Nick Bonfield analyses the chances of the USPGA Championship favourites ahead of the year's second Major at Bethpage Black

USPGA Championship favourites

This week, the USPGA Championship heads to Bethpage Black in New York as the event takes up a new position as the second Major of the season.

It promises to be an intriguing tournament, with a number of the game’s best in good form and heavy rainfall in the lead-up making an already brutal course play much longer.

But which of the USPGA Championship favourites look set to content and who does the layout best suit? Below, we’ve looked at some of the favourites and assessed their chances.

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Brooks Koepka – 10/1

The more I think about the USPGA Championship, the more I’m convinced Brooks Kopeka is the man to beat. He’s a three-time Major Champion and the defending champion, the course suits him perfectly and he’s entering the tournament off the back of a tie for 2nd at The Masters and a top-five at the Bryon Nelson.

He’s one of the biggest hitters in the game – a major asset on a long, wet golf course – and he’s built for the big occasion. His pre-tournament comments about Majors being the easiest events to win also show how confident a frame of mind he’s in.

Dustin Johnson – 10/1

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On paper, Dustin Johnson has a great chance. He’s won twice already this season – including the WGC-Mexico Championship – and he finished second at The Masters. He’s also arguably the biggest hitter in the game, and he finds a lot of fairways for someone who sends it out there so far off the tee.

My concern, however, is that his putting has looked shaky at times this season. I also feel his close friend Kopeka has the psychological advantage. They played in the same group in the final round of the 2018 US Open and Koepka outplayed Johnson en route to the title. The fact he’s only won one Major also perhaps points to some issues in the biggest events. Given the quality of his game, he should have won more.

Rory McIlroy – 12/1

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If I were a bookmaker, I’d have Rory McIlroy as the joint favourite ahead of Johnson. His form this season has been remarkable, especially given his periodic struggles with the putter. He’s played nine PGA Tour events in 2019 and registered eight top-tens, including a victory at the Players Championship and a second place in Mexico.

His statistics also make for very encouraging reading. He ranks first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee, first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green, first in Strokes Gained: Total, second in Driving Distance, second in Carry Distance, fourth in Scoring Average and 12th in Greens in Regulation – an incredible set of figures.

Tiger Woods – 12/1

 

Tiger Woods

I don’t think Woods will walk away with the Wanamaker trophy come Sunday evening, but that’s more an inkling than anything else. He’s won before at Bethpage Black and his last event was his historic victory at The Masters, but I’m still concerned about his driving and Bethpage Black is a course where he’ll need to use the big stick relatively often.

He also hasn’t played since Augusta, so there’s a chance he’ll be a bit rusty. Still, he ranks 1st in Greens in Regulation and his statistics are excellent across the board.

Justin Rose – 16/1

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I tend to put forward Justin Rose as a viable winner for most Majors, but I have a feeling this won’t be his week. He comes into the event off the back of a top-five finish at the Wells Fargo Championship, but he played poorly at The Masters en route a missed cut and his long-game stats this season are far from encouraging. He currently ranks 173rd on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy and 141st in Greens in Regulation – normally his bread and butter.

That said, he’s eighth in Strokes Gained: Putting and fourth in Strokes Gained: Total, and given his class, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he secured his second Major at Bethpage Black.