PGA Championship picks: The 13 best bets to win at Bethpage Black
Have you caught your breath yet from a thrilling 2019 Masters? You have? Good, because it's time to move on. Gone is the two-month gap between majors that used to exist, thanks to the PGA Championship's move to May. And the former fourth major couldn't have had better timing as the focus of the sports world May 16-19 will be on New York's Bethpage Black, where Tiger Woods will try to win a second consecutive major after snapping a decade-plus drought in golf's biggest events at Augusta National. Not surprisingly, the Big Cat is a big favorite in the Big Apple, but should he be? We've monitored the odds (Courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas Superbook) for weeks, and here's our final list of PGA Championship picks.
1.) Tiger Woods (10/1)
Kevin C. Cox
Reason to pick: Woods arrives in New York with a green jacket following a dramatic Masters win that ended nearly 11 years of major championship frustration. Tiger also won the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. After he won the Masters that year. Cue up the calendar Grand Slam talk!
Cause for concern: Or. . . maybe not. With Woods skipping the Wells Fargo, it's fair to wonder how he'll play with a five-week gap between starts. And how will that fused back like that early Thursday morning May tee time in New York when it could still be in the 40s? For what it's worth, Woods was No. 8 in our final Masters ranking before the tournament started. However, he was my pre-season pick to win the PGA so I'm sticking with him. But having been downgraded from 8-to-1 to 10-to-1 odds, he now has company as the tournament favorite. . .
2.) Brooks Koepka (10/1)
Reason to pick: The defending PGA champ and just as importantly, the two-time defending U.S. Open champ considering where this PGA will be played. No one plays better in golf’s biggest events these days. Although that guy listed above is getting pretty close again.
Cause for concern: Koepka put all those Weight Watchers’ questions to rest at the Masters, but the questions about his putting always lurk. He’s currently ranked 93rd in strokes gained: putting (although, up from 148th after the Masters), and he could have been slipping on a green jacket if he had converted great looks on 17 and 18 over the weekend at Augusta National.
3.) Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Reason to pick: The World No. 1 is never a bad bet, especially at a big, wet course where there will be a premium on driving distance.
Cause for concern: Although he quietly played his way into the mix on Sunday at the Masters, two other recent final-round performances (A 74 at the Valspar and a 77 at Hilton Head) proved yet again that DJ isn’t as unflappable under pressure as he looks.
4.) Rory McIlroy (12/1)
Reason to pick: The phrase "Big, wet golf course," is music to McIlroy's ears, and a T-21 at the Masters is his only non-top-10 finish in what has been a sizzling start to the season. Plus, with the year’s first major out of the way, McIlroy won’t have to answer any questions about going for the career Grand Slam at Bethpage.
Cause for concern: Can you believe this will be the first major championship of Rory's 30s? That, obviously, isn’t a concern, but the fact the four-time major champ is closing in on five years since his last major triumph is.
5.) Francesco Molinari (25/1)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Reason to pick: The Italian was possibly a pine cone away from winning two of the past three majors at the Masters. And in the past year, no one has played so many impressive mistake-free stretches of golf—a trait that should come in handy at a place where difficult conditions are celebrated by a warning sign to golfers on the first tee.
Cause for concern: The biggest key to Molinari’s mid-career renaissance has been his added length, but there’s long and then there’s Bethpage long. And then there’s Bethpage-in-wet-spring-conditions long (Seriously, it seems like it rains every day here). As a result, the Italian’s long irons will need to be extra dialed in.
6.) Xander Schauffele (25/1)
Reason to pick: Schauffele has quickly become a Brooks Koepka-lite, and we're not just referring to weight again. The 25-year-old has already racked up four top-six finishes in only eight major championship appearances.
Cause for concern: As we’ve seen with other players like Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, consistently contending at majors in your 20s doesn’t guarantee you’re actually going to win one.
7.) Rickie Fowler (16/1)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Reason to pick: Although he missed the cut at Bethpage Black as an amateur at the 2009 U.S. Open, Fowler finished T-24 and T-7 in his two starts on the Long Island track as a pro at the 2012 and 2016 Barclays. A winner already this year in Phoenix, Fowler picked up his 10th career major top 10 at the Masters.
Cause for concern: After finishing no worse than 26th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green the past four seasons, Fowler has slipped to No. 45 this season.
8.) Jason Day (20/1)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Reason to pick: The former World No. 1 hasn’t been piling up the wins, but he has quietly amassed five top 10s this season, including at the Players and the Masters. Also, he’s completely healthy for once. Although, you wouldn’t know it by watching this video of him “running" at the Zurich Classic. . .
Cause for concern: Day’s iron play has been less than stellar this season (145th in strokes gained: approach). And like Tiger, we worry about the chilly conditions for his balky back—and, um, sensitive immune system.
9.) Justin Rose (20/1)
Reason to pick: Rose was the most surprising missed cut at the Masters, but prior to that he had finished in the top 10 in four of his six starts this season, including a wire-to-wire win at Torrey Pines. Getting 20-to-1 odds on the World No. 2 is pretty good value.
Cause for concern: Rose’s Bethpage Black track record is pretty bleak. He missed the cut at the 2009 U.S. Open, and finished T-46 and T-31 in the 2012 and 2016 Barclays, respectively.
10.) Tony Finau (30/1)
Reason to pick: Finau has finished in the top 10 in four of his past five major championship starts, including a T-5 at the Masters where he played in the final group with Woods and Molinari.
Cause for concern: Like we’ve said before, though, none of Finau's top 10s have translated into wins. Yet.
11.) Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Reason to pick: At a PGA that should play more like a U.S. Open based on the venue, it’s tough to leave a brilliant ball-striker who has finished fourth and second in that event the past two years off the short list of favorites. A runner-up alongside Sergio Garcia at the Zurich Classic doesn’t hurt.
Cause for concern: With all his talent, Tommy is still searching for that first victory on U.S. soil. Accomplishing that at a major is a tall order.
12.) Adam Scott (40/1)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Reason to pick: The rejuvenated Aussie sent a message in this event last year (solo third) that he wasn’t finished contending at major championships. Scott was also high on the board at the Masters before his putter went cold on the weekend. Not exactly a shocker these days.
Cause for concern: Putting with the flagstick in was supposed to be Scott’s magical cure to his woes on the green, but he was brutal at Augusta National. That being said, Bethpage Black’s greens are pretty tame by major championship standards, which should help him convert a few more of those birdie looks.
13.) Sergio Garcia (50/1)
Reason to pick: The Spaniard takes the spot of Justin Thomas, who withdrew with a wrist injury. And considering Garcia, who has six worldwide top 10s in 2019, is the only PGA Tour pro with three top 10s at Bethpage Black (4th in 2002 U.S. Open, T-10 in 2009 U.S. Open, and T-3 in 2012 Barclays), that 50-to-1 number is mighty tasty.
Cause for concern: Sergio's iron game (3rd in strokes gained: approach) has been locked in, but his driving (43rd in strokes gained: off-the-tee) has been lacking. He'll need to sharpen up that part of his game to contend. And as long as he doesn't revert to re-gripping his club a bunch of times before he hits, he should have the New York crowd more on his side than in 2002.
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