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Steve Bamford's US PGA Championship Tips

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US PGA Championship Tips 2019

The US PGA Championship has been transported to a new era in 2019. Previously known as “Glory’s Last Shot” as the tournament’s early August spot in the calendar made it the final Major Championship of the season, this year sees the PGA of America organised Major take place in May. That’s right, Major Championship golf moves to May, with the US PGA Championship becoming the second Major Championship ongoing, with the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, in New York State, hosting this historical tournament from Thursday 16th May to Sunday 19th May 2019.

Now into our 10th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US PGA Championship tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2019 coverage with PGA Championship tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous statistical Predictor Model. You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast which is also available on iTunes and on our YouTube channel.

2019 will be a momentous year for the PGA of America with their PGA Championship tournament moving to an earlier spot in the golfing calendar. Always synonymous for hot, humid conditions across a myriad of America’s greatest parkland golf courses, the decision to host the tournament in May in New York State will be a challenging one for both the PGA of America Chief Competitions Officer Kerry Haigh and Bethpage State Park Director of Agronomy Andrew Wilson.

The revised positioning of the tournament will also be a learning curve for both the players and punters alike, with no WGC Bridgestone Invitational as a lead-in tournament the week before. Instead, the world’s best professional golfers can choose to play the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina or the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Texas in the direct build-up to the PGA Championship. What is for sure though, is that the PGA will be the first tournament of 2019 located in “upstate” United States, so expect different conditions to what we’ve become accustomed to in the past.

US PGA Championship Insight and Tips Research

Golf betting at the Major Championships is a complex subject. Mistakes can be costly; however select the right player or player portfolio and the rewards can be excellent. Golf Betting System’s goal is to provide you with informed US PGA Championship tips, free tournament research guides and insight and information that will help you make educated decisions about what players to back at the 2019 US PGA Championship.

In recent history, the PGA Championship has seen a plethora of long-hitters getting the job done, with many capturing their first Major titles as a result of their efforts. The PGA of America’s choice of Oak Hill in 2013 raised eyebrows as the classical, claustrophobic nature of the course was totally alien to its mantra of testing through course length; as it transpired, the neat and tidy Jason Dufner won his first Major. Either side of Oak Hill, Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2012), Jason Day (2015), Jimmy Walker (2016) and Justin Thomas (2017) have, like Dufner, all captured first-time Majors. All can hit the ball along way, as can Rory McIlroy (winner at both Kiawah Island in 2012 and Valhalla in 2014) and defending champion Brooks Koepka who drove the field into submission last year at Bellerive. Whether that changes in 2019 is open for discussion at a 7,400+ yard, Par 70 which screams controlled power off the tee from the rooftops. What’s for sure is that the Bethpage Black Course will frame more of a challenge than we saw back in August as this classical masterpiece undoubtedly has teeth.

Course Information

Bethpage State Park – Black Course, Farmingdale, New York: Designer: Joseph H Burbeck with A.W Tillinghast, 1936, with Rees Jones renovation 1997, 2018; Course Type: Up-State, Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,459 yards; Water Hazards: 1; Fairways: Kentucky Bluegrass; Rough: Bentgrass, Perennial Ryegrass with tall fescue +3.5″; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring Poa Annua with Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 12ft; Course Scoring Average 2009 U.S. Open: 72.93 (+2.93), Rank 1 of 51 courses. 2012 The Barclays: 71.72 (+0.72), Rank 15 of 49 courses. 2016 The Barclays: 71.75 (+0.75), Rank 12 of 50 courses.

Bethpage State Park is located at the west end of Long Island. A public golf course, its Black Course is famous when it comes to stern golfing tests. The course hosted the 2002 (won by Tiger Woods) and 2009 (won by Lucas Glover) U.S. Opens and we have also seen PGA Tour action here at The Barclays tournaments in 2012 (won by Nick Watney) and 2016 (won by Patrick Reed). The 2019 PGA Championship will see the course return to its stretching 35-35, par 70  Major format.

The tree-lined, parkland course features wide enough fairways with long forced carries over massive bunkers and challenging approach shots to numerous elevated greens. Green complexes themselves are small (5,500 sq.ft average) for the length of the course, featuring Poa Annua. As we know Poa Annua is a not a friend of many players. The course is an original A.W. Tillinghast classic, which has received a number of Rees Jones renovations, the latest which was finished in 2018. A list of A.W Tillinghast and Rees Jones designs/renovations are listed below:

A.W. Tillinghast

  • Baltusrol GC – 2005 & 2016 PGA Championship
  • Winged Foot – West Course – 2006 U.S. Open
  • Ridgewood Country Club – 2010 & 2014 The Barclays – 2018 Northern Trust.

