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Steve Bamford's US PGA Championship Tips 2019

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PGA Championship Tips 2019, Bethpage Black

The 101st PGA Championship from the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in New York should be an absolute feast of golf. With the new PGA Tour schedule structure, the second Major Championship of 2019 is now played in May, moving from its old mid-August spot; for the record, this is the first PGA Championship played in May since 1949 when Sam Snead triumphed in Richmond, Virginia. This Major is always the deepest of the year and this particular renewal sees the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) all in the field. That’s something that hasn’t happened before in one of golf’s major championships.

World Number 1 Dustin Johnson heads the betting at 11/1, but as is the norm these days at the highest level of golf, the likes of defending champion Brooks Koepka, Masters champion Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Francesco Molinari are all 25/1 or shorter in what looks to be a very open affair.

Before we talk PGA Championship, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System this week will be considerable. Welcome to new visitors, listeners and viewers and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular – 4,800 members – private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: Courses are often measured by their difficulty and 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 U.S. Open Championships (2002, 2009) and will host the 2024 Ryder Cup after this PGA Championship. The Tillinghast design will play as a very stern 7,459 yard, par 70 format. 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 Perennial Ryegrass with tall fescue rough, the Black Course will certainly be a test this week. Green complexes are small for the length of the course at an average of 5,500 sq.ft. They also feature 90% Poa Annua with patches of Bentgrass.

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.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Bethpage Black and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • Bethpage Black: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:26; 300:26; 325:26; 350:28.
  • Trinity Forest: 250 yards from tee: 58 yards wide; 275:54; 300:56; 325:60; 350:57.
  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 31 yards wide; 275:25; 300:20; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:26 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:29; 300:25; 325:27 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 41 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:34 350:30.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other A.W. Tillinghast & Rees Jones designs /re-designs include:

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)

Course Overview: For all intents and purposes, Bethpage Black is one of the toughest golf courses in the United States. Burbeck and Tillinghast designed the original layout, with the goal of creating Tillinghast’s 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.

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 on 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.

Winners: 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16); 2017: Justin Thomas (-8); 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14); 2015: Jason Day (-20); 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16); 2013: Jason Dufner (-10); 2012: Rory McIlroy (-13); 2011: Keegan Bradley (-8); 2010: Martin Kaymer (-11); 2009: Y.E. Yang (-8).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Players Championship, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Chez Reavie; 2) Ryan Armour / Justin Harding / Kevin Kisner / Henrik Stenson; 6) Brian Gay / Emiliano Grillo / Kyle Stanley; 9) Matt Kuchar / Eddie Pepperell; 11) Paul Casey / Jim Furyk; 13) Bryson DeChambeau; 14) Russell Knox; 15) Michael Thompson; 16) Tyrrell Hatton; 17) Ian Poulter / Webb Simpson; 19) Ryan Moore / Kevin Na.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Tiger Woods; 2) Dustin Johnson; 3) Joost Luiten; 4) Matt Kuchar; 5) Kevin Kisner / Henrik Stenson; 7) Scott Piercy / Tommy Fleetwood; 9) Corey Conners / Jim Furyk / Rory McIlroy; 12) Adam Scott; 13) Aaron Wise; 14) Ian Poulter; 15) Keegan Bradley / Jason Kokrak; 17) Rickie Fowler; 18) Jhonattan Vegas; 19) Jason Day; 20) Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Justin Rose; 2) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 3) Jordan Spieth; 4) Julian Suri; 5) Patrick Cantlay / Dustin Johnson; 7) Si Woo Kim / Eddie Pepperell; 9) Rickie Fowler; 10) Jason Day; 11) Kyle Stanley / Jhonattan Vegas; 13) Brooks Koepka; 14) Thomas Pieters; 15) Jon Rahm; 16) Joel Dahmen / Troy Merritt; 18) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Charley Hoffman / Graeme McDowell / Rory McIlroy / Chez Reavie.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Koepka 20/1; 2017: Thomas 45/1; 2016: Jimmy Walker 150/1; 2015: Day 14/1; 2014: McIlroy 5/1F; 2013: Dufner 40/1; 2012: McIlroy 20/1; 2011: Bradley 175/1; 2010: Kaymer 50/1. Average: 58/1.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Bethpage, New York, is here. 166mm of precipitation fell on Bethpage in April and that has been topped up with a further 98mm this month. Indeed Sunday saw 32mm with more heavy rain expected Monday night. Geography-wise we’re talking Long Island, New York, with moderate temperatures at this time of year. So I’m expecting a soft, lush and long golf course at least for the opening 36 holes. Across the actual tournament itself, conditions look like they will be very pleasant. Thursday will be a good golfing day with little wind. Friday sees 20-25mph gusting winds, with the early starters probably getting the better of the conditions. Weekend conditions look very Northern European with light winds, cloud cover and temperatures topping at 24 degrees Celsius.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 4 winners here across the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens plus he 2012 and 2016 Barclays tournaments 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.
  • 2002 – Tiger Woods (-3). 281 yards (7th), 73.2% fairways (7th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st),  47.4 % scrambling (12th), 1.75 putts per GIR (33rd), ball striking 1st, all-round 1st.

