The second major of the year has been moved forward but the build-up to the USPGA has gone back in time as Tiger Woods is the talk of the town. Woods’ Masters Triumph, his 15th major and first in more than a decade, was one of the great sporting moments – and one that managed to cut through to the front pages as well as the back, not to mention every TV bulletin too.
With that first major hurdle overcome, fans will be on the edge of their seat with excitement at the thought of him winning again – and then setting a feverish amount of excitement heading to the two opens.
Woods will feel like he can do anything – and he can – but where circumstances were in his favour at Augusta, they might work against him here.
Course: Augusta’s unique layout has a huge effect on the type of player that wins the Masters – indeed it creates a certain type of Champion – and Bethpage Black will have just as much of an effect, if not more, on this year’s USPGA Championship.
Bethpage Black is a public course with a warning for amateurs not to play – so one can guess that it is a tough test. At 7,436 yards it is large by any measure but it is a par 70 with just two par fives to boot. Many long courses in the US are wide open attacking tracks that invite bombers to shoot to their heart’s content but Bethpage Black is a suffocating venue with rough of four inches on the fairways – tighter than most US courses, especially ones this long – eight inches when one nears out of bounds, and the course is guarded by eight acres of sand.
A wet spring and recent rain has only lengthened the course – so length and accuracy are two simply vital components that you won’t win without. Also, finding the greens – which pay fast despite the weather – will play a big part in finding the winner.
It was the first public course to host the US Open in 2002, and it was once again the venue in 2009. Punters do not need to look far for more recent form – it hosted the 2012 and 2016 Barclays Championship, and it has close similarities with Quail Hollow too.
- Brooks Koepka (2 pts each/way, 11/1 Bet Victor, 10/1 SkyBet, paying 10 places)
Koepeka was one of a number who gave a bold show at the Masters for yours truly, simply confirming that he is arguably the pre-eminent Major player in the game at the moment. He has won three of the last seven majors that he has entered and Since the beginning of 2018 his major form reads T11-1-T6-T13-1-T39-1-T2 and his fourth place in the T&T Byron Nelson on Sunday was a decent warm-up. Don’t mind the fact that h the fact that he’s winless this year – he only really cares about The Majors – and don’t worry too much about his poor Bethpage record – he improved hand over fist at Augusta and the course characteristics actually suit him just fine. One of the most powerful drivers in the game, if he stays straight – and he is the reigning US Open Champion – then he’s got a huge chance.
- Sergio Garcia (1.5 pts each/way 45/1 with bookmakers playing 7 places, and Bet365)
Garcia missed the cut in The Masters but that’s about the only negative one can find. Take a look at his recent form. He was second in the Zurich Classic and then fourth in the Wells Fargo at key-tune up course Quail Hollow since, and few have better course credentials than him. His Bethpage form figures are – 4-10-3 – and he won the Buick Classic in New York in 2001 and 2004, so don’t worry about him getting along with the locals too much.
3) Jason Day (1.5 pts each/way, 22/1 general)
Day’s back injury can sometimes flare up again but he was fifth at Augusta (best score in the fourth round) and loves the USPGA in general. He has finished in the top 20 in the last 6 editions of this tournament and he plays Bethpage well – he has form of 24 and 4th in two Barclays starts there, the last when hitting less than 50% of fairways in 2016.
He loves the courses of Andew Tillinghast – indeed the last time this major was held on a design of his he was second to Jimmy Walker – and he seems to be perhaps the most suited of the market leaders – and there are many – to this test.
- Jhonattan Vegas (1 pt each/way 150/1 general)
This major arguably has the best record of big priced shock winners – three straight winners went off at three figures between 2001 and 2003 whilst in 2009 and 2011 there were winners at 300 and nearly 600/1, so having one outsider at least looks worthwhile.
Vegas was 22nd in the 2016 Barclays and was eighth at Quail Hollow, so plays the course well – and seven top 30 finishes in the last eight starts suggests that he’s in the right form to make a bold play here.
- Dustin Johnson (1.5 pts each/way, 10/1 general)
Another one from the top of the leaderboard but it was too hard to leave him out. Only one major title might be a disappointment but he has a top five in each major and a very strong record in the US Open, and he won that on a long par 70 too. Johnson plays New York courses extremely well and has a strong enough record at Bethpage, having finished third in the 2012 Barclays and 18th there four years later. The longest driver on tour, he managed second in the Masters despite changing his driver three times at Augusuta before then changing his shaft, and assuming he likes his clubs better then he’s got to go well.