- Can Tiger keep it going? Can short hitters win? And will the Bethpage gallery give golfers hell? We examine the 2019 PGA Championship's five biggest questions.
BETHPAGE, N.Y. — The 2019 PGA Championship begins tomorrow at Bethpage Black. Here are five questions to examine ahead of the second major championship of the season.
How will Tiger look post-Augusta?
The last time we saw Tiger, we finally saw Tiger Woods again—in his signature red and black, blasting drives right down the center, firing approaches right at the flag…and winning the Masters. But we haven’t seen him since, as he opted to skip every tournament between Augusta and Bethpage. Any time Woods sits out a tournament people thought he would play (Quail Hollow) people are going to question whether he’s hurt. He also decided not to even come to the course on Wednesday, meaning he will have played a grand total of nine holes at Bethpage this week before teeing it up on Thursday.
It’s worth noting, though, that apart from one video in which he walked funny, we don’t have any reason to believe Woods is anything but healthy, and we have no reason to believe the decision to skip Quail Hollow and the Wednesday practice round is motivated not by necessity, but a desire to rest,
Still, there’s a quasi-palpable level of anticipation among other players, fans and writers: Are we going to see the Tiger that we saw five weeks ago, or will we see a post-Masters letdown? We won’t have to wait long to find out the answer, as he tees off in the morning wave at 8:24 a.m. EST on Thursday.
Do shorter hitters have any chance at all?
Bethpage Black will play close to 7,500 yards as a par 70 this week, which would be extremely long even for a U.S. Open. A cool, damp spring in New York combined with rain early in the week means the course will play close to 8,000 this week—the fairways aren’t really rolling out and the thicker air means the ball isn’t carrying as far as normal.
Two separate players in the field this week—one a multiple-time PGA Tour winner, the other a top-50 player in the world—told me they will have trouble reaching the par-4 12th in two this week. Tommy Fleetwood, who is not a short hitter at all, hit 3-wood into both 12 and 10, another par 4.
All this to say: this will play as one of the longest courses in major championship history. If a short hitter doesn’t hit fairways, he is going to have serious difficulty reaching multiple par 4s in two.
I’m beginning to think shorter hitters have virtually no chance to compete this week. We’ll be closer to knowing whether that’s actually true after Thursday’s round.
Will the New York fans act like New York fans?
When the U.S. Open was here in 2002, fans famously tortured a 22-year-old Sergio Garcia for his incessant re-gripping of the clubs. They chanted Phil’s name so loud that he had to back off his ball more than once. New York fans have a reputation for letting players know exactly how they feel, and they sure didn’t water down their behavior in the name of *golf etiquette* in years past…so what about this time? Will they get on John Daly for riding in a cart? Will someone give J.B. Holmes crap for taking three years to hit a drive? How many Matt Kuchar-caddie jokes will get made? How will they greet Sergio? Will there be some knucklehead who heckles Tiger for god-knows-what reason? There’s almost certain to be one fan-player interaction this week that goes viral. Perhaps it will happen on Thursday.
Can Jordan Spieth figure it out?
I have a confession to make: I miss Jordan Spieth. Sure, he’s still playing and yes, he’s made nine of his last 10 cuts, so it’s not like he’s completely fallen off the face of the earth. But he still doesn’t have any top 20s on the season, he still hasn’t won anything since the 2017 British Open and he still ranks 150th in the FedEx Cup point standings. There have been some positive signs lately—he rebounded from an opening-round 75 to finish T21 at the Masters and he shot three rounds in the 60s at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson—and he finished T10 the last time a tournament was at Bethpage, at the 2016 Barclays. On paper, this beast of a track with penal rough isn’t the best fit for someone who ranks 202nd in strokes gained off the tee. But he says he feels he’s ready to contend, and it doesn’t feel like a completely outlandish statement. Perhaps it’s time Spieth returns to his major-winning, or at least major-contending, ways.
How many times will we see the “WARNING” sign in front of the first tee?
Conservative over/under: 284.5