2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black
Bethpage Black is known for being the most difficult public course in the world. Golf Digest consistently ranks it as a Top 50 toughest course in America and with an astounding 7,400+ yard length and 155 slope rating it is easy to see why. The course was built by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast and opened in 1936 as part of President Roosevelt’s public works project. Over the years it has hosted many great tournaments including the US Open in 2002 and 2009 and will be the site of golf’s greatest contest the Ryder Cup in 2024. Bethpage Black has become synonymous with golf’s greatest challenge and has earned its’ reputation as the course that breaks even the best.
As any local Long Islander will tell you the key to Bethpage is to stay in the fairway. With rough approaching 4+ inches expected this week accuracy will be at a premium. But don’t think that means the short hitters will be at an advantage because the course is playing close to 7,500 yards and is only a par 70. That means to contend the players are going to have to be well over 300 off the tee and in the fairway. The big hitters like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, John Rahm, and Jason Day will all have a decided advantage over the field with their prowess in the tee box, but how they handle the rest of the course will tell the tale of where they finish on Sunday evening.
Dustin Johnson shot 278 in when the Barclays was held at Bethpage in 2012 as part of the FedEx playoffs. That week the course was playing at par 71. In 2016 the FedEx playoffs returned to the Black and was won by Patrick Reed at a score of 275 (-9 at par 71) Jason Day finished tied for 4th at 277 along with fellow Aussie Adam Scott. Rickie Fowler was impressive at 278, but his recent struggles in big moments makes us leery to pick him at one of the most mentally challenging courses there is. We all know what happened in 2002 when Tiger won his first US Open and was the only player to break par, but in 2009 the little known Lucas Glover won shooting 276. Both US Opens were played at par 70, the same as it is playing this week for the PGA.
What this little history tells us is that the winning score is likely to be no lower than 277 or 3 under. Now we’ve heard all the big boys talking about someone possibly getting to 10 under, but that’s just not realistic. The rough is horrendous, we have guys on course and they are reporting that balls two or three yards off the fairway are nearly unplayable. They’ve said that if you were out for a normal round with your buddies you’d never find your ball let alone hit it. With the course conditions nearing their most challenging we expect the winning score to be 1 or 2 shots under par. If someone gets to 277 (-3) they are going to moonwalk to victory and hoist the Wanamaker Trophy with ease.
It’s tough not to pick Brooks Koepka. He is ninth in total driving, which is the stat to focus in on this week. He handles the New York crowd as well as anybody which he showed by winning at Shinnecock last year. He is completely unflappable and at times looks like he has no idea what’s going on and does not even recognize that there is pressure. And to top it all off he is playing some of the best golf of his career shooting -20 last week at the Byron Nelson. His odds are 10-1 and even though that makes him a co-favorite with Tiger Woods, that is still value for a guy that should win this tournament. Never overthink value and never confuse being the favorite with not offering value. Getting 10 times your money back is value and Brooks Koepka will provide that return come Sunday Evening in the Long Island Sunset. - WINNER
Abraham Ancer at 250-1 is a complete steal. He is 7th in total driving and has shown signs of playing his best golf on the biggest stage as of late finishing 12th at the Players. - T-16th
Joel Dahmen at 150-1 is 20th in total driving and is Michael Breed’s pick to make a huge run here. If he puts together a game that has been rounding into form lately with a solo second in the Wells Fargo, two Top 20’s in the Zurich and RBC, and a tied for 12th in the Players, he’ll be in mix on Sunday for sure. T-71st
Top Aussie: Jason Day +125 - LOSS
Top Continental European: Alexander Noren +1100 - LOSS
Top European: Paul Casey +100 - LOSS
Top South African: Louis Oosthuizen +120 - LOSS