Tournament Skill Average:

  • Driving Distance: 16th, Driving Accuracy: 20th, Greens in Regulation: 5th, Scrambling: 24th, Putting Average 27th, Ball Striking: 6th, All-Round: 4th.

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.

Here are some comments about Bethpage’s Black Course and how it will play from the tournament organising PGA of America:

Kerry Haigh (PGA of America Chief Championships Officer):Obviously we’re excited about the date change from a conditioning standpoint in that the grasses will be — the cool season grasses will and should be a lot healthier. They will be sort of improving, as opposed to in the August date previously, we were sort of more on a hanging-on, keeping-the-grass, the-cool-season-grasses-alive mode. Whereas the spring temperatures are likely obviously to be more temperate and easier, cooler temperatures, which I think everyone will enjoy. But also more likely, and possibly have more chance of wind and probably tougher playing conditions.

The fairway widths we have not adjusted at all since the last events that have been played there. So they are very similar, the exact same as they were then, other than hole 18. That is the only fairway we sort of re-contoured and that was really more to make the shot from the tee, you know, the player has more options now from the tee, whereas it used to be sort of an hour glass fairway is more of a reasonable width fairway throughout the lens. So a player could still hit an iron off the tee or a hybrid or a 3-wood, or can now even hit a driver. So that’s the only fairway change since I think the ’09 Open that I’m aware of. In terms of the rough, a lot will depend on how well it does grow the next couple of weeks, but our plan is for it to be 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, and again, the anticipation based on what we saw the last two springs, is that it should be pretty healthy and growing fairly quickly. So it will be a challenge, and it will be pretty tough if you get into it.

The fairways are not overly wide or generous, so I think there’s certainly going to be a premium on keeping the ball on the fairway and keeping it straight from the tee and then obviously good iron play into the greens, and the greens themselves, they are generally not over-severe. I think the slopes are, I would say, sort of middle to, from a slope standpoint, other than two or three greens have some significant moment. The rest of the greens have more gentle movement, more subtle movement, which we allow for possibly quick speed of greens, will be probably pretty quick. So overall, just like most other weeks, you’re just going to need a good game. But I think there will be certainly more of a premium on driving than some other venues due to the fairways and due to the health of the rough. Obviously with the bunker play and other such huge bunkers. There are, you know, 76 bunkers and every time I go there, it’s almost eight acres of bunker sand to rake every morning. So to keep out of the bunkers is certainly something you want to do. Otherwise your green-side bunker shots are pretty long bunker shots. We all know a long bunker shot is certainly more difficult than a shorter bunker shot around the greens, and they are probably the main aspects. But as usual, our aim is to just to set the golf course up so the best players in the world can show their skills on what is truly a great golf course.

The golf course is just a solid golf course. We plan to play it from the tees. You know, I think the par 5s, 13 would be one that we may look to move forward, so depending on the wind direction so that on one or more days, players can at least think about going for it in two. But in our day, 608 yards is reachable for some, for some of the players, but certainly not all of the players. I think they probably would be the main items. As you know, there are some very strong and very stout par 4s out there that will be great tests of golf.”

So let’s take a view from players from past Barclays tournaments held here, how Bethpage Black will play this week and what specific skills it requires

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.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 9 US PGA Championship winners:

  • 2018 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 33rd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2016 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2012 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Keegan Bradley: Round 1: 36th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 4th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the winners of the PGA Championship and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: Level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2015 – Jason Day: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2014 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2013 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2012 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2011 – Keegan Bradley: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: Level, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 4 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Brooks Koepka: 5th Bridgestone/MC Canada/39th Open Champ/19th Travelers.
  • Justin Thomas: 28th Bridgestone/MC Open Champ/MC Quicken/MC Travelers.
  • Jimmy Walker: 14th Canada/MC Open Champ/16th Bridgestone/MC US Open.
  • Jason Day: 12th Bridgestone/1st Canada/4th Open Champ/9th US Open.
  • Rory McIlroy: 1st Bridgestone/1st Open Champ/14th Scottish Open/MC Irish Open.
  • Jason Dufner: 4th Bridgestone/26th Open Champ/MC Travelers/4th US Open.
  • Rory McIlroy: 5th Bridgestone/60th Open Champ/ 10th Irish Open/MC US Open.
  • Keegan Bradley: 15th Bridgestone/43rd Greenbier/22nd Canada/MC AT&T National.
  • Martin Kaymer: 22nd Bridgestone/7th Open Championship/MC Scottish Open/6th Open de France

