PGA Tour Picks: 101st PGA Championship

By Tom LaMarre

By winning the Masters, Tiger Woods put golf back on the front page and it will stay there if he can put himself in contention this week in the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, designed by legendary A.W. Tillinghast, in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Woods hasn’t played competitive golf since claiming his 15th major title, and first since 2008, last month at Augusta National, but that hasn’t kept the oddsmakers from making him the favorite.

In his prime, the 43-year-old Woods could take time off and come back without losing a thing, but he hasn’t shown that in recent years.

However, Tiger has a history at Bethpage Black, claiming the 2002 U.S. Open on the course for his seventh victory in a span of 11 major championships, and if he puts himself in contention the rabid New York fans figure to be over the top.

“I can’t even imagine,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. “I think the atmosphere is going to be off the hook after winning the Masters. I think it would be anyways because the New York crowds are very enthusiastic, and I can’t wait.”

Woods got in some practice alongside LaCava at Bethpage Black last week, and Tiger’s yacht, Privacy, was docked about 12 miles away in Oyster Bay, and he also was spotted on the course at his home in Florida.

There was talk that Woods, who tied for sixth when the U.S. Open returned to Bethpage Black in 2009, might be injured after the Masters because he was seen walking gingerly in public, but his agent, Mark Steinberg, said he was only tired and sore from the effort.

Tiger knows that Bethpage will be another stern test and remembers what it was like when he won 2017 years ago when the course played to 7,214 yards, the longest course in U.S. Open history at the time.

“It was obviously the longest one, but it’s also the narrowest U.S. Open I’ve ever played,” Woods said after winning by three strokes over Phil Mickelson in 2002, the only time he has won the first two majors of the season. “The widest fairway was 28 yards. And on top of that you had three holes about 490-plus as par-4s. That’s not a whole lot of room to work with.

“And it just made for a very difficult test the entire week. You couldn’t just slap it around and play poorly and contend in this championship. You had to play well.”

Woods has won the PGA four times, but defending champion Brooks Koepka will be trying to become the first player to repeat as winner of the Wanamaker Trophy since Woods did it in 2006 and 2007. Koepka also has won the last two U.S. Opens.

The PGA Championship has been moved from what had been its tradition spot on the schedule in August and will be played early in the year for the first time in 70 years.

The PGA lost a marquee performer when Justin Thomas withdrew on Monday because of a right wrist injury, but there are plenty of others to challenge Woods in the second major of the season.

Phil Mickelson finished second both times the U.S. Open was played at Bethpage Black, and Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Francesco Molinari and others also figure to have a say in the final outcome.

Even though he has been slumping, Jordan Spieth will try to become the sixth player in history to complete them modern Career Grand Slam.

But all eyes will be on Tiger.


  1. Tiger Woods, United StatesEven though he has not played since winning the Masters last month, Tiger is the favorite in the PGA this week at Bethpage Black, where he won the U.S. Open in 2002. Woods has won the PGA four times and if he can somehow claim his 16th major title, he will tie Sam Snead with 82 PGA Tour victories.
  2. Brooks Koepka, United States – The defending PGA champion warmed up for his title defense by finishing fourth in the AT&T Byron Nelson last Sunday after tying for second in the Masters. In addition to winning the last two U.S. Opens, Koepka finished in the top five in three of the last four PGAs, and tied for sixth in the Open last summer.
  3. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory managed only a tie for 21st in the Masters while trying to complete the Career Grand Slam last month and although he has won four majors, the last was his second PGA title in 2014 at Valhalla. McIlroy has finished in the top 10 on 18 occasions in the majors, and won The Players among eight top-10s this year.
  4. Jon Rahm, Spain – The 24-year-old Spaniard is so good that there should be multiple major titles in his future. He tied for ninth in the Masters last month and a year ago tied for fourth in the PGA and finished solo fourth at Augusta National. And he has eight top-10 finishes this season, wining the Zurich Classic with Ryan Palmer his last time out.
  5. Dustin Johnson, United States – Although he probably is the most talented player in the game, DJ has been an underachiever in the majors, with his only title coming in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. He has been close many times, with 16 finishes in the top 10, including four in the PGA Championship. Tied for second last month in the Masters.
  6. Francesco Molinari, Italy – Winning the Open Championship last year at Carnoustie by outplaying Tiger Woods head-to-head in the final round proved to Molinari that he is a major player. He tied for sixth in the PGA the following month and tied for fifth in the Masters after having only three top-10 finishes previously in the Grand Slam events.
  7. Jason Day, Australia – After claiming his only major title in the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits, Day has recorded five more top-10 finishes without winning another, giving him a total of 15 top-10s in the majors. He tied for fifth in the Masters last month after tying for eighth in The Players Championship, two of his five top-10s this season.
  8. Justin Rose, England – Another talented player with only one victory in the majors, Rose’s title came in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. He has 15 top-10 results in the Big Four, the first when he chipped in on the last hole to tie for fourth in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur. He missed the cut last month in the Masters.
  9. Rickie Fowler, United States – Perhaps the best veteran player without a major title to his name, the 30-year-old Fowler is long overdue. He has posted 10 top-10 finishes in the Grand Slam events, including four top-5s in 2014. He tied for ninth last month in the Masters and his best result in the PGA was a tie for third in five years ago at Valhalla.
  10. Phil Mickelson, United States – The 48-year-old Mickelson, holder of five major titles, can’t be overlooked. He probably should have won more, with 38 finishes in the top 10 in the Grand Slams. Lefty captured the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol, finished second in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and then tied for ninth when it returned in 2009.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Tommy Fleetwood, England; Bryson DeChambeau, United States; Paul Casey, England; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Jordan Spieth, United States.


  1. Sung Kang, South Korea – After learning during the AT&T Byron Nelson that he was in the PGA field, Kung won his first PGA Tour title to go with four on the Korean Tour.
  2. Gary Woodland, United States – Although he has three PGA Tour wins, Woodland’s only top-10 in the majors was a T-6 in the PGA last year. Has six top-10s this season.
  3. Tyrrell Hatton, England – With three victories on the Euro Tour, he could be ready for a major breakthrough after a T-6 in the U.S. Open and a T-10 in the PGA last season.
  4. Patrick Cantlay, United StatesFormer No. 1 amateur in the world has won once on PGA Tour and might be ready to win a major crown after tying for ninth in the Masters.
  5. Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Another former No. 1 amateur, Niemann might be too young to win a major at 20, but already has won six pro tournaments in Latin America.

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