Rees Jones

  • Torrey Pines South Course – Farmers Insurance Open + 2008 U.S. Open (re-design)
  • GC of Houston – Houston Open
  • Aronimink GC – 2010,2011 A&T National (re-design)
  • Blue Course, Congressional CC – 2011 U.S. Open + 2012-2014 & 2016 National (re-design)
  • Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC – 2014 RBC Canadian Open (re-design)
  • Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Baltusrol – 2016 PGA Championship (re-design)
  • Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC – 2009,2010,2011 BMW Championship (re-design)
  • East Lake GC – Tour Championship (re-design)
  • Bellerive CC – 2018 PGA Championship (re-design)

Courses are often measured by their difficulty. Few golf courses are more difficult than the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York. ‘The People’s Country Club’ – unbelievably it’s a public golf course – has hosted two US Open Championships (2002, 2009) and will host both the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup. The course is best described as a fair test which is very much in front of you. No tricks, no deception, but at over 7,400 yards with long forced carries, massive bunkers and brutal rough (if the PGA of America go along this route),the Black Course will again this week be a test, even if conditions are on the soft side.

Since the 2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage has used graduated rough – something the PGA of America have used for an number of the last PGA Championships. The first cut of rough gives players a shot at the greens. The second cut of rough (3.5″) makes it difficult to get any substantial length on the ball, but as Dustin Johnson highlighted in 2012 at The Barclays tournament, those whose skill set is to hit greens from off the fairway can still contend.

If we look at The Barclays renewals here in both 2012 and 2016, statistically both sets of par-3s (9th and 16th most difficult on Tour) and par-4s (5th and 5th most difficult) yielded very few birdies or better. Yes the par-4s are brutish. Scoring opportunities though really only presented themselves across the 3 par-5s , which both years were within the easiest half in terms of Birdie or Better conversion on the PGA Tour. Breaking par is also made more difficult by greens which yielded a particularly low One-Putt Percentage across both tournaments. However the Black Course will revert to Major Championship par 70 configuration for the PGA with the par-5 524 yard 7th hole, which was the 2nd easiest hole at the 2016 Barclays, converted to a tremendously stretching par-4. In essence, Bethpage won’t give the players much respite.

Rees Jones renovation work has taken place recently and was unveiled last year. The most telling of which is a new, larger green on the 11th hole. Trees have been removed from the 1st hole, enhancing the dogleg aspect of the hole more.  The closing 18th will also look different, with the infamously tight fairway landing area widened by moving fairway bunkers outwards. Elsewhere the 6th and the 9th have had full bunker renovations.

To all intents and purposes though, Bethpage Black is one of the toughest golf courses in the United States. Tillinghast designed the original layout with the goal of creating his ultimate “Championship course”. Huge bunkering is a Tillinghast hallmark, as is the fact that fairway bunkers feature pretty severe contouring, which force those who are inaccurate enough to play from them, with little option but to lay up. The bunkering is the main defence of the course, especially around the greens which in the main are elevated. Only the 8th hole features water and the course plays very much as a sandbelt layout, with native grasses surrounding fairways which will swallow flagrant drives. Fast if conditions allow, all greens are accessed with aerial approaches over bunkers. Green contours are very subtle and are difficult to read as a result.

Below are some revealing comments from the PGA Championship Media Day:

Patrick Reed:When I first got there and I saw how the first hole was and I saw that sign, I thought is the sign for real, or is it just there to intimidate. Getting out there and playing it, the course will bring out every little weakness of your golf game. Its one of the first golf courses that I have played where one part of your game is not as important as any other. At Bethpage every part of your golf game is very important and you have to every one of them at a very high-level to win there.”

Jim Furyk: It’s long. It’s very difficult and I would say it gives you some awkward angles. If you go out to a lot of the holes, rarely is the fairway straight out in front of you. It’s always twisting to an angle or you feel like you are hitting across a fairway, rather than down a fairway.”

