By Norm Elrod
(CBS New York/CBS Local) – The 101st PGA Championship, which will tee off Thursday at Bethpage Black, welcomes possibly the strongest field to ever play a major. Until Justin Thomas withdrew with a wrist injury, all 100 of the world’s top 100 players were scheduled to appear. Losing a top-five player certainly changed the prediction calculus a little. But a glance at the favorites – Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy – still suggests an exciting weekend of golf for the tournament’s inaugural May event.
Traditionally played in mid-August, the PGA Championship slips into the second major slot on the calendar, a month after the Masters and a month before the U.S. Open. Storylines abound. Can Tiger Woods win his 16th major and pull within two of Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list? Will this historic field tame the legendary Bethpage Black? Koepka’s coming of age, Jordan Spieth’s grand slam, possible breakthroughs… the list goes on.
That’s why we watch.
As mentioned previously, this PGA Championship will enjoy a stellar field of golf’s best. That will include all of the top 10, outside of the injured Thomas. Koepka (3) took home the Wanamaker Trophy from the 2018 event at Bellerive Golf Course, beating out Woods (6) by two strokes. Francesco Molinari (7), who managed a T6 at Bellerive, is the only other world top-10 to crack last year’s tournament top 10. Every one of the previous 10 PGA Championship winners, outside of Thomas, will tackle Bethpage, including Jimmy Walker (2016), Jason Day (2015) and Jason Dufner (2013).
Perhaps as relevant as past PGA Championship winners are past winners from tournaments held at Bethpage Black. The 2016 Barclays was the most recent. Winner Patrick Reed, along with T2 finisher Emiliano Grillo and T4 finisher Gary Woodland all return to the course this week. At the same tournament in 2012 (then known as the Barclays), Brandt Snedeker finished second, ahead of Johnson and Sergio Garcia at T3. The Bethpage Black course also hosted the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009. Lucas Glover won the latter, followed by Phil Mickelson at T2, while Woods won the former, also followed by Mickelson.
Bethpage Black has received renewed attention this week, and rightfully so. This course challenges players throughout its 7,459 yards of fairways and greens, with only one par-3 less than 200 yards and one par-4 less than 400 yards. It will play at par-71, the same as at its previous two Barclays/Northern Trust events, and will tempt golfers to move beyond their comfort zone.
Nick Faldo, the CBS Sports lead analyst who finished T5 at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, says the key to playing well at the course is staying patient and hitting smart shots. “Course strategy, putting the reigns on yourself. Just being smart and sensible,” he said recently. “Don’t compound any errors by getting super aggressive just because you are forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. I think that’s one of the keys to the golf course. …read more
Source:: Daily times