World number one Dustin Johnson looks a great selection for a Bethpage Black layout made for his talents. Johnson shares the spot as bookies’ favourites, but you can still get double-figure prices on him, so be wise and avoid the urge to back another fairytale result from Tiger.
Johnson is top of the rankings because he is a prolific champion. He’s notched 20 US Tour titles in just over a decade, the most recent of which was a five-shot romp in the WGC-Mexico Championship towards the end of February.
Johnson might have just one Major title in his locker but he has been a professional for less than 12 years and can be expected to strongly threaten the game’s biggest prizes over the decade to come. The lone Major success came on a long par-70 (Oakmont) in the 2016 US Open, and he faces a similar challenge this week.
Xander Schauffele’s strong long-game means he should fall in love with Bethpage on his debut – the Californian makes hardly any tee-to-green errors and can grind out the pars necessary to contend for PGA glory this week.
Schauffele can also handle the intimidating atmosphere. He has posted four top-six finishes in eight Major starts, including in the US Open in New York last year, and he tied for second in the Masters last month despite opening with a 73 on what was only his second Augusta visit.
Schauffele appears to have nerves of steel – he thrives on the biggest stages – and the increasingly assured 25-year-old can threaten his third US Tour victory of the season.
Tony Finau finished fifth in the Masters, playing alongside his hero Woods in the final threeball, and his form figures from the last five Majors are 10-5-9-42-5.
His other fifth-placed finish was in the US Open last year in New York and he followed that with the runner-up cheque in the Northern Trust in New Jersey.
He likes that part of the world and his lone Bethpage spin resulted in 12th spot in the 2016 Barclays as world number 77.
Kokrak, a no-nonsense slugger without a US Tour title to his name, has similarities to John Daly, who made the PGA his Tour breakthrough in 1991.
Fatigue hit Kokrak on the weekend of the Wells Fargo last time out and he rapidly tailed off – Heritage, Zurich Classic, Wells Fargo was a challenging schedule for a man who has been on leaderboards all season – and that Quail fail is the reason why such healthy odds are against his name.
Kokrak has been generally excellent all year and his lone Bethpage start – the 2016 Barclays – was hugely encouraging. He was 19th in the PGA last year and can go even better this time.
Bubba Watson moved into second place, threatening a Masters hat-trick, with three holes to play last month, before a disappointing par, bogey, bogey finish dropped him to 12th.
However, the enigmatic left-hander is still a force to be reckoned with at the age of 40.
Watson, a US PGA playoff loser in 2010, boasts Bethpage form of 18-10-13, and he has three times won the Travelers Championship across the New York border in Connecticut. One to keep an eye on this week.
Julian Suri was born in New York but went to Europe to forge his pro career, winning on the Challenge Tour in 2017 then on the European Tour three months later. Last year he overcame inexperience to impress in good company – eighth in the Houston Open, 29th in the Memorial, second in the French Open, 28th in the Open, 19th in the US PGA, fifth in the British Masters – before an abdominal hernia ended his campaign.
Suri, one of the freshest players in this field having taken almost five months off for surgery, has been impressive since his return to the circuit, with 20th place in the Maybank Championship followed by fourth in the Indian Open, second in the Hassan Trophy and 19th in the China Open. He is long enough and good enough to make an impact at Bethpage.