This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.98M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Farmingdale, N.Y.
Course: Bethpage Black
2018 champion: Brooks Koepka
The used to call it "Glory's Last Shot." Well, how about "Glory's Second Shot"? Maybe "Glory's Third-To-Last Shot"? Uh, no. Jim Nantz will have to come up with something else catchy to say now, and we're sure he will, because the PGA Championship has moved to May to become the second major of the year on the golf calendar. The PGA had been the final major since 1954, save 1971, when it was played in February at PGA National because of the expected excessive heat in Florida in the dead of August. We're guessing the powerful types at Augusta National then had a chat with everyone expressing their disappointment at not being the first major of the year, and put an end to that right there. For the PGA, this shift constitutes the biggest change since moving to stroke play in 1958. As we're sure you all remember, Dow Finsterwald, Sr. – if Dow Finsterwald Sr. isn't the golfiest name ever, what is – took down Billy Casper by two strokes that year at old Llanerch Country Club outside Philadelphia.
As Bethpage Black on Long Island gets set to play host to a PGA Tour event for the fifth time, the biggest question is: Can Tiger win a second straight major? Fresh off his earth-shattering 15th major win at the Masters last month, Tiger Woods can now set his sights on a full-fledged assault on Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors. After Woods won his first major at the 1997 Masters – the only one that can compare to his 15th in terms of its seismic impact – it took him 11 more tries to secure his second at the 1999 PGA Championship, versus a young Sergio Garcia. That said, Woods has gone back-to-back five times, depending on how you want to view it. There was the famed Tiger Slam covering the 2000 U.S. Open through the 2001 Masters, which could count as three back-to-backs all by itself; then came the 2002 Masters and U.S. Open; and finally the 2006 Open Championship and PGA. Just two weeks ago, Woods took a pass on the Wells Fargo Championship, indicating he hadn't recovered from his first major win in more than a decade. That's understandable. And also a bit concerning, if you're in the camp wanting to see another Tiger major this week. For that reason – the sheer magnitude of the Masters accomplishment – we don't think he will be able to regroup so quickly within five weeks. Even under optimal conditions, winning two in a row is incredibly hard.
With all the talk of Woods, everyone else gets pushed to a back burner, including one guy in particular who touches down in New York having flown under the radar. It's Brooks Koepka, the defending champion – tough break, Brooksie, you get only nine months with the Wanamaker Trophy – but there is a way around that. Koepka completed one of the great major years in 2018 by winning his second U.S. Open and the PGA. He then came within one stroke of Woods last month at Augusta, where he hadn't even had a top-10 before, signaling that he can be a force in the majors with regularity. Koepka is only 29, yet there are only three guys in the 156-man field with more than three majors: Woods, Phil Mickelson (5) and Rory McIlroy (4). The golfers with three are Jordan Spieth, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington, the latter two being aging former PGA champs. Spieth, for what it's worth, can reach the career grand slam this week.
Now, on to the course. Designed by the brilliant A. W. Tillinghast – another exceptional golf name –- whose other works include Baltusrol, Medinah and Winged Foot, Bethpage opened in 1936. We've seen it play host to the 2002 U.S. Open (won by Woods), the 2009 U.S. Open (Lucas Glover), the 2012 Barclays (Nick Watney? By three strokes?) and the 2016 Barclays (Patrick Reed). The distance remains almost the same as in 2016, though now the track plays as a par-70 instead of a 71. When we think of Bethpage, we think of this incredibly long behemoth of a course. That surely was the case at the two Opens. In 2012, a bunch of shorter hitters littered the leaderboard, but it was far less penal than at the Opens. In 2016, we saw almost all bombers in the top dozen or so finishers, save Emiliano Grillo, Ryan Moore and Spieth. PGA courses usually are not quite as brutal as those at the U.S. Open, so the difficulty meter may fall somewhere in between 2002/2009 and 2012/2016. The winning scores, chronologically, were: 3-under, 4-under, 10-under, 9-under. Therefore, we should definitely expect a single-digit victor, especially since it's now a par-70, which is what it was at both Opens. We'll detail what the winner needs to do in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
The track turned into a par-70 after the 7th hole became a par-4. At 524 yards, it is one of four – FOUR – par-4s exceeding 500 yards. It wasn't too long ago that that was a rarity. Somewhat cruelly for the golfers, No. 7, which was one of the easiest holes on the entire PGA Tour in 2016, now becomes a beast. Suddenly, the 200 birdies and 13 eagles that were there in 2016 are gone, and we can see right there why the winner should be in the low- to mid-single digits. There are only two par-5s remaining, one over 600 yards and the other barely over 500. That hole, No. 4 at 517 yards, will be pretty much the lone, good birdie hole on the entire track. Even three of the four par-3s exceed 200 yards.
