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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
McIlroy can draw confidence from gritty performance at Bethpage
May 24, 2019 12:02 PM
 
There was good reason to feel optimistic regarding Rory McIlroy’s hopes of ending a four-year major championship trophy drought at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black last week. After all, the 30-year-old arrived into New York with eight top-10s to his name through nine starts in 2019, including a runners-up finish to Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February and an emphatic single-stroke victory away from Jim Furyk at The Players Championship in March. McIlroy’s chances were further boosted by the wet, blustery conditionsthat buffeted the New York coastline last week; in addition to enhancing the premium a lengthy track such as Bethpage Black naturally places on distance off the tee, such conditions also served to slow the putting surface and cultivate the soft, receptive landing areas on which the Irishman’s approach game thrives. Put simply, everything appeared to be in place for the world No.4 to storm to a third US PGA Championship title. Rory McIlroy was T125 at one point on Friday.He's currently T13 at the PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/3ifWZZOlEU— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 19 May 2019 As it turned-out, however, McIlroy never even came close to exerting pressure on the run-away champion, Brooks Koepka and needed, ultimately, to content himself with a T8 finish at 1-over for the tournament, nine strokes back from the winner. But despite this disappointment, the four-time major champion departed New York with a smile on his face, affirming a genuine sense of confidence in his game. Such sentiments can only be understood properly when one reflects on his T8 finish in the broader context of his overall performance in the tournament. After all, an indifferent 2-over opening-round 72 immediately put McIlroy on the back-foot and he teed-off on Friday a full eight-strokes shy of Koepka’s overnight lead. When he dropped five shots within the first three holes of his second-round to slump to seven over par, he seemed certain to miss a first cutin 14-months. A stunning, 4-under back-nine, however, was sufficient to ensure that the former world No.1 snuck into the weekend within a stroke of the cut-mark, and he carded back-to-back rounds of 69 over the weekend to seal an unlikely top-10 finish – his ninth such result in 10 starts since the beginning of the year. 'I just need to play the first 27 holes better,' McIlroy said. 'I played the last 45 in six under par, which was good on a tough course on a tough weekend. It's really tough out there today, but I tried to the very end. 'I could have let my head go down in the middle of that second round and be home in Florida right now, but I wanted to be here for the weekend and I'm glad I could make the most of the opportunity I had to play the extra couple of days. 'Today it's so tough out there, I've moved up the leaderboard quite a lot, and my goal at the start of the day was to get into the top 10. I’m happy with that.’ Clearly, a golfer of McIlroy’s calibre is focused on major titles, not top-10s. But for an athlete accused frequently of lacking the mental toughness required to grind in the face of adversity to pull a top-10 out of the fire in the manner that McIlroy did in New York is impressive and bodes well for his hopes of winning one of the season’s two remaining majors. We may well be observing a new, more mentally robust Rory McIlroy. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Charles Schwab Challenge betting tips
May 23, 2019 5:05 AM
 
Following on from the drama of Brooks Koepka’s triumph at the US PGA Championship in New York on Sunday, the regular PGA Tour season resumes at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas at the Charles Schwab Challenge this week. Here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright Winner: Kevin Kisner (45/1) Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the defending champion, Justin Rose who leads the betting in Forth Worth at 8/1. The world No.3 posted four rounds of 66 or better on route to a three-stroke victory away from Koepka to win this title 12 months agoand arrives in Texas in solid form. Rose claimed his tenth PGA Tour title by two-strokes away from Adam Scott at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January, and while he disappointed in tying for 29th at Bethpage Black last week, he still owns four top-10s to just two missed-cuts in nine startsin 2019. That said, the Englishman’s driving accuracy and putting were extremely wayward in New York which greatly diminishes his chances of contending on a relatively short track, such as Colonial, which places a heavy emphasis on those two statistical indicators. Furthermore, he prefaced last year’s victory at the event with a deeply indifferent run of results reading, 13-45-34-71. I am happy to leave him unbacked at short odds. Much the same goes for the other two big names in this week’s field: Jon Rahm (11/1) and Jordan Spieth (12/1). Jordan Spieth will