The Masters has come and gone faster than we could’ve imagined. Tiger Woods won his first major since 2008 and golf world is happy once again. But now it is time to look towards the future. Can Tiger become the 2019 PGA Championship winner in Long Island or will someone else steal the crown?
Bethpage Black: Golfers Beware
The 2019 PGA Championship will be played at Bethpage Black outside of New York City. The first time the course has been used for a major championship since the 2009 U.S. Open where Lucas Glover raised the trophy.
Bethpage Black is known as one of the best public golf courses in America despite being one of the toughest. It gives golfers fits with it’s extremely deep rough and long distance. Some courses like this one push the best golfers in the world to their limits.
The past 2 winners at Bethpage during a major, Tiger Woods (2002) and Lucas Glover (2009), were 3-under and 4-under, respectively. Much higher winning scores than most major championships. As USGA executive Sandy Tatum once said, “We’re not trying to embarrass the best players in the game. We’re trying to identify them.”
It’s safe to say that Bethpage will try to identify them at the PGA Championship this year.
15th hole at Bethpage Black
Since we’ve been on the subject of how tough this course is, let’s talk about the 15th at Bethpage. Hole 15 was the toughest hole back when Woods won in 2002. At 458 yards, this hole is relatively short compared to the other par-4s on the Black Course.
The tee shot is challenging because of the fairway bunker placement which leave players with a longer than usual approach. Once you get past that, the green’s slopes are an even bigger challenge to tackle. “It’s not only the toughest green on the course, it’s the toughest green by a landslide,” said USGA CEO Mike Davis.
During the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open, there were only 5 birdies on 15. That came with 85 pars, 51 bogeys, 16 double bogeys, and 3 “others”.
Bethpage Black – Hole 13
Then we can take a little bit of a break with the longest hole at Bethpage Black, number 13. It’s a 605-yard par 5, which allows the longer hitters to get to the green in 2. Par-5s tend to favor the PGA players because of their ability to smash the ball off the tee. This one is no different.
This hole rewards a long, straight drive from the start. A bunker sits about 120 yards in front of the green which deters golfers from laying. Go big or go home and your score will thank you on 13.
2019 PGA Championship winner?
We can analyze the intimidating Bethpage Black as much as we want. Look at the easier holes that players can try and salvage a decent score. But, there still must be a winner here the third week in May.
So, who are the top contenders to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy and become the 2019 PGA Championship winner?
Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson
Let’s start with the two big bombers on tour and two of the favorites, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. They both had a great showing at the Masters last month but came up one shot short to legend Tiger Woods. Losing to Tiger wasn’t really a beatdown on their morale though.
Related: What’s in Dustin Johnson’s Bag?
Both Koepka and Johnson finished at 12-under par, good for 2nd place overall. Nothing to mope about.
Brooks and DJ have the power off the tee to avenge their loss in the Masters. I could see either one of these big hitters dominating off the tee at Bethpage and gaining a huge advantage on the field. They have both won U.S. Opens too so they know how to win on a challenging course (Johnson in 2016, Koepka in 2017).
If either of them plays the way that they did back in April, I think it will be DJ or Brooks winning the 2019 PGA Championship.
Can Tiger Woods win back-to-back majors?
Everyone is high on Tiger Woods right now, and rightfully so. Woods pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by returning from the dead to win his 5th green jacket and first in 14 years.
Now, he’s back and it’s time to treat him like one of the best in the game today instead of just a great story. Tiger is the favorite to win the PGA Championship.
Check the sports books. Talk to your friends. Ask people in your office. Tiger commands the crowds and the airwaves. People want him to win. Everyone wants to get a whiff of that 2000s nostalgia. Can’t say I blame them.
Related: Top 5 Tiger Woods Stats
I think the biggest reason Tiger can win the PGA Championship is because he’s the only player in the contender field who has won a major at Bethpage Black (sorry Lucas Glover, you’re not a true contender).
You saw the way Woods played Augusta last month and how no one else could see and do what he did. Although its not a course he’s played 20 times, he has more experience winning than anyone else.
Strong advantage Tiger.
Rory McIlroy’s major struggles
Although I don’t firmly believe he will come out on top, I can’t not talk about Rory McIlroy. He also has the distance to gain a leg up on the competition like DJ and Brooks does. It just seems like the stage has been too big for Rory at the majors the last few years.
Related: Rory McIlroy’s Longest Drive Ever
McIlroy did pull out the victory at The Players back on St. Patty’s Day but proceeded to make no run whatsoever at Augusta National. He will have to win one to gain my trust back that he can seriously compete in majors.