When it was confirmed in 2017 that the US PGA Championship would move from its traditional August date to May from 2019, Tiger Woods was four months removed from spinal fusion surgery and just three from being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
So it is no wonder that PGA of America officials have been described as “winning the lottery” as they welcome newly-crowned Masters champion Woods and the rest of the field to Bethpage State Park for the first US PGA to be staged in May since 1949.
Woods claimed his 15th major title, and a first since 2008, at Augusta National last month and is among the favourites for victory at a venue where he led from start to finish to win the 2002 US Open and was the only player to finish under par.
The 43-year-old was also sixth when the tournament returned in 2009 and leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation this season, but whether he will be after a week battling thick, wet rough at Bethpage Black remains to be seen.
Instead, our headline selection will come as no surprise to regular readers of this section, Brooks Koepka landing us victories in last year’s US Open and US PGA along with a tie for second behind Woods at Augusta.
Despite hitting just 63 per cent of fairways, Koepka ranks 14th in both greens in regulation and driving distance, proving that it’s a lot easier to hit greens from the rough if you only have a wedge in your hand.
But statistics aside, Koepka simply thrives on trying to win the game’s biggest prizes and his recent form guide in the majors reads an impressive 4-11-1-6-13-1-39-1-2, with the “blemish” of 39th coming in the Open at Carnoustie.
Koepka warmed up ideally with fourth place in the AT&T Byron Nelson thanks to rounds of 65, 66, 68 and 65 and is worth backing in every major unless proven otherwise. The big-hitting American will be suited by conditions at Bethpage and can be backed at 12/1.
While weather conditions are set to improve during the week, rain in the build-up and a par-70 layout measuring more than 7,400 yards means big hitters have to be favoured.
An average of 302 yards is only good enough for 42nd on the PGA Tour for our second choice, but Keith Mitchell also ranks ninth for strokes gained off the tee and his nerveless win in the Honda Classic earlier this season makes him a highly attractive prospect in the each-way market at 125/1.
And finally, Patrick Cantlay came close to snatching victory in the Masters when he eagled the 15th in the final round before inexperience caught up with him and he bogeyed the next two holes.
However, Cantlay bounced back from that disappointment with a tie for third in his next start, has missed just two cuts since May last year and could reward an each-way interest at 40/1.
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