

"And (LaCava) said, 'No, no, I'm committed to you. I'm committed to your return and you playing golf again.' ... I know how much he misses being out there; I miss being out there, too."

According to the Golf Channel, Woods has continued to pay LaCava his full salary, even though Woods has not played much since 2015.

--Steve Williams of New Zealand confirmed that 2018 will be his final year as a caddie, ending a career that began in 1979.

Williams was on the bag for Woods during the heart of his career from 1999 to 2011, and also caddied for golf greats Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott, all from Australia, and Raymond Floyd.

Woods was No. 1 in the world for much of their time together and he claimed 13 of his 14 majors titles in that span.

"Next year will probably be, certainly be, absolutely my last year of caddying," the 44-year-old Williams told ISeekGolf. "The only reason I'd like to caddie next year is that it's sort of a personal milestone: It'll be 40 years next year.

"I'll caddy a few tournaments. I'm not sure who for yet, but I'll just caddie a handful of tournaments next year and that'll be it."

In the last few years, Williams has caddied part-time for Scott, who claimed his only major title with the Kiwi alongside in the 2013 Masters.

However, Scott plans to hire a full-time caddie.

Williams has been playing more golf with his buddies at home in Auckland, and has lowered his handicap to 6.9, and also didn't rule out a new career as an on-course golf commentator.

"You don't say no to anything," Williams said. "It's a possibility."

Jim "Bones" Mackay has been a hit on the Golf Channel since he ended his career as Phil Mickelson's caddie last season.

Updated November 13, 2017

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