PGA Championship 2019: 5 storylines to watch heading into Bethpage Black
After an incredible and thrilling Masters Tournament to start the men's major championship schedule for 2019, golf fans don't have to wait long for the excitement to continue.
The season's second major takes us to Bethpage Black in New York for the 101st playing of the PGA Championship.
As we approach the start of the Championship on Thursday, May 16, here's a look at five storylines to keep an eye on at Bethpage.
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The Big Cat
Following strong performances at the 2018 Open Championship and 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods broke through at the Masters to pick up his 15th major championship and first major win since 2008 at the U.S. Open. Can he make it 16 and pull within two of Jack’s record at Bethpage? Well, history would say it’s quite possible. Tiger Woods conquered the first two legs of the grand slam back in 2002. The courses he played? Augusta National and Bethpage Black.
With Tiger not teeing it up at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship, he will not have any starts between his Masters win and competing at Bethpage. This will be the first time without starts between majors since 2013 when he didn't play between the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. The last time he took time off between the season's first two majors? That was in 2008 when he rallied to win the U.S. Open.
Overall, six times in Tiger's professional career he has gone from major to major — twice it has paid off with a win at the 1999 PGA Championship and the aforementioned 2008 U.S Open.
Back-to-back for Koepka?
Brooks Koepka is making quite the name for himself in major championships. Here are his results since the 2016 PGA Championship:
2016 PGA: T4
2017 Masters: T21
2017 US Open: Win
2017 Open: T6
2017 PGA: T13
2018 US Open: Win
2018 Open: T39
2018 PGA: Win
2019 Masters: T2
Counting him out as a contender at Bethpage would be foolish.
If Koepka can continue his incredible pace and defend his 2018 PGA Championship win — combined with being the two-time defending U.S. Open champion — he would become the first player in golf history to hold concurrent back-to-back major titles.
Third time the charm for Spieth?
This year, Jordan Spieth will make his third attempt at capturing the career grand slam. In his previous two attempts, he finished T28 at Quail Hollow in 2017 and T12 last year at Bellerive.
Spieth heads into this PGA Championship on a bit of a slump and his game not as sharp as it has been in the past. He hasn't won a tournament since the 2017 Open Championship and does not have a top 20 finish in 2019. But the PGA Championship is an event that Spieth has done well at over the past four years, so it wouldn't be out of the question for him to have a breakout week in New York.
A first-time major champion?
We turn, of course, to the list of best players without a major championship headlined by Rickie Fowler. Since the 2017 Masters (nine majors), Fowler has missed no cuts and has four top 10s. His T5 finish on a difficult course at Quail Hollow in the 2017 PGA Championship could be a positive sign of things to come for Fowler on an also difficult track at Bethpage.
Or could it be another major-less golfer that etches his name into history? Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, and Tommy Fleetwood are just a few big names in the top part of the Official World Golf Ranking who have been playing very well of late, including at the Masters, and have a good shot at the Wanamaker Trophy.
The PGA Championship also has had a recent history of breakthrough performers, as three of the past four winners of the Wanamaker have been first-time major champions (Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day).
"The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course"
The sign behind the first tee of the Black Course at Bethpage State Park says all you need to know about what the world's best golfers will face when they tee it up in May. In the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, only one player — Tiger Woods — finished below par for the tournament. In 2009, Lucas Glover won finishing at 4-under and only five players finished under par. History would tell us that we should expect an exciting and fair challenge again in 2019.
In addition to the storyline of how the course will stymie game plans throughout the week, Mother Nature could also play a factor as May on Long Island could bring major temperature and precipitation fluctuations.