US PGA Championship preview

This week’s main event is a cracker… the second Major golf tournament of 2019 and in a change to the annual golfing schedule, the US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP moves from August to May.

So we now have Majors in each of April (US Masters), May (US PGA), June (US Open) and then July (the Open Championship).

Staged this year at one of America’s most iconic venues, Bethpage in New York State, it promises to be a great event.

Right, let’s get this week’s golf underway with a preview of the action Stateside…

 

The Tournament

Known as the US PGA or PGA Championship the event is run by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America. It started out as a matchplay tournament in 1916, switching to the current, and standard, strokeplay format in 1958. And although it’s not played at the same course each year, the custom with the PGA is that it’s usually staged towards the East of the mainland US – with New York State hosting the most renewals (13).  And to date only 10 times has the tournament been held “out West”.

The field is the normal 156, made up of the game’s leading players, past champions and special invites. There are also 20 places for players drawn from the Professional National Championship (a competition for club professionals), so there’s always a fair share of unknowns in the line-up. There have been 98 PGA champions – mostly US players! To date 80 times the trophy has been lifted by an American, then Australia (5), England, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Fiji & Northern Ireland (2 each) and Ireland, South Korea & Germany (all 1). Walter Hagen and Jack Nicklaus (5) have won the PGA most times, followed by Tiger Woods (4).

Formerly billed as “Glory’s last shot” – because it was the last Major of the calendar year – 2019 marks a new place in the schedule for the PGA Championship as it now slots in between the US Masters and the US Open.

 

The Course

This year the PGA is being played at Bethpage GC in Farmingdale, New York, on the famous (or rather infamous!) Black Course. Opened in 1936, the 18-hole layout – designed by renowned course architect A.W. Tillinghast – has hosted two previous US Opens (the latest in 2009) and The Barclays (part of the FedEx Cup series) in 2012. Regularly ranked among the top, and most difficult courses in America, Bethpage is a 7,432 yard par 70. And even if the course set-up isn’t as penal as it might be for, say the US Open, it remains some test for the players with the winning score most likely to be single figures under-par.

72-Hole Record – 265, David Toms (2001)

18-Hole Record – 63, Bruce Crampton (1975)

Last 10 Winners (and Top 5 places) –

(2018)  Brooks Koepka (Woods – Scott – Cink & Rahm)

(2017)  Justin Thomas (Molinari, Oosthuizen & Reed – Fowler & Matsuyama)

(2016)  Jimmy Walker (Day – Summerhays – Grace, Koepka & Matsuyama)

(2015)  Jason Day (Spieth – Grace – Rose – Koepka & Lahiri)

(2014)  Rory McIlroy  (Mickelson – Fowler & Stenson – Furyk & Palmer)

(2013)  Jason Dufner  (Furyk – Stenson – Blixt – Piercy & Scott)

(2012)  Rory McIlroy   (Lynn – Bradley, Pettersson, Poulter & Rose)

(2011)  Keegan Bradley (Dufner – Hansen – Karlsson, Toms & Verplank)

(2010)  Martin Kaymer (Watson – Johnson & McIlroy – Dufner, Elkington & Johnson)

(2009)  Y.E. Yang (Woods – McIlroy & Westwood – Glover)

 

The Field

It is a Major, but it’s standard PGA Tour numbers this week in terms of field-size. Dustin Johnson is the 11/1 favourite.

 

The Weather

Thursday looks to be the worst day with a 50% chance of rain, but things should clear up after Round 1 and provide good playing conditions over the weekend. Temperatures will hit the low 70s, wind speeds will be sub 10mph and there’ll be some light cloud cover. All in all, no inconvenience at all for this week’s players.

Tournament Tips

 

Justin Rose

“Rose rarely has an off week. Since switching to Honma, Rose has continued to churn out impressive displays and won on his third start with the new equipment, taking the title at the tough Torrey Pines. Since then Rose has finished 8th at the Players, and 3rd last time out at the Wells Fargo, which means he’s coming here with confidence high. He did miss the cut at the US Masters – which was very out of character, and I don’t think the former US Open Champion will want a repeat of that this week. Bethpage Black is set to play long and soft with thick wet gnarly rough waiting for the errant. There aren’t many better players on tough courses than Rose as his tee-to-green game is exemplary. Rose lost in a play-off at Aronimik in 2018 to Keegan Bradley which goes to show his ability to play Tallinghast designs well and his record at Firestone is also impressive with four Top 5’s in 11 years. Finally, if you needed any more persuading, Rose won the 2018 Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial CC – another of Tallinghast’s creations, which makes Rose an easy play this week. Rose has six wins worldwide from his last 35 strokeplay events which includes three runner-up finishes, and a further six top 5’s. He’s a must play this week.”

