The PGA Tour has been planning on shaking up the golf calendar for some time now. Jay Monahan wanted to make a positive impact on professional golf when he became PGA Tour commissioner and his master plan is coming to fruition this season.
Among the many changes to the PGA Tour season is the shifting of the US PGA Championship from August to May. The tournament therefore becomes the second major of the year rather than the last and the event organisers are hopeful it will do very good things for an event which has always struggled for parity with the three other majors.
That the move has coincided with an upturn in interest for golf following Tiger Woods’ win at the Masters is another boost to the US PGA Championship as is the prestige of this year’s host course, the Black Course at Bethpage State Park.
Driving Could be Key at Bethpage
Social media has been full of videos posted by US PGA Championship competitors of the rough at Bethpage. It’s been allowed to grow pretty long around the fairways which looks a little ominous for those who are wayward off the tee. Hitting the ball straight will not be enough on its own to contend though as the course will play 7,468 yards long which is challenging for a par 70.
Players who drive it much less that 280 yards will find that they are hitting long irons into many of the greens which is a distinct disadvantage compared to the bombers who will be able to pull their scoring irons.
Bethpage Black has hosted majors and PGA Tour events before and the stats show that approach play is vitally important. Hitting high quality shots into the greens gets easier the further down the fairways you are though and it’s little surprise that the bookies’ odds favour longer hitters.
Koepka to Rise to the Challenge Again
One of those big hitters who is well fancied by the bookmakers is defending champion, Brooks Koepka. The 29-year-old American is something of a marvel to many golf fans as rather than get overwhelmed by the pressure of playing in major championships, he is actually better in them than regular PGA Tour events.
It is no fluke that Koepka has won three majors in less than two years. He believes that the nature of the fields in majors means he will beat half of the competition simply by turning up, that some of his real competitors won’t have their best game that week and that others will wilt under the pressure. That leaves Koepak with only a handful of players he’s really in competition with.
That’s certainly a ballsy way of viewing the biggest tournaments in golf but you can’t argue with results. Those results may get even better for Koepka this week as Bethpage Black should suit his qualities of big hitting and excellent iron play very well so he is fully deserving of his place towards the top of the betting market where he is 11/1 with Bethard.
Each Way Shots to Consider
What players do off the tee this week is going to have a significant impact on whether they can compete come Sunday. That throws open a couple of intriguing options a little further down the betting.
The first of these is Paul Casey at 50/1 with Betfred. The Englishman is in a real purple patch of his career right now and has more than enough confidence to overcome the disappointment of his play at the Masters.
Casey regularly follows up excellent drives with similarly high class iron shots. If he combines that with some solid putting he could be in the shake up come Sunday.
Another Englishman to consider is Lee Westwood. He too has come right back to form over the last year or so and got back into the winner’s circle at the Nedbank Golf Challenge towards the end of last season. A major championship is all that’s missing from Westwood’s impressive CV and he may just put that right this week at huge odds of 250/1 with Black Type.
Brooks Koepka to win at 11/1 with Bethard
Lee Westwood each way at 250/1 with Black Type
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