2019 PGA Championship picks: Ranking the field 1-25 by most likely to win at Bethpage Black
From Rory McIlroy to Adam Scott, here's a look at the top 25 players at Bethpage Black
The 2019 PGA Championship is just days away, and now we need to rank what is one of the deepest and best fields of the year. Not everyone has a fair chance to win this tournament -- the club pros playing will do well just to make the cut, for example -- but let's examine the best in the world and rank them 1-25 by who has the best chance to take home the second major of the season.
And no, you probably won't be surprised by the two names at the top.
1. Rory McIlroy (Won in 2012, 2014): I don't know what to tell you here. He's No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained per round at 2.7 and there are only two other golfers currently over 2.0. He has two PGA wins, finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2009 as a 20-year-old and only has one finish outside the top 10 on the PGA Tour this season in stroke play events. The only thing that gives me pause is that he -- I know this is hard to believe -- doesn't have a top 15 at a PGA Championship since downing Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at Valhalla in 2014.
2. Tiger Woods (Won in 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007): I can't believe I'm doing this, but I have Big Cat at No. 2 after Big Rory. Everything in my heart says, "Dude, there is no chance Tiger is winning two straight majors," but all the data I have says otherwise. He's coming off a major win, has won at Bethpage before, is in the top 10 in strokes gained on the PGA Tour, finished second at the PGA last year and -- maybe most importantly -- has been the best major championship golfer over the last three majors. His third place finish on average since last year's Open is slightly better than Francesco Molinari's fourth-place finish, and they are the only two averaging a top-10 finish. Tiger Woods might be … let's all take a deep breath here … the best major golfer on the planet right now.
3. Brooks Koepka (Won in 2018): I don't believe anyone has ever won two of the same major in a three-major span, but Koepka could become the first. Forget the three major wins, too, and focus more on the 12 (!) top-20 finishes in his last 15 appearances. There is simply nobody more consistently in position to win the four big ones than Koepka.
4. Francesco Molinari (T2 in 2017): He's been beaten by just six golfers at the last two PGAs but somehow doesn't have a win at either of them (see below for somebody who's been beaten by just five). Molinari is -- another deep breath here -- one of the three or four best major golfers in the world right now. Six straight top 25s including four top sixes, a victory and possibly one horrific shot on the 12th hole at Augusta from a green jacket.
5. Dustin Johnson (T5 in 2010): You would think he's been better at PGA Championships (four top 10s, no wins), but if Bethpage is "a normal PGA Tour setup" like Rory McIlroy recently said, D.J. should crush.
6. Justin Rose (T3 in 2012): Rose had a bizarre MC at the Masters this year, but he only has one missed cut at the PGA Championship since 2011. I don't know that he needed to prove much given his last few years, but I was encouraged by the showing at Quail Hollow two weeks ago as well. Top 20 in all four majors in 2018 before that weekend exit at Augusta National a month ago.
7. Jason Day (Won in 2015): He absolutely crushes PGAs with six straight top 20s, including three top 10s and a victory. He's quietly having a terrific season, too, as he has top 10s at the Masters and Players and only one missed cut since last fall.
8. Jon Rahm (T4 in 2018): In his last five majors, he has three top 10s and two missed cuts. The missed cuts, as you might imagine, came at both Opens and the top 10s were at Augusta and the 2018 PGA. No surprises there. It's easy to envision a man built like Rahm as the one to properly battle a course built like Bethpage, especially with the rough down and the chill up.
9. Tony Finau (T10 in 2015): Interestingly, Finau's best finishes at the other three majors came the last time he played all of them, but his best finish here came way back in 2015 at Whistling Straits. It's almost too easy to see him downing Bethpage, isn't it? He was solo 12th at the 2016 Barclays.
10. Rickie Fowler (T3 in 2014): He's been really good of late with a top 10 at the Masters and another one at the Wells Fargo Championship. He also finished three back of winner Patrick Reed at the 2016 Barclays on this course. A PGA Championship is never the one I envisioned him first winning (which means it will probably be the one he wins first).