Jordan Spieth: If the bombers are hitting it straight, obviously any course plays into their favour. The way the rough is, you need to hit it a certain length here because these par-4s are so challenging, so demanding. So you’ve got to be able to carry the ball, in my opinion, a good 275 or more off the tee. But again, premium on the fairways. The shots into the greens, the greens are very flat surfaces. There’s not a whole lot going on in them. So we’ll have to keep track of how they start to dry out. They are soft right now, where a 5-iron hit, if you striped a 5-iron solid, it will stop within five, ten feet of where it lands. There’s a lot of those kind of shots into these holes.

If it starts to dry out, hitting the fairways becomes that much harder. But if you do, you’re obviously hitting a shorter iron in. It’s hard to tell how the course is going to play. It got dumped on Saturday and then Sunday it got quite a bit of rain, too. Yesterday and today were softer .But I know the last time it was year four years ago, it started to get very, very firm, and the forecast looks like that could become a reality again. So it’s hard to tell who it plays into right now. I like it personally. Just got to make sure you’re hitting that driver straight.”

Rickie Fowler: You can’t push, you can’t get ahead of yourself and you can’t try and step on the gas at any time really. You have to hit fairways out here. You can’t try and hit the ball harder than you should. You can’t try and get any extra out of it. You’ve just got to stick to the game plan. You’ve got to stick to hitting just quality golf shots and not try to get any extra out of anything. It is a long golf course and it kind of tempts you to try and push a little bit. The first hole today, my first hole, the 10th hole, it’s a little over 500 and it’s into the wind. I had to hit driver, 5-wood. You can’t try to swing hard off the tee and get anything extra out of it. You have to accept it and play the course.”

Jason Day: Well, I played back in I think 2012. It’s just a brutal course. I was talking to Scotty actually back when he played the U.S. Open I think 2001 or 2002. He was talking about the fifth hole. And he goes, there was probably only two guys in the field that could actually cut the bunker on the right. Now most of the field can do that. So just goes to show what technology has done for us. But also, with that said, I mean, you look at the scores, it’s only going to get tougher on the weekend. Everything is going to get a lot more condensed. I don’t really see it going too much lower than what it is. I still think single digits is a pretty good score. But we’ll see how it goes.

On 18, I hit 3-iron yesterday. I hit 4-iron today. Some guys, Adam and Dustin hit driver. Dustin unfortunately made bogey. That’s the thing, you can get some sticky lies out here; the rough is so thick. You get it on the fairway, gave myself a good opportunity. Hit it to 11 feet and unfortunately just missed the putt. You’ve got to go with what you feel like you can get off the fairway, and unfortunately that was a 4-iron for me today.”

pga championship tips

Bethpage: A tough, tree-lined, Tillinghast design, with a recent makeover from the “Open Doctor”

All-Round Ability, with Classical Course Heritage

We are at an advantage with Bethpage Black, compared to last year’s venue, Bellerive, on the basis that the course in recent memory has hosted the 2009 U.S. Open, 2012 Barclays and the 2016 Barclays tournaments. So we can look at both the traditional skill sets including Ball-Striking and All-Round numbers, plus we can use Strokes Gained skill sets as well to get a full picture of what it takes to go well around Bethpage Black.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends – 2012 The Barclays:

  • 1st, Nick Watney (-10). SG Off the Tee: 8th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 52nd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 18th.
  • 2nd, Brandt Snedeker (-7). SG Off the Tee: 24th, SG Approach: 37th, SG Around the Green: 42nd, SG Tee to Green: 31st, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 3rd, Sergio Garcia (-6). SG Off the Tee: 10th, SG Approach: 28th, SG Around the Green: 39th, SG Tee to Green: 12th, SG Putting: 15th.
  • 3rd Dustin Johnson (-6). SG Off the Tee: 2nd, SG Approach: 11th, SG Around the Green: 28th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 49th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends – 2016 The Barclays:

  • 1st, Patrick Reed (-9). SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 27th.
  • 2nd, Emiliano Grillo (-8). SG Off the Tee: 16th, SG Approach: 28th, SG Around the Green: 27th, SG Tee to Green: 15th, SG Putting: 7th.
  • 2nd, Sean O’Hair (-8). SG Off the Tee: 11th, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 52nd, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 31st.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • • SG Off the Tee: 15th, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 35th, SG Tee to Green: 10th, SG Putting: 21st.