tee it up with Kevin Kisner and Ryan Palmer on Thursday and Friday at the Charles Schwab Challenge: https://t.co/CDTbhZp6wu pic.twitter.com/9VeaeSYunC— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) 23 May 2019 Spieth, of course, has dominated the headlinesleading into this event after tying for third at last week’s US PGA Championship. Remarkably, that result marked the occasion of his first top-10 finish since tying for ninth at The Open at Royal Birkdale last July and has sparked widespread hope that he might be set to rediscover the form that propelled him to victory at Colonialthree-years ago. That said, Spieth never meaningfully contended for the title at Bethpage Black and departed New York with two over-par rounds to his name. As impressive as his putting was last week, I have yet to be convinced that he has decisively turned a corner in his quest to recapture his best form and am consequently content to overlook him. Rahm is trickier call to make. In two previous starts at Colonial, the Spaniard has finished second and fifth and has carded seven top-10s in 11 startssince rounding out 2018 with a victory at the Hero World Challenge. It cannot be overlooked, however, that he arrives into Texas off the back of his first missed cut of the season at the PGA Championship and has not managed a top-three finish since the turn of the year. His odds seem short to me and I am content to invest further down the market. In this respect Kevin Kisner stands out as a 45/1 shot. The 35-year-old claimed his third PGA Tour titleat the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament in March, and while he has failed to finish higher than T21 in three subsequent starts, he has a strong pedigree at Colonial. Indeed, Kisner went T5-T10-Win at Colonial from 2015-2017 and looks solid value as an each-way investment. Top-10: Ryan Palmer (60/1) The Texan has played this event 16 times without missing a cut and owns three top-5s. He also won the Zurich Classic alongside Rahm in March. Outsider: Danny Lee (70/1) The Fort Worth native has played this event seven times without missing a cut and has four top-25s. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth sees light at end of tunnel following T3 at Bethpage
May 22, 2019 12:54 PM
 
Cast your minds back to the weeks leading-up to the Masters Tournament last month. One could scarcely open a news site or turn on a television without being bombarded by commentators discussing Rory McIlroy’s chances of completing a career Grand Slam at Augusta. As it turned out, of course, the Northern Irishman was unable to unable to claim a maiden green jacket in Georgia,finishing in a tie for 21st; however, the intensity of the media speculation surrounding his chances reflected, ultimately, the outstanding consistency that he has exhibited through the first four months of 2019. Put simply, there was good reason to anticipate the 30-year-old getting the job done at Augusta. Contrast this with the tenor of media coveragesurrounding Jordan Spieth’s quest to complete a career Grand Slam of his own at last week’s US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Not even @JordanSpieth could believe it.Pleasing the crowd en route to victory.#TOURVault pic.twitter.com/4IzbKBz0eA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 22 May 2019 The 25-year-old travelled to New York in the midst of his worst run of form since making his major championship breakthrough at the Masters back in 2015. He had failed to register a single top-20 finish through 13 starts in 2019 and hadn’t cracked a top-10 since tying for ninth at The Open at St Andrews last summer. Indeed, Spieth has not won a PGA Tour event since claiming his third major title in dramatic fashion at the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and had consequently tumbled as low as No.39 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Suffice to say, there were not many fans or commentators tipping the Texan to end his barren run against an elite field on one of the hardest courses in US golf. This is the context in which Spieth’stied-third finish at Bethpage Blacklast week needs to be assessed. For although he never came close to supplanting the seemingly indominable champion, Brooks Koepka at the summit of the leaderboard, he strung together four quality rounds for the first time since the turn of the year and, crucially, rediscovered a semblance of his former consistency on the putting-green. Indeed, Spieth gained 10.6 strokes on the field with his putterin New York, more than three shots better than anyone else (Luke List was second, at 7.2) and tallied an astonishingly low 394 feet, 4 inches of putts for the tournament, making it the best statistical putting week of his PGA Tour career (per Justin Ray). Not bad for a golfer mired in a slump. “This is the best I’ve felt in quite a while. I’m very happy,” said Spiethahead of this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club near Fort Worth in Texas, an event he won three years ago. “I have full belief in my process, my mentality, my selfishness and my work ethic. “I put in more hours over the last five months than I’ve ever put in my game in a five-month stretch, just trying to get to where I can be. “I don’t know if I have to change my attitude. I’ve just been waiting patiently for this work to continue to get better but it’s very positive going forward, yes. “I felt like I made progress and I feel like I can go to a course that I’ve had success at, and is a way better fit for me I think than Bethpage.” The Texan may well be on the cusp of a long-awaited revival. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Johnson departs Bethpage with regret after near-miss at PGA Championship
