Will Woods Smash It Again at Bethpage For USPGA Championship Success?
This weekend sees the second Major golf tournament of the year being contested on the famous publicly owned course Bethpage Black in New York State. A former host of the US Open and future Ryder Cup venue, this tough 18-holes will be the setting for 156 of the top golfers in the world to battle it out to claim the USPGA Championship.
The tournament has moved from the August date it held in the calendar from the 1980s back to May, thanks to the Players Championship moving from this date in May back to March. In doing so, the four Majors in golf are now contested in April (Masters), May (USPGA), June (US Open) and July (British Open). A four month stretch of the year which sees the four top events spaced out more evenly in the calendar.
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Last month saw the first Major of the year and Tiger Woods ended eleven years without a Major title when he landed The Masters win. Since then he has been taking a break to recover from that, but he will be in the field, and amongst the favourites, to try and win what would be his second Major of the year. However, the other 155 players in the field will all be desperate to stop him and write their own chapter in golfing Major history.
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Let’s now take a look at the history of the USPGA Championship
The USPGA Championship
This year is the 101st time that the USPGA Championship will be contested and the current holder of the title is Brooks Koepka. The American, who has also won the US Open in 2017 and 2018, is going for his fourth Major title win in the space of two years and he will be one of the favourites amongst a high-quality field as the event starts on Thursday.
Originally, the USPGA was a tournament that for many years was dominated by American players and was conducted using a matchplay format for many years. That changed in 1958 and the new strokeplay event saw the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player amongst its winners in the 60s. Player was the first player from outside the US to win the tournament and he replicated that feat once again in 1972.
By the 1990s, American players’ dominance of the tournament was just starting to be broken. Wayne Grady’s victory in 1990 then saw Nick Price of Zimbabwe plus Steve Elkington of Australia claim wins before Vijay Singh followed suit a few years later. Still though, American players were amongst the regular winners and amongst them was Tiger Woods, who has won four USPGA titles in total.
No English player has ever won the title apart from Jim Barnes, who won the first two USPGA Championship events in 1916 and then in 1919 (after a two-year hiatus due to World War I). Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy however is a two-time winner, while Padraig Harrington of Ireland has also tasted victory here.
The prize pool for the tournament is now $11,000,000 and the winner will take home a cheque for $1,980,000, the same amount as Brooks Koepka received when winning the same tournament at Bellerive Country Club in Missouri last year.
Bethpage Black Course
Located in Farmingdale, New York State, Bethpage Black Course in Bethpage State Park is one of the few publicly owned courses that is part of the PGA Tour roster. It has hosted the US Open in 2002 and 2009, as well as The Barclays in 2012 and 2016. In addition to this year’s USPGA, the course will also be home to the 2024 Ryder Cup tournament.
The course is a par 71 course that stretches to 7,468 yards although for the USPGA Championship, the par will be changed to 70 for the course. It is known as one of the toughest 18-holes on the US circuit, ranged 6th in terms of the toughest courses in the US back in 2008.
- Hole 1 – 430 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 2 – 389 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 3 – 230 Yards (Par 3)
- Hole 4 – 517 Yards (Par 5)
- Hole 5 – 478 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 6 – 408 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 7 – 524 Yards (Par 5)
- Hole 8 – 210 Yards (Par 3)
- Hole 9 – 460 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 10 – 502 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 11 – 435 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 12 – 517 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 13 – 608 Yards (Par 5)
- Hole 14 – 161 Yards (Par 3)
- Hole 15 – 459 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 16 – 490 Yards (Par 4)
- Hole 17 – 207 Yards (Par 3)
- Hole 18 – 411 Yards (Par 4)
Particular highlights include the 13th and 14th, which sees the longest hole on the course followed by the shortest by a considerable margin. That leads into a very tough final stretch of four holes, three par fours and a long par 3, which is likely where the eventual Championship will be decided on the final day of action.
In addition to the par 5’s the players will also view the second, sixth, 11th and 18th holes as potential birdie opportunities on each round.
Can Tiger Claim his Second Major Success in a Month?
All eyes will be focused on Tiger Woods as he goes for a second Major victory this weekend after his emotional and stunning win at Augusta in April. Woods is one of the early favourites in the betting (currently a 10/1 shot with bet365) but while his form is good, it is worth remembering that since Augusta, he has hardly picked up a golf club in earnest and while his talent alone should have him in contention, will that lack of action be a hindrance in this second Major of the year.
I feel it could be as there is no substitute for playing to keep yourself sharp. Woods back issues in the past and his experience means he knows his body though, so he should be physically fine for the tournament. It is just a question of whether his game is sharp enough to land him the win and in truth, I can’t quite see it being there at the moment. The US Open next month would be a more realistic prospect for Woods second victory of the year in my view.
If Woods won’t win, who will?
The quality of the field at the USPGA this year is something else and in truth almost any of the 156 players competing has a real chance of winning. However, the tournament does have a history of producing American winners and of the four PGA tournaments held on this course, all four have produced a home-based player as the winner.
As such, I feel an American winner is the smart bet here and of that group of very talented players, Dustin Johnson (also a 10/1 shot with bet365) stands out. The World Number 1 golfer has not won a Major since his solitary US Open win in 2016 and he is long overdue adding another to that victory. He is bang in form and has the kind of game that should thrive at Bethpage and he would be my pick for an outright winner bet.