The 2019 U.S. PGA Championship will be the 101st edition of the golf major, and it begins a new era when the world’s best tee it up at Bethpage Black on May 16.
The U.S. PGA was traditionally the last of the four majors and staged in August, but it moves to a new date as part of a change to the golfing calendar. The U.S. PGA Championship becomes the second major of the year after last month’s U.S. Masters at Augusta.
Brooks Koepka is the defending champion having won last year’s U.S. PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club to add to two US Open titles. Runner-up to Tiger Woods in the Masters in April, can he go back-to-back in the U.S. PGA?
Koepka’s majors record over the last two years reads rather impressively. He has won two U.S. Opens (2017 and 2018), won last year’s U.S. PGA, finished T6 in the 2017 Open Championship and runner-up in the Masters this year one shot behind winner Woods.
Woods enters the tournament as the favourite with bookmakers following his U.S. Masters victory, which was his 15th career major as he completed a remarkable comeback from injury. He is a four-time U.S. PGA Championship winner and lifted the US Open title when it was held at Bethpage Black in 2002.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has won the U.S. PGA title twice, the first at Kiawah Island in 2012 and then again two years later when he won at Valhalla in 2014. Victory in The Players Championship earlier this year underline just how good his form has been in 2019.
The model of consistency, Francesco Molinari won his first major in the 2018 Open Championship and led the Masters heading into the final round this year before fading into T5 behind Woods at Augusta. The little Italian could once again feature at the business end in his typical no-nonsense fashion.
Bethpage Black stages the U.S. PGA Championship for the first time, but it is no stranger to big events including hosting the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009 when Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover each won the title.
Located in Farmingdale, New York, Bethpage Black has also hosted what is now known as The Northern Trust during the FedEx Series PlayOffs with Nick Watney and Patrick Reed triumphing in 2012 and 2016 respectively. That event will return in 2021 and 2027 and Bethpage Black will also host the 2024 Ryder Cup.
At 7,468 yards, the par-70 for majors is regarded as one of the toughest in the United States and has a renowned sign reading: “Warning. The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers”.
So where could the U.S. PGA Championship be won and lost?
The par-5 4th hole measures 517 yards, but it is an early risk and reward test where birdies may be hunted down. It is a lengthy second shot to an elevated green, but opportunities to pick up shots are few and far between and this hole will be targeted given it is one of only two par-5s.
Not the most noted of holes, but the par-4 11th can be a card-wrecker. It is the green on the 400-yarder that really poses the biggest question, with everything sloping to the front and bunkers surrounding the putting surface.
The par-4 15th isn’t as difficult as it once was, thanks to easing of some of the contours of the tricky green, but at 457 yards it is no easy beat. A par here heading into the closing stretch is more than acceptable.
The closing par-4 is another of the birdie opportunities and it is here where the title could be won. The downhill drive leaves a short pitch into this 411-yard test, and picking up a shot on the last could be the defining factor.