The Confidence Factor: Horses for Courses 101st PGA Championship

Back to Bethpage Black but for the first time as a PGA Championship.

Horses for Courses: 101st PGA Championship

The new PGA TOUR calendar kicks into gear as the second major of the season is already here. The PGA Championship will tee it up in May for the first time since 1949 at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmington, New York. The PGA of America has hosted their championship in nine different months since the inaugural event in 1916.

The Black Course, as golf fans and gamers all know, is extremely difficult and is only recommended for highly skilled golfers. A.W. Tillinghast wanted to create a test that would test the best-of-the-best, and today’s top players will get just that over the 7,436 yards (Par-70).

Off the tee, 64 of the top 65 players in the FedExCup standings (Justin Thomas, WD wrist injury) will have to contend with sharp doglegs, narrow landing areas and wet, thick, Spring rough approaching four inches.

Attacking the greens, massive bunker complexes will protect the smallish (5,500 square feet on average), perched bentgrass/poa greens. Errant approach shots will be swallowed up by the sand or rough, but those finding the green will have chances to score, as is always the case in the PGA Championship.

A handful of green complexes have been adjusted since the 2009 U.S. Open, but the fairway widths have been left alone. Wet conditions will help “expand” the fairways and hold shots approaching the greens. It will also make for difficult recovery shots.

Jim Nantz remarked during Media Day that he does not believe this will be similar to a U.S. Open setup because the PGA enjoys seeing birdies made. Kerry Haigh, Chief Championships Officer of the PGA, suggested that the players are the main focus, not the course or course setup.

The Black Course has hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens plus The Barclays in 2012 and 2016 during the FedExCup Playoffs.

Brooks Koepka will look to join Tiger Woods as the only players to defend their PGA Championship title this century. The field of 156 players will be playing for 600 FedExCup points and a prize pool that paid out last year’s winner $1.98 million from the $11 million purse.

The field of 156 consists of 64 of the top 65 players in the FedExCup standings and 20 PGA Club Professionals. The PGA Championship is also the only major that does not feature amateur players.

Need more Course Info? Check Rob Bolton’s Power RankingsThe First Look and Course Preview.

Recent Winners – Bethpage Black

2016 – The Barclays, Patrick Reed (-9): The cut was 3-over 145 on the Par-71 that played 7,468 yards. Rickie Fowler couldn’t close his one shot lead after 54 holes as he fell to T7, while Emiliano Grillo and Sean O’Hair finished T2. The course record, 64, was tied by Johnson Wagner and Sung Kang in the final round.

2012 – The Barclays, Nick Watney (-10): The cut was 1-over 143 as perfect conditions were seen over the four rounds. Watney began the final round two shots behind Sergio Garcia before winning by three over Brandt Snedeker. Garcia’s 75 saw him share third with Dustin Johnson. Padraig Harrington matched the course record with 64 in Round 1.

2009 – U.S. Open, Lucas Glover (-4): 60 players posted 4-over 144 or better to play the weekend as Mother Nature soaked Long Island all week. The Monday finish saw Phil Mickelson tie for the lead, but fall just short (T2), while Tiger Woods couldn’t recover from an opening round 74 (T6) from the “wrong” side of the draw. Garcia and Rory McIlroy both finished T10.

2002 – U.S. Open, Tiger Woods (-3): The only man under par eviscerated the Black Course from tee-to-green as he racked up fairways and greens for fun. Mickelson finished alone in second with even par 280, as the first U.S. Open at Bethpage played 7,214 yards, the longest in history at that point. Garcia, who was just one off Woods’ lead after 18 holes, fired 68-74-67-74 to end up in fourth.

Key stat leaders

Golfers around the top 25 in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week. This is the 30th event of the season.

  * – Top 10 at a PGA Championship since 2014

** – PGA Champion (year)

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green

1.  **Rory McIlroy (2014)

3.  *Hideki Matsuyama

4.  Tommy Fleetwood

5.  Byeong-Hun An

6.  Corey Conners

7.  *Dustin Johnson

8.  **Tiger Woods (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003)

9.  *Paul Casey

10. Patrick Cantlay

11. *Matt Kuchar

12. *Gary Woodland

13. *Jon Rahm

14. *Sergio Garcia

15. **Keegan Bradley (2011)

16. Lucas Glover

17. Jason Kokrak

18. Webb Simpson

19. Xander Schauffele

20. *Justin Rose

21. Jhonattan Vegas

21. Luke List

23. Bubba Watson

24. *Jim Furyk

25. Matthew Fitzpatrick

Strokes Gained: Putting

 1.  Justin Harding (only eight measured rounds)

3.  Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5.  *Dustin Johnson

7.  *Rickie Fowler

8.  *Justin Rose

9.  Graeme McDowell

10. Patton Kizzire

11. **Jason Day (2015)

