Early PGA Championship Predictions

Bethpage Black 18th Hole

Bethpage Black is the next course to host a major. We last saw this course during the FedEx Cup a few years back in 2016, and the last major there was the 2009 U.S. Open, the one where Lucas Glover one. Cannot say I expect a repeat of that this year. Back then the course played as a par 70 and at 7,426 yards, and when Patrick Reed won it back in 2016, it was a par 71. Both cuts were similar, 2009 it was 4 over par, and 2016 it was 3 over par. Sean O’Hair finished top 10 in both, but I also don’t see that happening again this year. Maybe he will have a round like major championship round one Charley Hoffman, but like Charley Hoffman, he won’t keep it up. As for finalist in the ’09 U.S. Open, Tiger back-doored a top-10 finish, as well as Sergio, and Rory. Hunter Mahan tied Tiger at T6 and Phil Mickelson finished T2, 2 shots back.

This post I am going to analyze a couple of dark horses, front-runners, and questionable players and dive into the PGA Championship.

Front Runners

#1. Dustin Johnson

Pretty much an obvious pick here, not much surprise. However, Dustin has not had his best even though he remains ranked number one in the world, or battling Justin Rose for it. Most recently shooting 6 over in the final round at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town finishing T28. Had a runner-up finish at The Master behind great, consistent play all week, a T5 at The Players finishing 3 shots back, and a runaway 5 shot victory down in Mexico at the WGC. In 2016 Dustin finished T18 at 2 under par during The Barclays, and made the cut but finished T-40 at the 2009 U.S. Open. Expect a made cut and a high finish.

#2. Rory McIlroy

Yet another pretty obvious selection. Rory is always a favorite for pretty much any tournament he enters in. A pretty poor couple of years from Rory ever since that FedEx Cup victory, Rory is back trending upwards. A two-time winner of the PGA, his last major victory was the 2014 PGA Championship. As of late however, he’s won the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the 2019 Players Championship. As of his career at Bethpage, he finished at even and a 31 in 2016, and just slid into a top 10 finish in 2009. Expect him to play well at Bethpage this year.

#3. Brooks Koepka

Consistent theme, an obvious choice. Out of my front-runner choices, I like Koepka the best to win. Seems like he only wins major championships. The first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to defend U.S. Open victories. He’s got 5 victories on tour, 3 are majors. He just shows up when it matters, clutch gene. Its hard to say this because I don’t like to judge past results in the PGA, but he has played well in this event. Finished T70 at 7 over par in 2016 at The Barclays, I do not think Koepka will play well during the PGA.

Dark Horses

#1. Rickie Fowler

Now most of these Dark Horses are going to seem like Front-runners, but this is my opinion on these players. Fowler has played well this year, and seems like he’s always in the conversation to win majors. Picking up a win at the Waste-Management Open, Rickie just does not seem to have the game to win a major, but yet, at some points, Rickie shows us he could win anything. A very consistent player, Rickie will make the cut like he typically does, and last time at this course, he finished T7 after a very disappointing final round 74. I predict the 10th ranked player in the world to finish strong and inside the top-1o, and maybe even win.

#2. Tony Finau

Finau had a great 2019 Master, playing in the final group with Tiger and ultimately finishing T5. With only one PGA Tour victory under his belt coming way back in 2016, and even in a event that was on a off week. Finau had a fantastic 2018 major campaign. Top 10 finishes in The Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open. Last years PGA Championship saw Finau finish at T42. With the power that he has, and his ability to show up in majors, especially playing well as of late, I expect Finau to have a good week. He also finished solo 12th at 4 under during The Barclays back in 2016. I think Finau will make the cut and finish high.

#3. Matt Kuchar

He’s got 9 PGA Tour Victories, and 2019 is proving to be a GREAT year for Matt. Picking up a early victories down in Mayakoba and Hawaii, the most negative thing was the whole caddie situation. Kuchar seems like he is just a sneaky guy who can maybe get the job done. But a T64 finish back in 2016 at Bethpage has me wondering if this time is the time that Matt finally captures a major. The 2019 PGA Championship just does not feel like a tournament or major that Matt is going to win.

#4. Louis Oosthuizen

One of the best, if not THE best swings on tour, the results do not show how good it is. He ran away with the Open Championship back in 2010 winning by 7 shots, he lost in a playoff in both the 2012 Masters, and the 2015 Open Championship. A solid T7 finish at The Masters this year definitely has me interested in Oosthuizen’s stock. A very good T18 finish back in 2016 was behind a final round 67. I think that Louis is going to have a fantastic week during the PGA and I am excited to watch him.

#5. Patrick Reed

Reed has a decent track record coming into this event. He has won a couple of PGA Tour Events, he won The Masters a year ago, and back in 2016 he won The Barclays at Bethpage Black. Ranked 19th in the world, Reed has not had a great 2019 campaign. His highest finish this year comes at Sony down in Hawaii and Famers Insurance Open, both in which he finished T13. Being a past champion at Bethpage means a lot due to the difficulty of the course. And also being a past major champion gives a lot of confidence as well, especially to Patrick. However, a tough go of things in 2019 is proving tough to decide how he is going to play. Expect him to make the cut and play well on the weekend.

Questionable Players

#1. Jordan Spieth

I think everyone can agree, this is the top choice as to questionable players right now. His last win was the 2017 Open Championship, and since them we have seen him fall all the way to 35th in the Official World Golf Rankings. A rough 2018 season left Jordan stunned when he did not make it all the way to East Lake. And things seem to be carrying over into 2019. His highest finish for the year is a T21 at The Masters. Jordan has just gotten way to technical with his swing and his putting. Once that putter is cooking like it was back in 2015, expect Spieth to return to the top. However, playing like this is good for one thing for Spieth. He is trying to complete the career grand slam, and a PGA Championship where he is freed up and the main thing on his mind isn’t the grand slam, could prove to benefit him. Finishing T10 is going to help Jordan a lot, but winning seems like it won’t happen for Spieth. I expect him to not play well, maybe even miss the cut.

#2. Justin Rose

For some reason, Rose just seems shaky to me. He picked up a early win at the Farmers Insurance Open, but a recent missed cut at The Masters has me thinking Rose won’t play well during the PGA. Ranked 2nd in the world currently, and trading off frequently with Dustin Johnson, Rose is quiet and not talked about. And that is what leads to the questions around him. He has not played many events in 2019, and I really don’t expect him to play all that well during the PGA. He finished T31 during The Barclays at even par for the week.

#3. John Rahm

Rahm has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge if you don’t count the Hero World. After that win he was ranked 2nd in the world and has since dropped 11th. And a terrible shot out of a fairway bunker cost him a chance to win The Players. A T9 finish at The Masters after playing the first two rounds with Tiger is extremely good. Rahm needs to manage his emotions to be able to win. And he needs to do it even better during the week of a major. I expect Rahm to make the cut and play well, I don’t think he will win.

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