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2018 – Woodland – PM -6/64 – 100/1.
  • 2017 – Kisner/Olesen – AM/PM Split -4/67 – 80/1 & 125/1.
  • 2016 – Walker – AM -6/65.
  • 2015 – D Johnson – AM -6/66.
  • 2014 – Chappell/Palmer/Westwood – 1AM/2PM -6/65.
  • 2013 – Furyk/Scott – AM/PM Split -5/65.
  • 2012 – Pettersson – AM -6/66.
  • 2011 – Stricker – AM -7/63.
  • 2010 – Kuchar – PM -5/67.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 10 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Bryson DeChambeau, Scott Piercy, Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth, Brendan Steele.
  • 1 – Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Emiliano Grillo, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Russell Knox, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Andrew Putnam, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Kevin Tway, Gary Woodland.

Winning prices in the PGA Championship vary significantly. Short prices such as Rory McIlroy – who’s won this title twice at 20/1 (2012) and 5/1 (2014) – and Jason Day at 14/1 (2015) have had much recent success. Throw in defending champion Brooks Koepka at 20/1, Justin Thomas at 45/1 and Jason Dufner at 40/1 in 2013 and 6 of the last 7 PGA Championships have been won at 45/1 or less. The exception is Jimmy Walker who played brilliantly at Baltusrol in 2016 to lead from start to finish and capture his first Major title at an unbelievable (after the tournament) 150/1. He joined Keegan Bradley (2011) and Y.E. Yang (2009) who won at 175/1 and 150/1 respectively.

Bethpage Black will play extremely long and likely on the soft side this week. For me that places the advantage into the hands of aggressive bombers who can achieve some serious strokes gained numbers both off the tee and on approach through aggressive utility and iron play. It’s also hard to ignore some key facts: 15 of the last 18 PGA Champions (83%) had already won a tournament in the same season prior to winning the PGA Championship. Yes the re-scheduling of the tournament in May is likely to impact this trend, but cream undoubtedly rises to the top on some of the United States’ best golf courses.

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 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. Go back to 2002, 2004 and 2005, where PGA winners Rich Beem, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh finished 1st, 10th and 1st respectively in their prevous outings. So strong form in seems a prerequisite.

My selections are as follows:

Brooks Koepka 2.5pts EW 11/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Defending champion Brooks Koepka is almost an auto-bet when it comes to Major Championships. 3 wins in his last 7 Major Championships and a runner-up spot behind Tiger Woods in his last Major outing at Augusta highlights perfectly that Brooks focuses solely on the biggest prizes. We landed him at 20/1 for the PGA Championship 8 months ago, but the bookmakers are now wise to the 29 year-old who resides in Jupiter, Florida. 2nd in the PGA Tour All-Round category, Koepka arrives in New York State 11 months after landing the U.S. Open 50 miles down the road at Shinnecock Hills. And of the 4 ‘big-hitters’ heading the betting this week, I just have to go with the World Number 3, who should take masses of positives from his Thursday/Friday grouping with Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods.

His outing last week in Dallas wasn’t too bad for a warm-up with Brooks finishing 4th. 2nd for Driving Distance, 8th for Greens in Regulation, 8th for Strokes Gained Approach, 6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 7th for Strokes Putting, it’s safe to say that all is in order for Koepka who is now experienced and capable of defending Major Championships successfully. Whilst Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fell away when in great position to win in their last appearances at Harbour Town and Quail Hollow respectively, Koepka shot a closing -6/65 and arrives in the Big Apple full of confidence. I think Koepka will take all the beating. Result: Winner

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Justin Rose 2pts EW 18/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Betfair

If you’re looking for a player whose huge efforts to improve their short game have paid dividends recently, then World Number 2 Justin Rose has to be right up there. Take 2013, a season when he won the U.S. Open at Merion: over that particular season on the PGA Tour he ranked 35th for Scrambling, 122nd for Strokes Gained Putting and 88th for Putting Average. A look at the current rankings and Rose sits 7th for Scrambling, 8th for Strokes Gained Putting and 1st for Putting Average. Some transformation that and on Poa Annua putting surfaces where talented putters tend to ultimately prosper, it’s easy to see that Justin’s results have improved with his confidence in the putter. Since 2016 he’s finished 6th at Pebble Beach (2016), plus 4th (2017), 8th (2018) and 1st (2019) at Torrey Pines and 10th (2018) at Shinnecock Hills.  So the green complexes here at Bethpage Black should actually be a huge plus point for Rose, unlike for many of his fellow competitors who are bamboozled by the Poa Annua year after year.