Naturally we’re talking about 2 tournaments and ultimately a very small sample size, but one thing that jumps out of the aggregated numbers when looking at the top 3 in the tournament, namely Watney and Reed, plus Snedeker, Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Grillo and O’Hair, is that Strokes Gained Tee to Green far outweighs Stokes Gained Putting. That’s often the case, but to see the average Putting number across the top 3 at 21st is extremely rare. Be aware that the Black Course is no place for short game only specialists. Instead Strokes Gained Off the Tee and on Approach are critical, and if you can find a classical golf course specialist who knows where to miss greens to maximise SG Around the Green, you’re close to the perfect identikit.

Lets additionally take the final skill statistics from the last 3 winners around Bethpage Black.  This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2016 – Patrick Reed (-9). 303 yards (21st), 55.5% fairways (50th), 69.4% greens in regulation (13th), 68.2 % scrambling (10th), 1.82 putts per GIR (53rd), ball striking 18th, all-round 8th.
  • 2012 – Nick Watney (-10). 299 yards (29th), 69.6% fairways (16th), 75.0% greens in regulation (2nd), 38.9 % scrambling (65th), 1.72 putts per GIR (11th), ball striking 4th, all-round 4th.
  • 2009 – Lucas Glover (-4). 291 yards (8th), 71.3% fairways (7th), 71.8% greens in regulation (4th),  50.0 % scrambling (8th), 1.69 putts per GIR (10th), ball striking 1st, all-round 1st.

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 19th, Driving Accuracy: 24th, Greens in Regulation: 6th, Scrambling: 28th, Putting Average 25th, Ball Striking: 8th, All-Round: 4th.

What’s clear across the winning performances of Patrick Reed, Nick Watney and Lucas Glover is that a couple of types of player can ultimately win around Bethpage Black. In Glover and Watney we have the ball-striking type, who both put the ball out there off the tee, were top-notch when it came to Greens in Regulation and who sank enough putts from the chances they created to win their respective tournaments. Indeed Glover Ranked 1st for Ball-Striking and Watney 4th. However Patrick Reed’s win here as recently as 2016, also highlights that a superb classical golf course player, who can manage their way around this technical challenge, hit enough greens to be competitive and who has a superb scrambling game can also win. We now know that Reed also went on to win the ultimate ball-striking test which is Augusta National with exactly the same performance type in 2018.

U.S. PGA Championship Tips - Key Points

Correlating Course Form

With 3 winners at Bethpage Black in the past 10 years to research, naturally it’s logical to look at any correlating results form across courses.

  • Kapalua – Glover 6th; Watney 5th; Reed 1st & 2nd.
  • Torrey Pines – Glover 3rd, 4th, 4th & 9th. Watney 1st, 4th, 6th, 6th, 7th & 9th.
  • Pebble Beach – Glover 11th; Watney 2nd, 6th and 7th; Reed 6th and 7th.
  • PGA National – Glover 4th; Watney 2 x T20; Reed 7th.
  • Blue Monster Doral – Glover 5th; Watney 1st & 2nd; Reed 1st.
  • Copperhead – Glover 4th; Watney 4th; Reed 2nd, 2nd & 7th.
  • Bay Hill – Glover 7th; Watney 4th.
  • Augusta National – Watney 7th; Reed 1st.
  • Quail Hollow – Glover 1st, 2nd, 4th, 8th & 10th; Watney 2nd, 8th and 10th; Reed 2nd & 8th.
  • Congressional – Glover 5th; Watney 10th; Reed 11th.
  • Sedgefield – Glover 6th & 7th; Watney 5th & 6th; Reed 1st.
  • Sheshan – Watney 5th; Reed 7th x2.

Intriguingly there’s a lot of overlap across the results of these 3 players and strong finishes across some of the United States toughest courses are shared. Take the Blue Monster at Doral, Copperhead, Quail Hollow and Congressional as prime examples. Nothing too shocking in that, although the results at both Doral and Quail Hollow truly jump off the page.

But probably the key angle here are the Poa Annua greens at Bethpage Black. They aren’t pure Poa Annua, Bentgrass is a feature, but the green grass mix is primarily Poa Annua, which in itself will be a problem for a lot of the players at the 2019 PGA Championship. Why? Well a lot of Southern State born, bred and educated professionals are brought up on Bentgrass or Bermudagrass greens. They get limited experience of putting on Poa Annua throughout their development as players and their experience as professionals tends to be in California or in the north-eastern states.  So it’s telling that Glover, Watney and Reed all had multiple successes at on the Poa Annua greens of either Torrey Pines or at the Pro-Am hosted at Pebble Beach prior to winning around Bethpage Black.

