Very little attention will be placed on the defending champion ahead of the second major of the year at Bethpage.
Tiger Woods is the hot favourite having put his long-standing back issues behind him to claim a Masters triumph few believed possible at Augusta last month. The 15-time major champion will therefore command the majority of the attention as he looks to take another step towards breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for major wins.
However, it is the man who came closest to denying him a fifth green jacket, reigning US PGA champion Brooks Koepka, who is best placed to prevent him making it back-to-back majors and in the process achieving a feat no man has managed since Woods in 2007.
Woods was the last man to successfully defend the US PGA title with his victory at Southern Hills, but Koepka’s consistency at the world’s biggest events makes him a clear candidate to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for the second straight year after his triumph at Bellerive in 2018.
Koepka has won three of the past seven majors he has appeared in, his victory at last year’s US PGA preceded by successive triumphs at the U.S. Open, and he has only failed to secure a top-15 finish in one of those seven.
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 12, 2018
He has also made the cut in each of his past 19 majors, while recording top-10 finishes in half of his major appearances since 2014.
Koepka was a stroke away from a play-off with Woods at Augusta, and had he not narrowly missed numerous putts on the final day he would have been celebrating a fourth major.
His profligacy on the green at the Masters was reflective of Koepka’s putting performances this season, as he ranks a disappointing 93rd in strokes gained on the PGA Tour this year.
By contrast he is 14th with an average driving distance of 308 yards, which has helped him to rank third in holes per eagle and 12th in birdie average.
EAGLE for @BKoepka.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 12, 2019
Koepka’s power off the tee should be of great benefit on Bethpage’s Black Course, which poses a fearsome challenge and measures at a massive 7,459 yards.
Seven of its par-four holes are over 450 yards while the seventh and 12th holes measure 524 and 515 yards respectively.
The length of the course plays right into Koepka’s strong suit and, coming off a fourth-place finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson, he should not be short of confidence.
With a game that matches up well with the course and a consistent record of producing at the majors, the stage is perfectly set for Koepka to outshine Woods and retain the title.
Should he again rise to the occasion and iron out the inconsistencies in his short game, expect Koepka to be firmly in the running come Sunday in Farmingdale.