FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It’s back to Bethpage Black for the 2019 PGA Championship.
The famed municipal course and two-time U.S. Open host has been hit with plenty of rain this month and remains a brutally long, demanding test of golf.
Tiger Woods is the headliner coming off his spectacular Masters victory last month, but the rest of the field includes 99 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Rankings – Justin Thomas the lone exception after withdrawing due to a wrist injury.
With a tough test ahead in front of the raucous New York fans, the 2019 PGA Championship is setting up as another all-time week.
Here are my top 20 fantasy picks for the week.
20. Matt Kuchar: Giving up length off the tee is obviously a concern on this course, but Kuchar’s season-long effort is too good to discount – two wins and two runner-ups, including a solo second his last time out at the RBC Heritage.
19. Gary Woodland: Dicey play after Woodland withdrew after three rounds at the Byron Nelson, but he’s in the discussion thanks to his power and a T-6 showing at the 2018 PGA Championship.
18. Bryson DeChambeau: Definitely regressing over the past few months, but he’s sixth in Strokes Gained off the tee with a great balance of distance and accuracy.
17. Henrik Stenson: Encouraging stats for Stenson on this course – he’s seventh in driving accuracy and second in Strokes Gained approach the green. Looked fairly sharp last week as well with a T-20 at the Byron Nelson.
16. Tony Finau: Sunday’s final pairing at Augusta National gave Finau some much-needed experience in major contention.
15. Paul Casey: Other than that stunning opening-round 81 and missed cut at the Masters, Casey has been rock solid this season and is coming off a T-4 at the Wells Fargo.
14. Tommy Fleetwood: Been in the mix several times this season but still looking for that elusive first PGA Tour win. Ballstriking is good enough to do it this week. Just needs to make a few more putts.
13. Sergio Garcia: No matter the year or number of haters in the crowd, Sergio brings the goods to Bethpage. He was fourth at the 2002 U.S. Open, T-10 at the 2009 U.S. Open and T-3 at the 2012 Barclays.
12. Jason Day: We’ll have to see how his back holds up in the cold this week, but that’s no reason to fade the 2015 PGA Championship winner after last month’s T-5 Masters showing.
11. Hideki Matsuyama: Putter is the only thing holding him back at the moment, and it shouldn’t matter as much this week on the rain-soaked greens. Don’t be surprised if he takes a serious run at his first career major.
10. Xander Schauffele: Hasn’t played a ton this season, so maybe that’s why some seem to forget he has two wins and a T-2 at the Masters over the past seven months.
9. Jon Rahm: Won his last time out at the Zurich Classic, has all the tools required at Bethpage and continues to build toward an inevitable major victory at some point in the near future.
8. Rickie Fowler: Speaking of inevitable major wins, maybe they always aren’t so inevitable. But with five top-10s in 11 starts this season and four top-10s with no missed cuts over his last 11 major appearances, perhaps this is the week.
7. Patrick Cantlay: Has the game to consistently contend in majors over the next decade, and this course should suit him even better than others. T-9 at the Masters feels like the start of a major step for Cantlay.
6. Justin Rose: Finished third or better in four of eight starts this season and coming off a solo third at the Wells Fargo.
5. Francesco Molinari: The big-game hunter is looking to put that final-round 74 at Augusta in the past and live up to the reputation he’s built since winning the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie.
4. Rory McIlroy: Despite another puzzling Sunday fade at Quail Hollow, he’s so good off the tee and so consistently in the mix these days that anything outside the top 10 would be a huge surprise.
3. Dustin Johnson: Finished T-3 at the 2012 Barclays at Bethpage and was T-2 last month at the Masters. Should be firing on all cylinders with a good chance to pick up major No. 2.
2. Tiger Woods: We know he’ll be well-rested coming off the Masters win, and we know the 2002 U.S. Open champ loves this venue. He’s the best irons player in the world and looking better and better with the driver. No. 16 is well within reach this week.
1. Brooks Koepka: Defending champ looked great at the Byron Nelson and he’s earned favorite status with everything he’s done at the majors over the past two years. No reason that should change this week.