2019 form has been patchy, but that win at Torrey Pines where he cruised to victory ahead of Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy has been followed up by 8th at The Players, a last 16 spot at the WGC Dell Matchplay and 3rd last time out at Quail Hollow. Yes he bombed at The Masters when he was a best price 14/1 shot, but I’m more interested in his last performance on the classical Quail Hollow where he shot rounds of 67, 68 and 68 to close. 12th for Greens in Regulation, 11th for Strokes Gained Approach and 20th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in North Carolina highlight a player who’s now starting to improve his irons and that makes him a danger in ‘up-state’ United States where he has landed 5 of his 10 PGA Tour titles. Working hard on his ball-striking at his base in Albany, Bahamas, if Justin drives the ball well this week then I think he will go very close. Result: T29

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Xander Schauffele 1.5pts EW 28/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Betfair

It’s rare these days to see elite players regularly overpriced, but I’m often delighted to see the prices on offer for Xander Schauffele. Only in April, Xander finished 2nd to Tiger Woods at Augusta National at odds ranging between 30/1 and 40/1. So I’m happy to get on-board with the Californian whose Major record to date is outstanding. In only his 3rd full PGA Tour season, Xander has already finished 5th at the 2017 U.S. Open hosted at Erin Hills, 6th at the 2018 U.S. Open hosted at nearby Shinnecock Hills, 2nd at the 2018 Open Championship hosted at Carnoustie and 2nd at this year’s Masters. Xander reminds me very much of Brooks Koepka – a talented, buccaneering sort who plays golf purely for the biggest tournaments on the toughest courses. He undoubtedly raises his game for the top prizes in golf and definitely knows how to peak and switch over to his A-game. Nothing describes that better than the fact that all of his Major top 6 finishes to date have come from preceding strokeplay tournament finishes of 52nd, MC, 21st and MC. Yes, he’s a hard one to call, but boy can he play golf.

A 4-time PGA Tour winner at the age of 25 – remember Rickie Fowler has 5 PGA Tour wins total – Schauffele has already won some huge tournaments. The 2017 Greenbrier Classic was his break through win, but since then he’s won the 2017 Tour Championship at the tough and classical East Lake beating the best 30 players on Tour into the bargain, the 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai and the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua – a winners only event which featured Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson. 16th for Scoring Average, 33rd for Driving Distance (304 yards), 10th for par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion, 8th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, 16th for Bogey Avoidance and 5th for All-Round across the PGA Tour this season, my big take out from the Sunday at the recent Masters was how Xander was absolutely rock-solid under the most intense pressure. He thrives on it and in my opinion his first Major title isn’t too far away. Result: T16

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Sergio Garcia 1pt EW 50/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Don’t be fooled, the Black Course at Bethpage Black will be no cakewalk. Winning stroke numbers here since 2002 read 277, 276, 274 and 275. Anybody thinking that a mid-teen winning total like we saw last year with Brooks Koepka at Bellerive will be the target required this week in my view is likely to be disappointed. A golf course where total driving, ball-striking and a strategic all-round game will take precedent over a hot putter shouts Sergio Garcia to me. Amongst 23 Major Championship Top-10s, which includes 12 top 5s and a Masters Green Jacket, Garcia has landed 2nd at Medinah (1999), 10th at Hazletine (2002), 3rd at Medinah (2006) and 2nd at Oakland Hills in the PGA Championship. The PGA is actually the weakest of the 4 Majors for the Spaniard, with scoring probably a little too easy for his tastes. So in 2019 with harder scoring likely at a course he loves, combined with great form coming into the event, I think Sergio is a cracking price this week.

His Bethpage Black form reads 4th at the 2002 U.S. Open, 10th at the 2009 U.S. Open and 3rd at the 2012 Barclays from 3 appearances. Impressive. Widen the view to New York State and you find that the Big Apple location has been kind to the World Number 26: 2 of his 10 PGA Tour wins have come at nearby Westchester (2001 and 2004) and he has an additional 4 top-5s and 1 top-10 in the Empire State.  We can then tie that in with his 2019 form which reads 7th in Singapore, 3rd in Dubai, 6th at Chapultepec, 9th at PGA National, a Quarter Final in Austin (WGC Dell Match Play), 2nd at TPC Louisiana (with Tommy Fleetwood) and 4th last time out at Quail Hollow. That last outing at the Wells Fargo Championship saw Garcia at something approaching his very best over the weekend where he shot rounds of -6/65 and -3/68 to jump from 47th to 4th spot. 7th for Total Driving, 10th for Ball Striking, 3rd for Strokes Gained Approach, 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 3rd for Putting Average and 6th for All-Round highlights a player in confident form and I think Sergio could be a dark horse this week. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:00BST 13.5.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.