Weather-wise, it's been rainy and chilly in New York, which will make Bethpage play even longer. There was rain on Sunday and Monday, cutting into practice time. Plus more was in the forecast in varying degrees virtually through Sunday, all the while temperatures will be in the 60s. The whole week will be a far cry from the often-sweltering conditions in August no matter where prior PGAs were contested. One more important bit of weather: The wind should be stronger at Bethpage this week than later on in the season, especially September, when the two Barclays were staged.
One last Bethpage factoid: The course is also set to play host to the 2024 Ryder Cup. That's still five years away, but those lovable New Yorkers are already practicing to torment Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter – don't bet against both European stalwarts making the team that year, even in their 40s.
Key Stats to Winning at Bethpage Black
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Driving distance and accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
Past PGA Champions
Golf.com interviewed Bethpage course superintendent Andy Wilson, who said accurate drives will be just as important as long ones, and even more so if the long ones are way off line. The rough will be a real thing this week. As we look at the leaderboard from 2016, the top page featured guys who were among the longer hitters, but not the very longest. Instead, the common threads among the top-10 were greens in regulation and scrambling. Of course, the better you drive the ball, the easier it is to get on the green. Seven of the top-10 finishers were inside the top-15 in the field in GIR, and 7-of-10 also were within the top-10 in the field in scrambling. The top-4 finishers – winner Patrick Reed, Sean O'Hair, Emiliano Grillo and T4 Gary Woodland – made both those lists, as did Justin Thomas, who tied for 10th. In 2012, greens in regulation also stood out in importance. Winner Nick Watney – the only golfer to finish at double-digit under par in any of the four Bethpage events – was second in the field in GIR. So while GIR was a focal point in both 2012 and 2016, we saw a marked difference in driving distance from '12 to '16 – the longer hitters were more prominent in the more recent Barclays. As we often say, you don't have to be a bomber to win; it just makes it so much easier that way. A look at Watney's scorecard shows that in reaching 10-under, he totaled 23 birdies and one eagle. Of course, that also means he had plenty of bogeys. He played the par-5s at 8-under, but that won't happen for anyone this time around.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
We wouldn't put Johnson first; we're just going in order of DraftKings' price list. But just about any conversation about any major, especially the three on U.S. soil, has to include the Johnson, even though he often finds a way not to win. He won the WGC-Mexico, he tied for fifth at THE PLAYERS and he tied for second at the Masters. Johnson has finished top-4 at four of the past five U.S. Opens – including his lone major win – and we think this PGA is going to play a lot like a U.S. Open. It's at a two-time Open track and it's being held in May, whose weather is much more like June's than August's.
Brooks Koepka - $10,400 (10-1)
This price is one of the biggest bargains on the whole DK board. There are three guys ahead of Koepka, whose recent record in majors is second to none. We know about the three major wins, and the near-miss at the Masters last month. He even had been close at the PGA for years before winning, with top-15s in each of the four previous years, two of them being top-5s. Koepka is among the more accurate bombers on Tour, ranking 88th in accuracy (some of the others are deep into the 100s).
Justin Rose - $9,900 (20-1)
If you think Koepka's price is low ... Rose at sub-$10,000? Yes, please. We saw at Quail Hollow – a course that correlates to Bethpage Black – that Rose quickly put his Masters debacle behind him. He finished third at the Wells Fargo. We aren't thrilled that Rose, one of the longest hitters, is also one of the least accurate, ranking 173rd in accuracy off the tee. But he will be able to cover for that better than most, as he ranks eighth in strokes gained: putting.
Jon Rahm - $9,500 (18-1)
Rahm finished T9 at the Masters last month. He tied for fourth at two majors last year, at the Masters and PGA. We have to remember he's still only 24. He appears to be getting his demeanor under control. Outside of that one episode with his caddie at The Players, Rahm seems more composed this season. Rahm is another bomber off the tee who is even straighter than Koepka, ranking 80th in driving accuracy.
Tier 2 Values
Rickie Fowler - $9,300 (16-1)
Fowler didn't have an especially good Masters, and he tied for ninth, which tells us something about Fowler. He finished seventh at Bethpage in 2016, plus he's also had a pair of top-5s in PGAs over the past five years. He tied for 12th there last year. Fowler is certainly long enough to complete at this track, plus he has sharper accuracy than a bunch of the other top guys. And he's ranked seventh in strokes gained: putting.
