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The 101st edition of the PGA Championship takes place this Thursday through Sunday in Farmingdale, New York, at Bethpage Black, one of a number of courses within the Bethpage complex. All of the world’s top 100 players were slated to battle for the Wanamaker Trophy until a Monday withdraw by ﬁfth-ranked Justin Thomas because of a wrist injury.
Starting this year the PGA Championship tees off in May, a controversial decision considering weather will likely prevent the tournament from being contested at a number of Midwest venues, such as Oakland Hills, Medinah, Hazeltine and Whistling Straits. Consequently, the PGA is now just another major in the middle, rather than “Glory’s Last Shot.”
Designed by the legendary A.W. Tillinghast, Bethpage was ﬁrst selected to host the U.S. Open in 2002, with the same major returning to this Long Island layout seven years later. The public-access course has since played host to The Barclays FedEx Cup events in 2012 and 2016. So much is thought of this venue that it will now host its ﬁrst PGA and stage the Ryder Cup in 2024.
Tillinghast courses are known for their difﬁculty, most notably their elevated greens and extremely deep bunkers. Examples include Winged Foot near New York City (host of ﬁve U.S. Opens and one PGA) and Baltusrol (host of seven U.S. Opens and two PGAs) just across the way in New Jersey.
The PGA Championship often is thought of as a more difﬁcult regular PGA Tour setup. However, on average, it is probably the best ﬁeld in golf and includes spots for 20 PGA club pros who qualify each year.
As is the case in most major championships, a wide variety of players can win. In the last 10 years, the average world ranking of the PGA winner was 32.7, including one No. 1-ranked player (Rory McIlroy in 2014) and one ranked 110th (Y.E. Yang in 2009). Aside from McIlroy, three other winners were ranked inside the top ﬁve (McIlroy in 2012, Jason Day in 2015 and Brooks Koepka last year). Seven of the previous 10 winners captured their ﬁrst major by winning the Wanamaker, so it’s hardly out of the realm of possibility for a newbie to pull it off.
Several players indicate they have the right stuff to add majors to their resumes, including Bryson DeChambeau. He boasts a win at last year’s Northern Trust, which was played at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Like Bethpage, Ridgewood is another Tillinghast design, and few people will be able to outthink “The Scientist.” All he needs is a hot putter.
DeChambeau is sixth on Tour in strokes gained off the tee and third in birdie average. He is deceptively long off the tee and has an extra gear if need be. The 2015 NCAA individual champion out of SMU is listed at +2200 odds, at time of writing, to win the PGA Championship. For the ﬁrst two rounds, one of his two partners will be Pat Perez, one of the Tour’s fastest players. By contrast, DeChambeau is notoriously slow.
I’m going to give DeChambeau the nod to grab his ﬁrst major.
Tiger Woods must merit mention anywhere he plays, especially since he just won the Masters last month and captured the 2002 U.S. Open on these same Bethpage grounds. Despite that, I’ll go against him at short odds. I like his chances better in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in a few weeks. He almost always contends wherever he tees it up, but the one thing holding him back has been his putting. He’s tied for 204th on Tour i three-putt avoidance. Tee to green his game is excellent.
Value For Tiger
It’s not often one can say this about Tiger Woods heading into a major, but he’s at historically good value for the PGA Championship this week.
Following his epic Masters victory, Woods is favorited to win his 16th major at odds of +800. This is despite the fact he hasn’t played since sewing up the Masters on April 14.
The Masters victory came at odds of +1400. The shorter odds for the PGA reﬂect an increase in conﬁdence about his chances, which are well deserved.
Historically, however, the +800 odds are fantastic compared to typical favorited players. Woods was at the same odds when he won his ﬁrst major, the 1997 Masters, but the 2019 Masters is the only one of his 15 major victories in which he was at longer odds than +800.
For most of the other majors, Woods was at much shorter odds. For 11 of them, Woods was at +350 or less, and three of those tournaments registered less than +200-odds almost unheard of for anybody in golf since Tiger was at his peak. The other two major lines were at +500 and +600.
Golf has progressed a great deal since then, and the younger generation doesn’t have the fear of Woods in the same way some of his contemporaries did. But his Masters triumph-and his close ﬁnishes at The Open and the PGA last year-prove he is once again among the best in the game. What’s more, with 81 tour victories, he knows how to win more than any of his competitors.”
“Woods also has form at Bethpage, the venue for the 2019 PGA Championship. He won the US Open there in 2002 and ﬁnished sixth in the same tournament in 2009. Bethpage features narrow fairways and difﬁcult rough, and the course favored length from the tee rather than accuracy when it hosted The Barclays in 2016.
Woods is currently 52nd on the tour in average length off the tee, but just as importantly, he leads the tour for greens in regulation, which will be important this week.
There are plenty of great betting options for the PGA Championship-the +2800 odds on Xander Schauffele is very attractive-but the +800 odds on Woods should not scare punters away. In historical terms, given Tiger is now up with the best again, they should do exactly the opposite.