May 21, 2019 2:24 AM
 
Speaking to the media in the aftermath of his runners-up finish to long-time friend and training-partner, Brooks Koepka at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday, Dustin Johnson struck an amusingly sardonic note. Asked how it felt to became only the eighth player in the history of golf to finish in second at all four major championships, Johnson adopted a tone of mock enthusiasm: “Yay, I’m so excited.” “It’s a little frustrating sometimes just because I've had quite a few chances, and I've felt like a few of them I really didn't do anything wrong”, he continued. “I played well. But that's just how it is. It's hard to win majors. If it was easy, a lot of guys would have a lot more than they do.” Frustrating, indeed. Johnson, who finished a single stroke shyof Tiger Woods’ winning-total at the Masters last month, teed-off for the final-round at Bethpage Black with a seven-stroke deficit to the seemingly indominable 54-hole leader, Koepka. Clearly, no one expected the 34-year-old to triumph from such a position of adversity, and while he impressed in completing a 3-under front-nine in difficult conditions, Koepka retained a four-shot advantage at the turn and needed only to any avoid major errors to deny Johnson a route back into the tournament. Dustin Johnson is now 1 shot back after 4 straight bogeys from Brooks Koepka.#PGAChamp pic.twitter.com/VDwVgEj5h1— PGA of America (@PGA) 19 May 2019 But Koepka did falter, bogeying four-holes in a row between the 12th and 15th; by the time Johnson stepped onto the 16th tee-box, therefore, the lead had been reduced to a single strokeand the momentum of the tournament had shifted decisively in his favour. All he needed to do was ram-home his advantage, add another birdie through the closing three-holes, and watch Koepka capitulate. In this respect, Johnson failed emphatically, bogeying the 16th and 17th consecutively to effectively hand the Wannamaker Trophy to a crumbling leader. He ultimately finished in outright second at 6-under despite being one of just 10 players to break par in extremely difficult conditions on Sunday (his score of 69 bested by just two players). It marked the occasion of his tenth top-10 finish in his past 16 major startsand his ninth such career top-5. Of course, Johnson’s near-miss last weekend is not on the level of his three-putt on the final green at Chambers Bay in 2015 to hand the U.S. Open to Jordan Spieth. Or the final-round implosion at Pebble Beach in 2010 that cost him a chance at the U.S. Open. Or even the wayward iron shot in 2011 at Royal St. George's that led to a runner-up finish at The Open. However, the 2016 U.S. Open is beginning to look conspicuously lonely in Johnson’s trophy cabinet, and while his record of 20 PGA Tour victories dwarfs Koepka’s six, the fact that four of Koepka’s six titles have been majors is ultimately why he now ranks above Johnsonat the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. Johnson is undoubtedly correct to assert that it is better to contend and lose than not contend at all at major championship level; nevertheless, the fact remains that he should be a multiple major winner. At some point, the close calls become more negative than positive. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka survives wobble to claim fourth major at US PGA Championship
May 20, 2019 4:31 AM
 
Well, that was a little closer than we had anticipated. Just hours after this blog referredto the upcoming final-round of the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York as a Brooks Koepka victory ‘procession’, the seemingly untouchable 54-hole leader came within a hair’s breadth of orchestrating one of the most dramatic back-nine capitulations in major championship history. Playing alongside Woods, Koepka opened the tournament 63-65 to card the lowest ever halfway total at a major (128); an even-par third-round of 70 was consequently sufficient to ensure he teed off on Sunday with a seven-stroke advantage away from a demoralised chasing-pack headed by Dustin Johnson. Bogey on the 11th hole. Bogey on the 12th hole. Bogey on the 13th hole. Bogey on the 14th hole. Brooks Koepka leads by 1 at the PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/jxsfREQsoa — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 19 May 2019 Koepka began his final-round solidly, content merely to protect his lead in difficult, blustery conditions, and reached the turn at Evens for the day. Johnson, meantime, produced by far his best golf of the week to complete the front-nine in 32, closing to within four-shots of the lead. His interest thus piqued, Koepka stuffed