The Punter's Early Look at the 2019 majors: The US PGA Championship

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy – likely to go well at Bethpage Black
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Steve 'The Punter' Rawlings takes an early look at the year's second major, the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black...

“Rory McIlroy fans will be encouraged by the course correlation. He absolutely loves Quail Hollow and he’s won this event twice previously too. He turns 30 just before the tournament, which may well spur him on to concentrate harder on improving his major tally total and he’s an industry-wide best priced 16/1 with six places with the Sportsbook.”

The 2019 US PGA Championship
May 16 -19
The Black Course, Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale, New York

Move to May makes a lot of sense

After a rejig to the PGA Tour schedule, the USPGA Championship moves from August to May and instead of being the fourth and final major of the year, this year it's the second, following on from the US Masters in April, which I've looked at here.

Moving the tournament makes a lot of sense. It spreads the four majors out slightly more evenly throughout the year and, hopefully it should increase its stature. The US PGA Championship used to carry the strapline "Glory's Last Shot" and it's always been the least prestigious of the four majors. This will be the 101st edition.

The US PGA Championship is a nomadic tournament and in 2019 it visits the Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York, where the field will get to play The Black Course - the hardest of five tracks on the property.

Created by renowned designer A.W. Tillinghast, the Bethpage Black Course opened in 1936. In 2002 it became the first public course to host the U.S Open, when Tiger Woods won by three over Phil Mickelson. It was again the venue for the U.S Open in 2009, when Lucas Glover won by two strokes from the luckless Mickelson. On both occasions the U.S Open was played in wet conditions (particularly in 2009 when the event ran into Monday) but it's also been used for The Barclays (now known as The Northern Trust) in both 2012 and 2016.

At 7,468 yards, it's an extremely long track but it does now play to a par of 71, compared to the 70 it played to at the two US Opens, as the seventh hole is now a par five.

Here are the top three and ties for the four tournaments mentioned at Bethpage Black, along with all the key stats.

2002 U.S Open
1st Tiger Woods -3 DD - 7 DA - 7 GIR - 1 SC - 12 PA - 33
2nd Phil Mickelson Ev DD - 18 DA - 7 GIR - 8 SC - 33 PA - 3
3rd Jeff Maggert +2 DD - 59 DA - 15 GIR - 32 SC - 1 PA - 12

2009 U.S Open
1st Lucas Glover -4 DD - 8 DA - 17 GIR - 4 SC - 8 PA - 10
2nd Ricky Barnes -2 DD - 20 DA - 35 GIR - 10 SC - 27PA - 16
2nd David Duval -2 DD - 14 DA - 21 GIR - 31 SC - 23 PA - 1
2nd Phil Mickelson -2 DD - 16 DA - 32 GIR - 21 SC - 36 PA - 2

2012 Barclays
1st Nick Watney -10 DD - 29 DA - 16 GIR - 2 SC - 65 PA - 11
2nd Brandt Snedeker -7 DD - 44 DA -28 GIR - 33 SC - 4 PA - 12
3rd Sergio Garcia -6 DD - 55 DA - 3 GIR - 4 SC - 41 PA - 32
3rd Dustin Johnson -6 DD - 1 DA -40 GIR - 7 SC - 9 PA - 55

2016 Barclays
1st Patrick Reed -9 DD - 21 DA - 50 GIR - 13 SC - 10 PA - 53
2nd Emiliano Grillo -8 DD - 53 DA -28 GIR - 13 SC - 5 PA - 25
3rd Sean O'Hair -8 DD - 19 DA - 15 GIR - 12 SC - 2 PA - 32

DD - Driving Distance
DA - Driving Accuracy
GIR - Greens In Regulation
SC - Scrambling
PA - Putting Accuracy

The Poa Annua greens aren't small but they're largely elevated and well protected by bunkers so they're not easy to find and Greens In Regulation has been the main stat in the four events detailed above. Tiger Woods ranked first for GIR in 2002 and in the next three events there, the three players that ranked first for GIR all finished inside the top-seven places. Ross Fisher (2009) and Louis Oosthuizen (2012) both finished fifth and Jason Kokrak finished seventh two years ago.

Wells Fargo performance a strong indicator

Looking at the four leaderboards, one thing jumped out at me straight away. The two U.S Open winners, Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, have both won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and the Barclays winners, Nick Watney and Patrick Reed, have both finished runners-up there. Reed was second to Justin Thomas at Quail Hollow in this event last year and Watney was second there in the Wells Fargo back in May.

If we dig a bit deeper, there's further evidence to suggest the courses correlate strongly. The two men tied for second at The Barclays in 2016, Emiliano Grillo and Sean O'Hair, both have Quail Hollow form - Grillo was ninth there in May and O'Hair won the Wells Fargo in 2009. And Glover finished second that year too - two years before he won it. Sergio Garcia, the third at Bethpage Black in 2012, once famously threw away a six-stroke 54-hole lead at Quail Hollow, and Phil Mickelson, who was runner-up at Bethpage Black twice in the U.S Open, has squandered a couple of chances to win at Quail Hollow.

Who to back?

I haven't yet taken the plunge on anyone for this one and it looks wide open but here are four suggested possible wagers.

Given he won this event at Quail Hollow, Justin Thomas is a very obvious candidate. He's an exceptional putter on Poa Annua with a very impressive strike rate so he's very easy to fancy.

Rory McIlroy fans will be encouraged by the course correlation. He absolutely loves Quail Hollow and he's won this event twice previously too. He turns 30 just before the tournament, which may well spur him on to concentrate harder on improving his major tally total and he's an industry-wide best priced 16/1 with six places with the Sportsbook. If you believe he can get back to his best in 2019 and win his fifth major, and his first in five years, this looks a far more likely place for it to happen than at Augusta in April.

JASON DAY 1280.jpg

Jason Day is another very obvious candidate. He won this major in 2015 and he won at Quail Hollow in May. He was fourth in the Barclays two years ago and he's a terrific putter on Poa Annua. He's an industry-wide best priced 16/1 with the Sportsbook.

And finally, Aaron Wise is an interesting outsider if you fancy playing an up-and-coming type. He finished runner-up to Day in May on his first visit to Quail Hollow.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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