The season’s second major – the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. – is here.
It’s the most anticipated major in some time, as a 43-year-old Tiger Woods makes his first start since winning his fifth Masters a month ago – his 15th major overall – and returns to a venue where he won the U.S. Open in 2002.
When you factor in the venue, a public course that’s truly “The People’s Country Club,” a red-hot Woods and the New York fans, it’s big time.
CADDIE SURVEY: Answering questions on all things Tiger Woods
Woods will undoubtedly be a player to watch, he always is. But who else should you be keeping a close eye on this week?
We asked our caddies that question. To protect their identity, each caddie made their respective picks anonymously.
Here are the players they like this week along with an explanation why…
- Gary Woodland. “He’s enjoying a nice season so far, having collected two runner-up finishes and comes into this week at No. 9 in the FedExCup standings. This is the type of course that fits Gary’s game, evidenced by his T4 here in the 2016 Barclays. Everyone knows you’ve got to be long at Bethpage Black. He checks that box. And with all the rain early in the week, the length ought to be a bigger asset than usual. I also like the fact that Gary had a good PGA last year – T6 at Bellerive – and got a taste of what it’s like to contend in a major. That should serve him well here.”
- Brooks Koepka. “He’s a guy who plays good every week and another one who’s game is set up nice for Bethpage. Bomb it and make a few putts. Right up Brooks’ alley. He’s also quickly becoming a major machine. Along with being the defending champ here this week, he’ll be the two-time defending U.S. Open champion next month at Pebble Beach. In 21 majors overall, Brooks has 15, top-25 finishes, including the seven top 10s, three of those being wins.”
- Tiger Woods. “After Augusta anything is possible, right?”
- Brooks Koepka. “Though weather shouldn’t be much of a factor during tournament play, the nastiness that hit this place at the start of the week softened up an already incredibly long course. That has to favor the bigger hitters and Brooks is among the best in that category. He’s not only long, but straight, too. He should eat this place up under the circumstances.”
- Matt Kuchar. “Matt is having a career year and seems to rise near the top of every tough field. His all-around game will elevate him to another great week. Will it end with his first major title at age 40? We’ll see. He’s got more experience than most here, having played in the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens (missed cuts in both) and the Barclays in 2012 (T38) and 2016 (T64). Those aren’t great finishes, obviously, but it’s experience which not a lot of players can boast here.”
- Lucas Glover. “Lucas is my sleeper pick for this week. He won the 2009 U.S. Open – the last major played here – and seems to be having a career resurgence this season with 11, top-10 finishes in 15 starts, including four of the top-10 variety. He’s leading the league in scrambling percentage and, around Bethpage, that will be one’s greatest attribute.”
- Rory McIlroy. “Hard to believe, but Rory’s last major win came at the 2014 PGA Championship. From 2011-2014, he won four of them. So, it’s been awhile. And it hasn’t been because of poor play. He’s come close since then, just no cigar. See the eight top 10s since, highlighted by a T2 at the Open Championship last summer. With the way he’s playing – eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts, including a win and a runner-up – he just seems primed for another major win. I like him this week in particular because a lot of his wins have come in wet/soft conditions… plus his length will be key.”
- Brooks Koepka. “He’s another player who will overpower the course in its wet and long conditions. Also doesn’t hurt that he’s the defending champ. The confidence and the game are there.”
- Dustin Johnson. “Is it just me, or has Dustin become sort of the forgotten man lately? Let’s not forget that six of his 10 starts this season have resulted in top-10 finishes, one of those a win. Let’s also not forget that in all the excitement around Tiger winning the Masters – and rightfully so – Johnson finishes T2 at Augusta National… his best finish there. In 2012, he tied for third at Bethpage in the Barclays ad was T18 in 2016. You never look past DJ, but he might be feeling as though some are lately. A chip on the shoulder isn’t a bad thing – especially in a major.”