his tee shot on the short par-3 10th. On cue, Johnson bogeyed No. 11 out of a greenside bunker, Koepka brushed in his birdie putt and the lead was back to six with eight holes to play. However, a series of loose swings led to four consecutive bogies for Koepka beginning at the 11th and when Johnson birdied the 15th, the lead was down to a single stroke. Suddenly, the steely aura of invincibility that possessed Koepka during the first 64-holes began to dissipate, and the 29-year-old was faced with the prospect of enduring a potentially career-altering collapse. But Johnson blinked first, making two straight bogies at holes 16 and 17 to provide the leader with some much-needed breathing space; Koepka did what he had to do to nab the Wannamaker Trophy by two-shots. Clearly, no golfer would elect to win a major championship courtesy of a 4-over closing-round 74; however, the unconvincing nature of Koepka’s Sunday showing should not detract from the overall scale of his accomplishment. The Floridian has now won four of the last eight major championships he has contested, equalling Rory McIlroy’s career-haul in the space of a little over two-years, and he has drawn to within a single title of matching the major championship records of historic greats such as Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson. With his brooding intensity and contrarian streak, Koepka may never enjoy the widespread love he deserves; indeed, his stoicism in victory and defeat has led many fans and pundits to dismiss him as emotionless and dull. However, that is precisely the temperament that enables the former Challenge Tour memberto contend and triumph consistently at the sport’s four biggest events and, frankly, Koepka’s indifference to public opinion and refusal to kowtow to commercial interests is a welcome antidote to the social media-fuelled superficiality that characterises the comportment of so many of his peers. Koepka, who has no club sponsoror social media profile, is an oasis of sporting purity in a commercially-obsessed age; he rightly stands atop the summit of the Official World Golf Rankings. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka tightens grip at PGA Championship
May 19, 2019 11:54 AM
 
Under normal circumstances, the sight of the 36-hole leader of a major championship missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the opening-hole of his third-round would provide a source of hope to the chasing-pack, hinting that the front-runner might be set to crack under pressure. But these are not ordinary circumstances. From the moment Brooks Koepka opened-up a 5-stroke second-round lead at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York on Friday, the 101st US PGA Championship has been possessed of the air of a procession. This sense inevitability was reinforced when Koepka rallied to birdie his second-hole on Saturday, thus swiftly quashing whatever nascent sense of optimism spread briefly among a demoralised field. By the time the leader slipped up again, from inside 3ft at the par-4 9th, his lead was a mere seven shots. Lowest PGA Championship 18-hole score.Lowest major championship 36-hole score.Largest PGA Championship 54-hole lead....and with a win tomorrow, Brooks Koepka would become the first player to hold two back-to-back major championship titles at the same time. pic.twitter.com/ayhpSQlmTI— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 18 May 2019 Koepka ultimately signed for an even-par third-round of 70 on Saturday, and will consequently tee-off for the final-round with a seven-stroke advantageaway from a publicly forlorn chasing-pack. Jazz Janewattananond, Harold Varner III, Luke List and Dustin Johnson are tied at the summit of the tournament within the tournament. Barring the vague possibility of an extraordinary Sunday collapse from the leader, those golfers look set to be playing for a runners-up finish. Inevitably, perhaps, the extent of Koepka’s dominationthrough the first 54-holes at Bethpage Black have drawn comparisons with Tiger Woods, who missed the cut on Friday. Woods, in his all-conquering prime,led fields a similarly merry dancein golf’s biggest tournaments; one thinks, for example, of his 12-stroke victory away from Tom Kite at the 1997 Masters Tournament or his 15-stroke win away from Ernie Els and Miguel Ángel Jiménez at the 2000 US Open. However, such cavernous margins of victory have grown increasingly rare at events of all levels in recent years as the elite-level of the sport has grown increasingly competitive; this circumstance serves only to set the scale of Koepka’s accomplishment in New York this week in sharper relief. Of course, some will complain that the emphatic nature of Koepka’s impending victory has rendered the PGA Championship a dull event, depriving fans of the heightened sense of drama that only a final-round major championship shoot-out can provide. However, perishingly few players, fans or commentators articulated such perspectives at the height of Tiger’s domination, and it is difficult not to feel as though this interpretive contrast is rooted in aesthetics. Woods’ playing style, though relentless, clinical and ruthless, was always punctuated with moments of stunning artistry and inventiveness that only players of the very highest technical and strategic calibre are capable of producing. Koepka, by contrast, is defined by his functionality and, as the Guardian’s Ewan Murray notes, ‘the sight of thousands of spectators heading for Bethpage’s exit with the leader still in the early stages of his back nine was revealing. He does not seem to be the captivating viewing that Woods once was.’ Either that, or the galleries regarded this as a foregone conclusion. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka tightens his grip at Bethpage Black, Tiger misses cut