Better use Bridgestone

Now this Bridgestone section of our PGA Championship previews has been in-situ for many years, and naturally things are going to change with the May timing of the 2019 PGA, but it’s well worth considering. Undoubtedly form players win the PGA Championship. When the PGA Championship was played in August, there are no doubts that the World Golf Championship status Bridgestone Invitational the week before at Firestone South was a real indicator of who went on to win the PGA Championship.

The Firestone based tournament became the PGA ‘warm up’ in 2006 and from that point onwards, the winner of the PGA Championship was firstly always in the Bridgestone field and secondly was always in the top 28 of the tournament.

WGC Bridgestone Analysis

YearUS PGA ChampionBridgestone Finish
2018Brooks Koepka5th
2017Justin Thomas28th
2015Jason Day12th
2014Rory McIlroy1st
2013Jason Dufner4th
2012Rory McIlroy5th
2011Keegan Bradley15th
2010Martin Kaymer22nd
2009Y.E. Yang18th
2008Padraig Harrington20th
2007Tiger Woods1st
2006Tiger Woods1st


Naturally the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone South is no more, but the idea that a player will need to be playing well in their immediate start should be one to consider and we have other precedents here. 2016 saw the Olympic Golf Competition creating massive changes with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational moving to July. Instead the RBC Canadian Open directly preceded the PGA Championship, where Jimmy Walker finished fast on Sunday to grab 11th spot at Glen Abbey.

Excellent immediate tournament form was also key to both Mickelson and Singh’s triumphs in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Mickelson finished 10th in Colorado before jumping on his private jet to New Jersey and winning the following weekend at Baltusrol.  Singh won his prior tournament 2 weeks before the PGA at Warwick Hills, before travelling across to neighbouring Wisconsin to capture his 3rd Major at Whistling Straits. Even Rich Beem in 2002 won at Castle Pines (The International) and then won a fortnight later at Hazeltine.

So with the Wells Fargo Championship being played at the Major-hosting, long and classical Quail Hollow a fortnight before the PGA, and the AT&T Byron Nelson being played at Trinity Forest GC the week before Bethpage Black, it’s well worth keeping a very close eye on both tournament leaderboards to ascertain who’s playing great golf prior to arriving in New York State.

Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green

We all love a statistic and in the era of the PGA Tour’s Strokes Gained analysis we have plenty to wade through. Looking at PGA champions’ last tournament performance since 2010, it’s fascinating to see that there are real similarities across the Strokes Gained Tee to Green numbers. Koepka, Thomas, McIlroy (twice), Dufner and Kaymer all ranked within the top 10 of that category at Firestone the week before. In outliers Jimmy Walker – who played the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey – and Jason Day, they still ranked in the top 27 for the category and finished 14th and 12th respectively in their warm-up event, with Jason Day ranking in the top 10 for Greens in Regulation. All in all, it’s clear to deduce that those struggling to keep the ball in front of them immediately prior to playing the final Major of the year ultimately don’t win it.

Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green

YearPGA WinnerPrevious EventGIRSG Tee-To-Green
2018Brooks Koepka5th1st1st
2017Justin Thomas28th6th3rd
2016Jimmy Walker14th30th25th
2015Jason Day12th9th27th
2014Rory McIlroy1st25th1st
2013Jason Dufner4th18th2nd
2012Rory McIlroy5th2nd2nd
2011Keegan Bradley15th14th12th
2010Martin Kaymer22nd15th8th


Driving Distance is the Key

So what’s the key player attribute that a PGA Championship winner needs in his arsenal to get the job done?  Well with the PGA Championship being played on a stretching 7,400+ yard, Par 71, a premium advantage will inevitably return to longer drivers of the golf ball. In recent times that’s always been the case. Taking 2013’s exceptionally tight Oak Hill set-up out of the overall picture, every winner of the PGA Championship since 2004 has been a 290+ yard hitter from off the tee.

Driving Distance Analysis

YearPGA WinnerSeason Driving Distance (Yards)
2018Brooks Koepka313
2017Justin Thomas310
2016Jimmy Walker301
2015Jason Day314
2014Rory McIlroy306
2012Rory McIlroy312
2011Keegan Bradley301
2010Martin Kaymer294
2009Y.E. Yang291
2008Padraig Harrington296
2007Tiger Woods302
2006Tiger Woods306
2005Phil Mickelson301
2004Vijay Singh301


This is Steve Bamford’s pre-event preview. Steve will be back with his final US PGA Championship tips for 2019 on the Monday before the event.