This week we get to see the PGA Championship held in an earlier-than-usual slot. The decision to move to May was made to give this event similar importance to the other three majors on the calendar, rather than getting lost in end-of-season festivities, and it should grab the players’ attention accordingly.
The FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup were always on the players’ mind when teeing it up here in August, but now they can focus solely on this event, with a lot of players at the peak of their season form at the moment. This should make for a wonderfully contested event and given the host course, we should see a lot of tough golf being played.
Tiger Woods will be looking for back-to-back major wins, for the first time since 2008 and his record at Bethpage Black suggests that’s entirely possible. A winner of the US Open here in 2002, and also 9th again 7 years later in the same event, Woods has some good memories of this place.
Defending champion, Brooks Koepka will be looking to turn the tables again this week, as he beat Woods to win this event last August, before the latter got the better of him at Augusta last month. He’s a great competitor at this level and he’ll be looking for a fourth major win in three seasons.
Koepka’s pal and World No.1, Dustin Johnson has some unfinished business in this event and his talent level deserves more than the one major championship win he has to his name so far. A consistent WGC and regular event winner, it’s now time for DJ to step it up a gear at this level.
Rory McIlroy will look to put his Augusta woes behind him, and pick up a third win at this championship and he will take confidence from his 10th place finish at the U.S Open here a decade ago.
Elsewhere one of the favourites, Justin Thomas has had to withdraw due to a wrist injury, while Justin Rose, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler will also be focal points this week.
The course and what it will take to win
Bethpage State Park (Black Course), 7,468 Yards, Par 70.
This course is a brutally long Par 70 which will have to be respected especially if you stray from the fairway. The rough is fairly penal here and the wet conditions will make it harder to advance your ball, but with its length the chance to be safe and club down off the tee isn’t going to be a regular option here.
The small, elevated Poa Annua greens will need to be hit with regularity and a wicked short game will of course be central to any success, especially if the greens have been missed. You can win on this course without being a fantastic putter all week, but on Championship Sunday, the pressure putts still need to be holed.
Bethpage Black is not somewhere you will want to play catch up, so a fast start is imperative, so we should have a good idea by the weekend who is going to be on contention come Sunday.
If the winning score gets into double-digits it would be a surprise, as the four events it’s hosted (2002 & 2009 US Open, 2012 & 2016 Barclays) the winning score has reached -10 just once. The setup won’t be as tough as it was for the US Open’s, where Par was a good score (-3 and -4 won), but it should be at least as challenging as it was for the FedEx Playoff events held here.
Form at other Tillinghast designs will point you in the right direction, so results at; Ridgewood Country Club (2018 Northern Trust, 2008, 2010, 2014 Barclays) and Baltusrol (2005 & 2016 PGA Championship) are worth noting..
Those that have played well at Quail Hollow, the host venue for the Wells Fargo Championship which was contested two weeks ago, should also be considered. Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover both won US Open’s here and have also won at Quail Hollow, while Nick Watney and Patrick Reed, the winners of the Barclays in 2012 and 2016 respectively, have also finished 2nd at Quail. It makes sense given that the course is regularly considered a major test and also played host to this event two years ago.
Key stats this week:
Greens in Regulation
Jason Day 22/1 (Betfair 10 places) 2pts e/w:
Despite Jason Day seemingly being made of glass, he still puts in strong performances in big events and that has continued in recent starts.
The Aussie finished 8th at the Players but it should have been better, as he played the Par 5’s terribly. Day also took his form to Augusta and finished a very respectable T5, another strong major finish for the collection. A T24 finish last time out, where only a third-round 74 at Quail Hollow cost him, is another good pointer that Day is in the sort of form he needs to be to win this event. Quail Hollow form as we have already discussed is a great pointer for this event, and Day enjoys Tillinghast designs full stop. As confirmed by the Josh Culp over at Futureoffantasy.com, Day plays Tillinghast’s courses better than anyone else.