May 18, 2019 1:31 AM
 
Deploying a potent combination of powerful, audacious drives, penetrating iron-play and ruthlessly composed putting, Brooks Koepka scarcely broke sweat on Friday as he maintained his relentless assault on the intimidating Bethpage Black Golf Course at the 101st US PGA Championship. The 28-year-old began the second-round with a slender, single-stroke advantageaway from New Zealand’s Danny Lee following an imperious, 7-under opening-round 63. By the close of play on Friday evening, he had extended that advantage to seven, combining seven birdies with two bogeys to sign for a 5-under 65, and established a new record for the lowest 36-hole total in a major golf championship. He surpassed the previous low, 130, by two strokes. That record was shared by five players: Jordan Spieth (in the Masters), Martin Kaymer (the United States Open), Gary Woodland (the P.G.A.), and Brandt Snedeker and Nick Faldo (both at the British Open). WARNING: The Black Course is an extremely difficult course...unless your name is Brooks Koepka.pic.twitter.com/aqm0OgKsip— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 17 May 2019 This was a magisterial performance from Koepka, who travelled to New York off the back of a fourth-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship in Dallas and a runners-up finish at The Masters in Georgia in April. He birdied three of his opening four-holes to firm-up his position at the summit of the leaderboard, and while he erred in bogeying the par-4 tenth and par-3 seventeenth holes on the back-nine, a run of three birdies between holes 13-16 and an 11-foot birdie at the eighteenth ensured he departed the final green with a broad smile etched across his face. Koepka hit 15 of 18 greens on Friday; he landed 10 of 14 fairways and leads the tournament for strokes-gained approaching the green, strokes-gained tee-to-green and strokes-gained total. He is further positioned third and twelfth respectively for strokes-gained off the tee and strokes-gained putting. If the defending champion can maintain such a level of performance over the weekend, it is impossible to envisage his seven shot advantage being overturned. A resurgent Jordan Spieth sits level alongside the former world No.1, Adam Scott in second at 5-under following a second-round 66, while Dustin Johnson fronts a six-man cleavage on 4-under. “I’m really comfortable with the way I’m stroking the putter right now,” Koepka said Friday. “I feel good especially the way I battled today. I didn’t feel like I had my best game today, but I’m very proud of myself. I feel great and just need to continue what I’m doing.” Koepka’s playing-partner, Tiger Woods departed Bethpage Black’s eighteenth green espousing markedly different sentiments. The 43-year-old, making his first start since winning the Masters, suffered the ignominy of a missed cut. This marked only the ninth time in his career that he has lasted only until Friday evening of a major. A second round of 73 meant a Woods aggregate of five over. In truth he was sloppy throughout. Woods bowed out; others bowed towards Koepka’s 12 under par. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka flexes muscles to seize control at US PGA Championship
May 17, 2019 7:24 AM
 
Danny Lee has struggled to fulfil the potential he demonstrated so richly upon claiming the US Amateur title in 2008 as an 18-year-old. In 316 starts over the course of 11 seasons as a professional, he has only managed one PGA Tour victory, at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, and has never finished higher than T17 at major championship level. It is in this context that the scale of the 28-year-old’s achievement in signing for a 6-under-par opening-round 64 at the 101st US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black needs to be understood, a total that positions him within a stroke of the imperious overnight leader, Brooks Koepka. “The top 20 guys in the world make it look easy, but it’s not always fairy-tales and unicorns out here,” Lee reflected upon returning to the clubhouse. “The course is playing extremely difficult and I needed to produce some of the best golf of my career.” After two double bogeys and one birdie, Tiger Woods makes the turn at 3-over par at the PGA Championship.pic.twitter.com/5w9I9dopSS pic.twitter.com/RkYoFRJ0ey— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 16 May 2019 Lee’s comments thus serve to set the scale of Koepka’s achievement in signing for a bogey-free 7-under 63 on Thursday in sharp relief; for not only did the defending