11. Pat Perez

13. Andrew Putnam

14. Brian Gay

15. *Adam Scott

19. Brandt Snedeker

22. Cameron Smith

Greens in Regulation

 1.  **Tiger Woods

2.  *Matt Kuchar

3.  Charles Howell III

4.  Corey Conners

7.  *Ryan Palmer

8.  Scott Piercy

10. *Jim Furyk

11. Ian Poulter

12. **Rory McIlroy

12. Cameron Champ

14. **Brooks Koepka (2018)

17. *Gary Woodland

18. Emiliano Grillo

18. Lucas Glover

22. **Jason Dufner (2013)

23. Aaron Wise

24. *Paul Casey

25. *Dustin Johnson

Bogey Avoidance:

1.  *Dustin Johnson

2.  Lucas Glover

3.  *Matt Kuchar

4.  Patrick Cantlay

5.  *Jim Furyk

6.  Charles Howell III

7.  Webb Simpson

8.  Scott Piercy

9. *Justin Rose

11. Tommy Fleetwood

13. *Jon Rahm

16. Xander Schauffele

17. **Rory McIlroy

19. Jhonattan Vegas

20. Kevin Tway

21. Troy Merritt

22. *Jason Day

23. *Hideki Matsuyama

24. Si Woo Kim

25. **Tiger Woods

Recent Winners – PGA Championship

The PGA sets up their events a certain way, so I believe there is validity to inspecting who plays their events well.

2018: Brooks Koepka (-16): A wet Bellerive provided target practice, as Koepka won his second major in three starts and set the 72-hole scoring record of 264 along the way. Tiger Woods was two back in second and Adam Scott third as the powerful ball-strikers had their way.

2017: Justin Thomas (-8): Thomas picked up his first major championship as he overcame a two-shot deficit after 54 holes, while Kevin Kisner couldn’t close out his first major. Quail Hollow Club (Par-71) played firm and fast, and tipped out at 7,600 yards. It ended up being the most difficult track on TOUR in 2017.

2016: Jimmy Walker (-14): A wet Baltusrol, another Tillinghast track, saw Walker tie the 36-hole record as he opened 65-66. Jason Day finished one shot behind while Brooks Koepka, Branden Grace and Hideki Matsuyama shared fourth on the Par-70, 7,428 yard layout.

2015: Jason Day (-20): The Australian dismantled Whistling Straits to set the major scoring record in relation to par. Jordan Spieth was runner-up while Branden Grace took third. Justin Rose (fourth) and Brooks Koepka (T5) were also in the mix.

Select Past History 

Pos 2016 Barclays Score Pos 2012 Barclays Score
Win Patrick Reed -9 Win Nick Watney -10
T2 Emiliano Grillo -8 2 Brandt Snedeker -7
T4 Jason Day -7 T3 Sergio Garcia -6
Gary Woodland Dustin Johnson
Adam Scott T5 Louis Oosthuizen -5
T7 Rickie Fowler -6 Brian Harman
Ryan Moore Lee Westwood
Jason Kokrak T10 Bubba Watson -3
T10 Jordan Spieth -5 T19 Padraig Harrington
12 Tony Finau -4 J.B. Holmes
T13 Charley Hoffman -3 T24 Jason Day -1
Billy Horschel Rickie Fowler
Phil Mickelson Rory McIlroy
Ryan Palmer Ryan Moore
Bubba Watson Ryan Palmer
T18 Dustin Johnson -2
Sung Kang Pos 2009 U.S. Open Score
Louis Oosthuizen
T22 Jhonattan Vegas -1 Win Lucas Glover -4
Jason Dufner T2 Phil Mickelson -2
Brian Harman 5 Ross Fisher -1
Scott Piercy T6 Tiger Woods E
T31 Paul Casey E 9 Henrik Stenson 1
Rory McIlroy T10 Sergio Garcia 2
Chez Reavie Rory McIlroy
Ryan Moore
 T18 Graeme McDowell 4
Ian Poulter
Bubba Watson
T23 Steve Stricker 6
Lee Westwood
Pos 2002 U.S. Open Score
Win Tiger Woods -3
2 Phil Mickelson E
4 Sergio Garcia 3
8 Padraig Harrington 6
T16 Steve Stricker 9
T18 Charles Howell III 10
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