He won this event at Whistling Straits and finished 2nd at Baltusrol in 2016. He also finished T5 at the 2010 Barclays (Ridgewood), so on Tillinghast’s triumphs he’s got some form. His course form here suggests he’s also got to be considered one of the favourites. 24th at the 2012 Barclays and 4th in the same event in 2016, Day clearly enjoys Bethpage as much as he enjoys its creators’ other courses.
A T9 finish at the 2017 PGA Championship is also noteworthy given it came at Quail.
Day will be comfortable in the soft conditions, as he gets it out there off the tee a long way. His touch on and around the greens should also serve him well as he’s a formidable putter on Poa Annua surfaces, ranking 2nd behind only Dustin Johnson in Poa Annua Performance, according to futureoffantasy.com .
With 15 top-10’s in 34 major starts, Day clearly bases his season around success in these events, and it’s now time he won a second major championship.
All in all, Day has been close to winning all season and this major has come at the very best time for him to double his major tally. 22/1 with a generous 10 places on offer is a price that is difficult to ignore.
Sergio Garcia 40/1 (SkyBet 10 places) 1.5pts e/w:
Despite being in the news for all the wrong reasons again this year, Garcia has still managed to get his head down and produce some wonderful results, at a consistent clip.
The Spaniard finished T4 a fortnight ago at Quail Hollow to add to his five other top-10 finishes in stroke play events this season. He also went close at Quail way back in 2005 but threw away a six-shot lead thru 54 holes to lose the event in a play-off. If form at Quail is as reliable as it suggests, this could be a great omen for him.
Garcia has played at Bethpage Black three times, finishing 4th (2002 US Open), 10th (2009 US Open) and 3rd (2012 Barclays), making him one of the best players at this venue in recent years. He didn’t play in the 2016 Barclays, so it’s been a while since he teed it up here but given his form, he should be able to channel the positive vibes from years ago.
While Garcia’s weakness has long been his putting, he continues to rank amongst the very best in ball striking and he also sits 12th in performance on Poa Annua surfaces, so the greens at this course he enjoys shouldn’t phase him.
Garcia has missed his last six major cuts which is an obvious reason for concern, as he has been adjusting to life as a major champion as opposed to a nearly man and he’s clearly gone the wrong way. Some thrive after winning their first, whilst others cower away and the fear at the moment is that Garcia is heading that way. This course is perfect for his game though, and his form has been excellent since August last year so I see no real reason why he can’t compete this week. He was in the doldrums for most of 2018, which is where four of six missed cuts in these events came from but he’s been rejuvenated since the Ryder Cup last year and he can buck the major struggles here.
There was better odds available earlier in the week but I still think 40/1 with 10 places in plenty enough, with the previous prices of 66/1 and 50/1 just wrong in my opinion. There’s always going to be question marks over his bottle, especially in this big events, but now a Masters winner, if the course suits then there’s no reason a trophy cannot follow.
Patrick Cantlay 40/1 (SkyBet 10 Places) 1pt e/w:
After an eagle at the 15th hole on Sunday of the Masters, Cantlay held the lead, but two bogeys in his last three holes saw him fall quickly out of contention.
It was disappointing to see Cantlay stick it in reverse immediately after hitting the front at Augusta, but it’s not wholly surprising. For all of his talents, he’s still new to contending at the top level, with just one Tour win to his name. Add another notch for it being the Masters and another as he was trying to deny Tiger Woods his first major win in 11 years and he can certainly be forgiven.
Apart from Driving Accuracy, Cantlay’s game this season and indeed over the past three years looks perfect for the test in front of him here at Bethpage and if he can strike it as well as he did at the Masters and the Heritage than there’s no reason he can’t compete again.
He’s never played the course in tournament play, due to his ongoing issues that kept him off the course until 2017, but he played at The Northern Trust last year, finishing in a tie for 8th at Ridgewood.