champion beat Lee’s total by a stroke, he equalled the Bethpage Black course-record and became the first player ever to sign for major championship 63s in consecutive seasons. More significantly, he made all of this look easy and even neglected to birdie either of Bethpage’s two par-5s. Koepka’s capacity to perform at the top of his game consistently at major championship-level is bordering on the unprecedented. Three of the 28-year-old’s five career victorieson the PGA Tour are majors and he has posted five finishes of sixth or better through the course of his previous seven major starts, most recently finishing a stroke behind Tiger Woods at The Masters at Augusta. Indeed, Woods’ struggles during the opening-round in New York provided a striking counterpoint to his playing-partner’s dominance. Making his first start since ending an 11-year major championship trophy drought in April, Woods produced one of his more unorthodox rounds before signing for a 72, two over par and, crucially, nine adrift of the imperious Koepka. The 15-times major champion made a double bogey at his opening hole and did likewise at the 17th, his 8th. A requirement to shake off rust was obvious; Woods had skipped his planned practice session on Wednesday, with an explanation for that arriving during round one media duties. “I wasn’t feeling that good yesterday so I decided to stay home and rest,” Woods said. “I got a little bit sick.” Koepka, by contrast, appears to regard errors as an alien concept; indeed, his post-round reflection that, “I’ve never been this confident,” bore the tone of an ominous warning to his opponents. He looks well-placed to secure a fourth major title this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Can Fowler break his major duck at Bethpage Black?
May 16, 2019 5:50 AM
 
‘Always the bridesmaid but never the bride’; this old saying can be regarded as an accurate reflection of Rickie Fowler’s relationship with golf’s four most prestigious tournaments. Ever since becoming the first golfer in history to top-5 at every major in a single season without winning one in 2014, the Californian has been possessed of the air of a "nearly-man". And while he impressed in winning top-tier PGA Tour eventssuch as The Players Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship the following season, rising as high as No.4 in the Official World Golf Rankings, he has proven peculiarly unable to transform his exceptional physical and technical qualities into consistent success, especially at major championship level. Bethpage Black is nearly 7,500 yards long. Expect big drives from @TigerWoods and @BKoepka during the PGA Championship. They start R1 at 8:24 a.m. ET on Thursday pic.twitter.com/e8kP7ya9un— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 16 May 2019 Indeed, Fowler’s record of five career victories on the PGA Touris wholly incommensurate with his level of technical ability; that he has only converted two of eight career 54-hole leads into PGA Tour victories lends credence to the claim that his progress has been stymied by a persistent psychological brittleness. The extent of the 30-year-old’s stagnation is set in sharp relief when one compares the evolution of his career over the past four years with that of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas (both aged 25). Where the 2015 Players Championship remains Fowler’s signature victory, Spieth and Thomas have amassed two FedExCups, four major titles and 19 overall PGA Tour wins since 2014. With long-suffering players of the calibre of Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia all having claimed a maiden major championship victory in recent years, Fowler stands as a conspicuously prominent figurein the much-maligned ‘best practicing player without a major championship’ category. There is, however, reason to feel optimistic regarding the world No.10’s chances of breaking his duck at the 101st edition of the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black this week. After all, just eight weeks have passed since Fowler ended a year-long trophy drought with a two-stroke victory away from Branden Grace at the Phoenix Open. Significantly, the Phoenix title marked the occasion of the Californian’s second career triumph with a 54-hole lead and he demonstrated remarkable composure in birdying two of his final-four holes into the clubhouse during the final-round. Many commentators consequently understood the Phoenix triumph as evidence of a newfound psychological maturity, and Fowler has since gone on to tie for second at the Honda Classic and finish T9 and T4 in his previous two starts at the Masters and the Wells Fargo Championship. Equally significant is the fact that his game aligns perfectly with Bethpage Black, a massive, 7,500-yard course that places a heavy premium on distance off the tee and delicacy of touch on sprawling, undulating Poa annua, greens. It is striking, for instance, that where the last four winners of PGA Tour events at Bethpage Black ranked 6th(Tiger Woods, 2002), 25th (Lucas Glover, 2009), 36th (Nick Watney, 2012) and 41st (Patrick Reed, 2016) respectively for driving-distance, Fowler is positioned 30th in that categorythrough the first five months of 2019 and sits 7th for strokes-gained putting. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that he finished 24th and 7th in two previous starts on the New York course and led through 54-holes at the 2016 Barclays Championship. Seven of the last 10 US PGA Champions have been first-time major winners; there is good reason to feel optimistic regarding Fowler’s chances of continuing that trend this week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 US PGA Championship betting tips