Jason Day - $9,000 (25-1)
Day has played in 34 career majors and has finished top-10 in 15 of them – that's almost 50 percent. Another seven of them have been top-25. Truly great numbers. Of course, he is stuck on one win – the 2015 PGA. Day is long off the tee, middle-of-the-road accurate and an elite putter. He tied for fifth at the Masters and eighth at THE PLAYERS.
Matt Kuchar - $8,700 (50-1)
Kuchar's major stats this decade align remarkably close to Day's – except for, you know, he hasn't won one. Kuchar has played 35 majors since 2010, and he has 20 top-25s, 11 of which are top-10s. He's missed only four cuts, though two of them were last year (U.S. Open and PGA). Kuchar has elevated his game significantly since then. He was T26 at THE PLAYERS and T12 at the Masters. He's even ranked ahead of Day in the OWGR, No. 13 to 14.
Bubba Watson - $8,000 (60-1)
Watson has finished top-20 in the past three Bethpage events – 13th in the 2016 Barclays, 10th in the 2012 Barclays and 18th in the 2009 U.S. Open. He's also coming off a T12 at the Masters. Watson has missed only one cut since last year's PGA (Sony Open), though he also MCed at Bellerive. He is ranked third in strokes gained: off the tee and 23rd in SG tee to green.
Tier 3 Values
Sergio Garcia - $7,900 (60-1) }
Garcia has had a couple of good finishes at Bethpage, 10th at the '09 Open and third at the '12 Barclays. He's one of the best ball strikers around, as he displayed by finishing T4 a couple of weeks back at Quail Hollow. We're discounting his missed cut at the Masters, because Garcia hasn't been able to do a dang thing at Augusta since winning there two years ago. He is ranked third on Tour in strokes gained: approach and 14th in SG tee to green.
Louis Oosthuizen - $7,800 (60-1)
The South African is sneaky long for a little guy. He is 10th in driving distance on the European Tour while ranking 28th in accuracy on the PGA Tour. Oosthuizen missed the PGA last year but was co-runner-up the year before at Quail Hollow, almost as beastly as Bethpage.
Kevin Kisner - $7,700 (60-1)
Kisner's profile shot up with his win at the WGC-Match Play. But his majors record has been pretty darn good for a few years now. He's made 11 of his past 12 cuts. That one miss was last year's U.S. Open but otherwise his past five finishes have been: T21 at the Masters last month, T12 at the 2018 PGA, T2 at the 2018 Open Championship, T28 at the 2018 Masters and T7 at the 2017 PGA. He's a shorter hitter, but the results show he manages to get the job done. Kisner has been top-20 at the past three PGAs, and they're always long.
Webb Simpson - $7,600 (80-1)
Simpson has not been putting the way he did last season, but his overall game remains very solid. He's missed one cut in the past 11 months. This is what he's done at the last six majors/PLAYERS, with the most recent results first: T5-T16-T9-T12-T10-1-T20. This is from one of the shorter hitters on Tour, and maybe the shortest among the top players. Yet he's 18th in driving accuracy and 16th in strokes gained: approach. Oh, and just to complete the loop, Simpson is 92nd in strokes gained: putting.
Zach Johnson - $7,200 (150-1)
Among our long shots, we're just looking for guys to make the cut. And even though Johnson is a shorter hitter, and his best days are clearly behind him, he finds a way to stay afloat in the majors. He's made the cut in the past eight, and in nine of the past 10 PGAs. He was even top-20 in three of the four majors a year ago (including the PGA and U.S. Open, the longer tracks). Pretty amazing, actually.
Keegan Bradley - $7,200 (150-1)
Bradley is 35th in the world for a reason, having mostly played well in big events since his FedEx Cup playoff win last summer. He was sixth at the WGC-HSBC, tied for 10th at the WGC-Mexico and for 16th at The Players before a T43 at Augusta. He's 15th on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green. Bradley averages close to 300 off the tee while ranking 44th in accuracy.
Jorge Campillo - $6,900 (200-1)
The 32-yar-old Spaniard got his feet wet in majors last year, missing the cut at the Open Championship and PGA. Now, he is one of the hottest golfers coming in. He won the Euro event in Morocco last month and has five top-3s in his past six starts. (Read that last sentence again!) Of course, they have not been elite fields, but that's some serious golf. Campillo has a nice blend of length and accuracy, ranking 64th on the Euro Tour in driving distance and 54th in accuracy.
Chez Reavie - $6,600 (300-1)
Reavie has never had a top-10 in a major, but he has finished top-25 in three of his past six, including the past two years at the PGA – T12 at Bellerive and T22 at Quail Hollow. Then he was T18 at Quail Hollow again two weeks ago for the Wells Fargo. Reavie tied for 31st at Bethpage in 2016. He is ranked second on Tour in driving accuracy and is 27th in strokes gained: approach.