Form at another Tillinghast design (Ridgewood) gives some reason for optimism but what I really like about Cantlay was his bounce-back at the Heritage. One week removed from letting a major championship slip from his grasp, Cantlay turned up to one of the tougher golf courses on the Tour and finished in a tie for 3rd. He was just two shots adrift of eventual winner, C.T Pan, and that can be put down to a second-round 72.
At 40/1 there are plenty of other options available but I am intrigued to see what Cantlay will do after going so close at Augusta and backing that up a week later and I think he’s bound to win again soon.
Louis Oosthuizen 60/1 (SkyBet 10 Places) 1pt e/w:
Like Jason Day, much of Oosthuizen’s career has been blighted with injuries, but he seems to have put those to one side in recent years and that may allow him to double his major tally.
Already a major winner, thanks to his win at the 2010 Open Championship, Oosthuizen completed the unwanted record of finishing 2nd at each of the other three majors, after finishing 2nd in this event in 2017 at Quail Hollow. That 2nd at Quail is expected to be a significant pointer to success this week, so that’s certainly worth keeping in mind when considering the South African.
After missing his first two cuts in this event, he has been largely steady T21-T15-T30-T22-T2. Only his runner up finish two years ago really stands out, but he was solid at Baltusrol in 2016, never shooting over par (68-70-70-68) but just couldn’t go low enough to contend.
On this course, Oosthuizen has finished 5th (2012 Barclays) and 18th (2016 Barclays) and he’ll been looking to improve on both of those results here.
It looked like it would be another good week for Oosthuizen at Augusta, as he sat in 7th place going into the final round but a final-round 76 saw him tumble 22 places instead of contending.
An excellent driver of the ball for much of his career, Oosthuizen currently sits 6th in Total Driving and he’s both long and accurate enough to navigate this course off the tee here.
His form hasn’t been the best this season, which is allowing him to come in slightly under the radar but a T2 finish at the Valspar Championship, on a course which tests all aspects of your game, much like Bethpage does, suggests Louis can get it rolling here.
If he had not capitulated at Augusta last time out I’m sure there would be a lot more buzz around Oosthuizen, and I am prepared to discount one bad round at Augusta National and give him another chance here. It feels like he should have played since then, but he’s decided to rest and we will find out on Sunday if that paid dividends. At 60/1 this steady major performer is worth a punt.
Aaron Wise 110/1 (SkyBet 8 Places) 0.5pt e/w:
Aaron Wise was last year’s Rookie of the Year and it was easy to see why. A winner at the Byron Nelson and a whole host of top-20 finishes, Wise continued his habit of winning.
He won individual and team (Oregon) title in the NCAA in 2016, then won on the Web.com in 2017 before seamlessly making the transition on the PGA Tour, winning again in 2018.
Not only did Wise get his win at the Byron Nelson, but he came very close to winning at Quail Hollow the week before and that as we have already suggested is a positive factor to consider.
He finished 18th again at Quail Hollow two weeks ago, and has clearly tried to play his way into this event as opposed to taking the week off. A bullish approach, but he’s clearly swinging the club well and whilst he mentally checked out last week in Texas, he should be right back on it, here at Bethpage.
Wise has not encountered this course in tournament play yet, but he finished T5 at the Northern Trust at Ridgewood last year which is obviously pleasing for his chances.
After a tough opening round (75) at the Masters, Wise played exceptionally well over the next thee days to climb into 17th place, an impressive feat on his course debut.
We have seen already that he’s not afraid of tough competition or golf courses with two of his top-3 best finishes coming at correlating events (Wells Fargo, Northern Trust) and he also boasts a T6 finish at a WGC (2018 Bridgestone) so it’s clear as day that Wise is cut out for this level. He ranks 19th in Total Driving which is a key area this week and at 110/1 with 10 places on offer, Wise looks a good outside bet this week.
Total Points staked this week: 10
Profit/Loss for 2019: -80.1