May 15, 2019 11:38 AM
 
The PGA Tour elite converge on Bethpage Black Golf Club in New York this week for the 101st edition of the US PGA Championship; here follows our top-three tips for the tournament. Outright Winner: Brooks Koepka (12/1) Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tiger Woods trades as a 9/1 favourite to claim a sixteenth-career major championship this week. The 42-year-old, making his first start since ending a nine-season major championship trophy droughtat the Masters in April, won the 2002 US Open at Bethpage Black and possesses all the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive on the 7,500-yard, A.W. Tillinghast-designed track. Nevertheless, single-digit odds are far too short a price for Woods when faced with a field containing 98-members of the world’s top-100, and one can make a stronger case for backing 10/1 second-favourite, Dustin Johnson, a narrow runner-up to Woods at Augusta, or the 11/1 third-favourite, Rory McIlroy, who has one victory and seven top-10s in nine startsthis year and a US PGA record reading: 50-22-MC-17-1-8-1-64-3-3. WARNING: The rough at Bethpage Black is extremely difficult....(via @MattFitz94) pic.twitter.com/DsdW3l69xM— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) 15 May 2019 Nevertheless, my money is going on Brooks Koepka as a 12/1 shot. The 29-year-old claimed his third major championship victoryin a two-year stretch at the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in August, shooting a major-championship-record-tying 264 over 72 holes, and has top-10ed in 10 of his last 18 major starts. Indeed, Koepka finished within a stroke of Woods’ winning total at the Masters, his second runners-up of the seasonafter the Honda Classic, and arrives in New York off the back of a fourth-place finish at the Byron Nelson. With distance off the tee set to be a key factor in determining the outcome at Bethpage, Koepka’s remarkable major championship mentality may provide him a decisive edge over the rest of the field. Top-10: Sergio Garcia (40/1) Garcia has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2019, from course-abuse in Saudi Arabia to score disputes at the WGC Match-Play; but despite these distractions, the 2017 Masters champion has been producing consistently good performances. Indeed, Garcia arrives in New York off the back of tied-fourth finish alongside Koepka in Dallas last week, and while he disappointed in missing the cut on the occasion of his previous start at Augusta, he has six top-10s to just one MC in 11 startssince the turn of the year and has not failed to win in a PGA/European Tour campaign since 2010. Add to this the fact that Garcia finished fourth and tenth at the 2002 and ’09 US Opens at Bethpage, and there is good reason to back the 39-year-old in the each-way market. Outsider: Jason Kokrak (125/1) The 33-year-old, who owns six professional titles, has yet to win at PGA or European Tour level; however, he travels to Bethpage in exceptional form off the back of seven top-20s in nine starts in 2019, including four top-10s, and he finished in a tie for second at the Valspar Championship in March. The value in backing Kokrak to contend as an outsider is enhanced when one accounts for the fact that he finished in a tie for seventh at Bethpageat the 2016 Barclays Championship. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Justin Thomas withdraws from 2019 PGA Championship
May 14, 2019 12:09 PM
 
Tiger Woods’ hopes of securing a second consecutive major championship victory received a significant boost this afternoon following confirmation that Justin Thomas has withdrawn from US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York with a wrist injury. The in-form world No.192, Kelly Kraft is set to take Thomas' place in the starting field, thus denying the PGA Championship the distinction of becoming the first tournament to boast every player in the OWGR top 100 in its field. “Unfortunately, I will be withdrawing from the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black this week as my wrist is not yet fully healed. Obviously, as a past Champion, this tournament is extra special to me,” Thomas wrote in a statement released to the press late on Monday afternoon. “It consistently has the strongest field in golf and I’m disappointed to not be among those competing this year but I’m optimistic about a return in the near future.” Due to a wrist injury, @JustinThomas34 has withdrawn from the PGA Championship. pic.twitter.com/8s7qyh2VVz — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) 13 May 2019 The 26-year-old damaged his wrist and shoulder when trying to hit a shot from