 

Jason Day

“Day is a tricky golfer to catch right… because you never know if he’s going to shoot 62 or pull out after 9 holes claiming to be injured! I’ve put some faith in him this week as his record on A.W Tillinghast designed golf courses is second to none. Tillinghast designed Bethpage Black, along with other great courses such as Baltusrol (2016 USPGA) and Aronimik (2018 Barclays). Day finished runner-up to Walker in the 2016 USPGA at Baltusrol, and 24th at Aronimik in 2018. Firestone CC is also a Tillinghast design and Day’s record in Ohio includes a 3rd, 4th and 10th place finish in the last seven years. The last time Bethpage hosted an event was at the 2016 Barclays championship – where Day finished 4th, which conclusively tells me Day is a fan of this week’s course architect. Obviously you need more than just a liking for certain courses to win a Major and I feel the Aussie is trending nicely. He finished 5th at the US Masters (just two shots off the pace with a third round 73 doing the damage that week). Then at his next strokeplay event he finished 24th at the Wells Fargo, and although this looks pretty average for a player of Day’s standing what impressed me is that he ranked inside the Top 10 for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, which is unheard of for Day. Prior to the Masters, Day had recorded three Top 8’s from his last four starts including a 4th and a 5th. Day has an incredible ability to compete most weeks he tees it up, and given his form this season, and liking for the course, and the course architect, he looks  certain to be in the mix come Sunday… baring any injuries he may pick up along the way!”

 

Sergio Garcia

“Garcia like the two players above very rarely has an off week and his form figures over the last nine months show this. Garcia has finished in the Top 10 on 12 occasions from his last 16 starts, which includes a win at the Valderamma Masters and five Top 5’s. This form is as good as anybody and this makes him a good bet alone, but when you look at his form at Bethpage Black it makes an even stronger case for the Spaniard. Garcia has played Bethpage Black three times and has finished no worse than 10th place. His latest outing was in 2012 when he finished 3rd at the Barclays. It’s no surprise that Garcia has a great record here considering its a course that demands solid driving and a sharp short game, both of which Garcia has in spades. As for some of Tallinghast’s other courses, Garcia won at Colonial on debut back in 2001 and also has a runner-up finish at Firestone in 2014. Garcia missed the cut again at the US Masters this year, but has since bounced back with a 2nd at the Zurich team event and then finished 4th at the Wells Fargo a fortnight ago, with his game looking in great shape. He’ll be chomping at the bit to get back into Major contention and outside of the Top 10 in the betting Garcia is the standout value.”

 

Bubba Watson

“We backed Bubba at this year’s US Masters when he just missed out on the EW places, finishing a solid 12th. That was on a track where Watson had plenty of previous form (being a former two-time winner of the Green Jacket), but he also has enough form on courses like Bethpage Black, and this course itself, to make a case for “Gerry Lester” going well this week. Playing here in 2016 he finished 13th in The Barclays, and back in 2012 he was 10th. And it’s also worth noting that in the US Open 2009, again played on this course, he was 8th going into Sunday (two shots off 2nd place) before slipping down to finish tied 18th. Watson also has scraps of form at other Tillinghast tracks, like Firestone and Ridgewood. He’s strong with the driver, always ranked highly for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and anyone who can win twice at Augusta must be able to handle themselves around the greens. His record in this Major in the past has been poor, which might explain his price in the market, but a move in the schedule added to a return to a track where he does well (Bubba is well-known for being a repeat winner at certain courses) this proven Major winner looks well worth an interest with 7 or 8 places on offer with the layers.”

 

Julian Suri

“Suri completes my outright staking plan and I think he’s as lively an outsider as anyone in the field. He’s a big-hitting American who should thrive on the long soft nature of this golf course. He recently returned from injury and from his four starts on the European Tour this season he’s yet to finish outside the Top 20. He narrowly missed out on winning the Trophee Hassan II, where he finished 2nd despite ranking as the best statistical player that week. Prior to that he finished 4th at the Indian Open an event that wouldn’t have suited his power game, yet despite this he looked the likely winner until a Sunday 77 saw him finish 4th. This form is quite impressive considering he was out for five months through injury. Suri finished 19th at Bellerive last year at the USPGA Championship on debut and 28th at the Open Championship – both impressive displays considering he’d only played in one Major previously. Suri was born in New York and will have likely played Bethpage a few times even if was not in competition. Suri is definitely a player who thrives on tougher layouts with his best results coming on some of the toughest layouts on tour. Outside of his win in Denmark he’s finished 8th at Valderamma, 2nd at Fanling, 2nd at Le Golf National, 5th at Walton Heath, 4th at New Delhi (DLF) and 2nd at Der Es Salam. These venues would all rank right at the top in the difficulty charts which bodes well for this week. At huge prices Suri is a man who we need to get onside and I’m expecting a big week from the American.”

 

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