11. Xander Schauffele (T35 in 2018): The PGA is the only major where he doesn't have a top 10 yet, but that's likely only a matter of time. Only Koepka has more major top 10s than Schauffele's four in the last three seasons.
12. Tommy Fleetwood (T35 in 2018): In the last five years, Fleetwood has the same number of top 10s at majors as Soren Kjeldsen, Daniel Summerhays and Robert Streb. It hasn't felt like that, has it? In the same way I think Fowler's first comes at a national open, I feel the same about Tommy Locks.
13. Patrick Reed (T2 in 2017): The only two golfers in the field who have both won a tournament at Bethpage and won a major in the last five years are … Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed because of course.
14. Hideki Matsuyama (T4 in 2016): Matsuyama has finished top five in two of the last three PGAs and is quietly having one of the great ball-striking seasons in recent memory. If he putts at all -- like "makes anything longer than Brian Harman is tall" at all -- he should contend here.
15. Patrick Cantlay (T27 in 2018): I struggled with the Patricks around here. I think Cantlay has top-10 talent, but I also think he's the kind of guy who needs to understand what the thinnest Sunday afternoon air feels like and then do it again a few more times before he bags a big trophy. The quietest No. 6 on the strokes gained list in the (albeit brief) history of strokes gained.
16. Bryson DeChambeau (T33 in 2017): Too low for the No. 8 player in the world. Too high for somebody who doesn't have a top 10 at a major and doesn't have a top 10 on the PGA Tour anywhere since the Sony Open in January.
17. Webb Simpson (T13 in 2016): Raise your hand if you have five top 20s at majors in the last two years. ;:Only Webb Simpson raises hand.:: Oh.
18. Jordan Spieth (2nd in 2015): I honestly respect that T21 at the Masters as much as I respect the four top-threes there. I don't really think he can win this week, but he really only has to play two-and-a-half or three good rounds before his muscle memory takes over and carries him home. Let's just say I trust Spieth with a lead on Sunday far more than I trust some of the guys ahead of him.
19. Paul Casey (T10 in 2016): It's both easy and difficult to imagine. His Masters missed cut was a stunner, but he also stared down D.J. in the final round of a tournament just two months ago. I'm concerned that he won't make enough putts at a place where "you feel like you can make putts."
20. Matt Kuchar (T7 in 2015): It's difficult to reconcile what I believe to be true (that Kuchar won't win a major in his career) with what's playing out on the course (Kuchar has four top 10s at majors in the last three seasons, including a T9 at the 2017 PGA). He's one of the bigger "I could have him anywhere on here and justify it" guys on this list.
21. Sergio Garcia (2nd in 1999): It's kind of astonishing that Garcia's best finish is still his first one -- that famous one at Medinah in 1999 when he wrestled with (and lost to) Big Cat. He's been playing terrific golf of late and is 10th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained but has missed five straight major cuts and three in a row at PGAs. However, he's the only golfer in the world with three top 10s at Bethpage.
22. Gary Woodland (T6 in 2018): Koepka Lite has just one top 10 at a major, but it came in last year's PGA Championship at Bellerive. Finished T4 at the 2016 Barclays at Bethpage, which gets multiple eyeball emojis from me.
23. Kevin Kisner (T7 in 2017): The PGA Championship has (maybe surprisingly?) been Kisner's best major to date. Three of his five top 20s at majors have come at this tournament, and he's currently having a strong season as he's inside the top 40 in strokes gained overall. I'm not sure anyone has ever used the Wanamaker Trophy as a spittoon, but maybe we'll find out if Kisner takes it home.
24. Adam Scott (3rd in 2018): Scott's only top-five finish at a major since 2015 came last year at Bellerive when he used two putters in the final pairing on Sunday. He is currently 14th (!) in strokes gained putting.
25. Ian Poulter (T3 in 2012): It's not so much that Poulter is likely to win, but it would be foolish not to recognize that his play has bounced back. He has five top 10s already this season (including two in a row) and has finished T17 or better in the last four events he has played. He was also contending atop the Masters leaderboard on Saturday.
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