behind a tree at the Honda Classic in March, and while he went on to make three subsequent starts at The Players Championship (T35), the Dell Technologies Match-Play Championship (T24) and the US Masters (T12) he failed to perform anywhere near his best level. Following a month-long rest period during which he struggled to strike more than 50 balls per day and failed to successfully swing a driver, he has determined not to run the risk of inflicting long-term damage on his wrist by continuing to play through pain in New York. "I've seen too many people come back too early,'' Thomas told The Associated Pressfrom his home in Jupiter, Florida. "I plan on doing this successfully for a long time, and I don't want a dumb decision to set me back.'' "It hurt on a couple of shots and I felt like it wasn't worth it,'' he said. 2019 is swiftly developing into a frustrating campaign for Thomas. While the world No.5 has impressed in recording five top-10s from 11 starts, including a runner-up finish at the Genesis Open and third-place finishes at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he remains winless since claiming his ninth PGA Tour victory at the WGC-Bridgestone in August 2018 and has not come close to winning a major since claiming his first such titleat the 2017 US PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Indeed, Thomas squandered a four-stroke 54-hole lead in the process of finishing second to J.B. Holmes at the Genesis Open in February and has struggled consistently to convert exceptional tee-to-green performances into low-scores on the putting surface (he ranks 84th on Tour for strokes-gained putting). Thomas will undoubtedly be experiencing an acute sense of frustration at missing out on a chance to add to his major championship trophy haul at Bethpage Black; however, the scope for physical and mental rejuvenation afforded by such a lengthy spell outside the ropes positions him dangerously looking ahead to the final two majors of the season in the late summer. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Kang rallies to claim maiden PGA Tour title at Byron Nelson
May 13, 2019 11:59 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Matt Every. The 35-year-old, winless in over 80 PGA Tour starts over the past three seasons, took a single stroke lead away from Sunghoon Kang (17 under) and Tyler Duncan (15 under) into the final 27-holes of last week’s weather-delayed AT&T Byron Nelson championship at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, and looked extremely well-placed to claim a third career victory. But as the pressure ramped-up on Sunday afternoon, Every proved emphatically unable to close-out his advantage. The Floridian bogeyed four of his first six-holes after teeing-off for the back-nine of his third-round to provide Kang with a welcome route back to the summit of the leaderboard, and while he rallied to close with a 5-under final-round 66 in the late afternoon, he ultimately needed to content himself with a runner-up finish, two-strokes shy of the 23-under winner, Kang. Sung Kang makes his third consecutive birdie to take a one shot lead at the AT&T Byron Nelson.Full leader board: pic.twitter.com/cRg9jEDY8s pic.twitter.com/UpVahLkNwt— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) 12 May 2019 This was a sensational performance from Kang who arrived in Dallas off the back of three missed-cuts in his previous four starts and traded longer than 200/1 to win the title. Indeed, Kang had not won a professional golf tournament since triumphing at the CJ Invitational and Kolon Korea Cup in quick succession on Asian Tour in the autumn of 2013 and, in 158 career PGA Tour appearancessince making his US debut back in 2011, he had registered just 15 top-10 finishes. On Sunday, however, the South Korean’s performance was marked by the temperamental assurance characteristic of a regular PGA Tour-winner. A third-round 68 put Kang at 19 under, three strokes ahead of Every (67) going into the fourth round. Every, whose only two PGA Tour wins were back-to-back Arnold Palmer Invitational titles in 2014 and 2015, started the final round with three consecutive birdies and was tied for the lead because Kang bogeyed the par-3 second hole. Kang’s scoring, however, went-up a gear on the back-nineas he birdied holes 14-16 consecutively to regain a two-shot lead away from Every and could ultimately afford to bogey the 18th and still depart Dallas with a maiden US title in tow. "First two rounds, we're not playing to win. We're just making birdies back and forth and back and forth, just getting great momentum,'' said Kang, who matched the course record with a 61 in the second round Friday. "Then Saturday and Sunday, it's going. ... He played great on the front nine. I played great on the back nine.'' In addition to securing qualification to next week’s US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black Golf Course in New York, Kang has ascended as high as No.75in the Official World Golf Rankings and has earned a two-year playing exemption on the PGA Tour. Not a bad week’s work. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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