A golf Major always teaches us a lot about where the game is right now. Here are 5 things we learnt from the PGA at Bethpage...
5 Things We Learnt From The USPGA Championship
Koepka could be the best of his generation
Brooks Koepka began the week saying that Majors are the easiest events to win and he proved it by winning his fourth Major in his last eight Major starts.
Despite a wobble on the back nine, the American was by far the best player last week and made the notoriously difficult Bethpage Black look like a walk in the park.
He has seemingly had it easy in his first three Major wins, although this one was different as he began to find trouble on the back nine and took a 4 hole ride on the bogey train.
However, he showed the grit, character and determination of a true champion to overcome the slump and eventually win by two.
Time and time again throughout the week he blitzed his drives 300+ yards down the middle and flicked a mid or short iron onto the green, literally bullying the Black Course.
For years we have said that when everyone plays their best, Rory McIlroy would come out on top. That can no longer be certain.
Koepka looks as if he can dominate golf over the next 5-10 years and you can easily see him winning double-digit Majors, something that he said he expects to happen ahead of the tournament.
The 2024 Ryder Cup is going to be mad
The fans are always expected to be rowdy in the New York area and this year’s USPGA was no exception, they even started abusing their own!
During Koepka’s run of four bogeys in a row on the back nine, the crowd began shouting “choker” and chants of “DJ, DJ, DJ!” were loud and clear through our TV screens.
As well as those, we also had plenty of the usual cries of “mash potato” and “light the candle”, as well as one interesting scream after a Paul Casey drive of “You’re better than Tiger, Paul!”
Whilst some of it was fun, some of it was rude and not what we’d like to see at a golf tournament.
Will it be mad at the Ryder Cup in 2024? You bet!
Here’s what the players think…
“It’s going to be absolutely mental” – Matt Wallace
“Good luck to Europe with the fans. I can’t wait to play it. I’m excited already thinking about it. This is one hell of a place to play the Ryder Cup.” – Brooks Koepka
“No comment” – Rory McIlroy
Matt Wallace is the real deal
A T3 for Wallace and he is now up to 25th in the world, by far the highest he has ever been.
Wallace is a four-time European Tour winner and that is after winning six times in one year on the Alps Tour as recently as 2016.
He has a drive about him that makes me think he will win some huge tournaments and be a key player for Europe in future Ryder Cups.
Could he go and win the US Open or Open over the next couple of months? I think it is genuinely possible.
The 29-year-old seems to come alive in the big events and play his best golf when he needs to, something that could set him apart from his fellow countrymen.
Bethpage was a brute, and it made for boring golf
It’s often said that fans love seeing golfers struggle, but for the first three-and-a-half days it was a very boring tournament.
Brooks Koepka was on a completely different level to everyone else in the field last week and nobody could touch him.
That’s because he was bashing it 300+ down most fairways whilst the shorter hitters and more wayward ones literally had no chance.
Bethpage was ridiculously long and only rewarded good drives, to the point where Koepka looked to be playing a different game due to his length.
The course is so difficult for medium hitters but when you hit the ball as far as Koepka, wedges into the greens make it much less of a test.
There is a growing trend in US Majors now that see the shorter hitters literally having no chance, and that is something becoming more and more common in regular PGA Tour events too.
The PGA Championship is a Major and it should be on special, memorable golf courses like Whistling Straits and Kiawah Island that test every club in the bag, not US Open-style venues like Bethpage that are one dimensional.
It’s clearly a brilliant and difficult course, but it didn’t make for great viewing.
Bring on the US Open at Pebble Beach and the Open at Royal Portrush!
The move to May? Not overly keen…yet
On paper, the schedule looks great, with the main bulk of the PGA Tour season taking place from March-August before the European Tour wraps up in September and October.
However, and perhaps this was just because it was a boring tournament, the USPGA Championship certainly didn’t benefit from moving in the calendar this year.
We thought that people didn’t love the USPGA Championship because it was last and everyone was tired of Majors golf by then, but even as the 2nd event in the Major calendar it didn’t inspire.
2018’s tournament at Bellerive with Koepka, Scott and Woods battling down the stretch was an exciting one, but this year’s now feels like it was squeezed into a slot between Augusta and the Open, with little build up after the Masters comedown.
Perhaps next year’s Championship on the West coast will be more of a spectacle.
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