US PGA Championship 2019: Brutal Bethpage set to provide stiff test

Do not be surprised if birdies prove hard to come by at this week’s US PGA Championship.

The second major of 2019 is being held at the Bethpage Black Course on Long Island in New York, a venue renowned for its fearsome difficulty.

In fact, a sign in front of the first tee at Bethpage pretty much tells you all you need to know.

It reads: “-WARNING- The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.”

On the previous two occasions Bethpage played host to a major, when the U.S. Open was held there in 2002 and 2009, the respective scores of winners Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover were three and four under par.

Woods was the only man to break par in 2002, while just five players managed the same feat a decade ago and a three-over 73 in the final round proved enough to secure a shock success for Glover.

It is quite possible the PGA of America – this week’s organisers – will opt for a slightly more generous set-up than the USGA, who are responsible for putting on the U.S. Open, while the previous two majors at the Black Course were also made more challenging by inclement weather.

However, there appears to be little doubt a star-studded field – set to contain all of the world’s top 100 in a first for a major – will face a stern challenge. When the same venue hosted The Barclays in 2012 and 2016, the winning scores of Nick Watney and Patrick Reed were 10 and nine under.

Accuracy off the tee will certainly be paramount, with so much trouble lurking in the form of bunkers and thick rough.

Bethpage is also a whopping 7,459 yards, despite being a par 70, with six of its par-four holes measuring more than 450 yards. Two of them, the seventh and 12th, are 524 and 515 yards respectively.

Six of the last seven winners of the PGA have finished double digits under par and Brooks Koepka triumphed with a score of 16 under at Bellerive last August.

If anyone makes it to 10 under or better at Bethpage, it is likely they will have the honour of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.