The strongest field of golfers the PGA Tour has to offer has arrived on Long Island for the 2019 PGA Championship.
If there was any question, Bethpage Black is still poised to be as stiff a test one can find in golf. It’s playing length and long walks from tee box to green and on, combined with a thick, penalizing rough will make for high scores and plenty of frustration from the field this week.
“It’s all the golf course you want,” said Tiger Woods, who is fresh off a memorable Masters win at Augusta. “In order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront. With the rough as lush as it is…you’ve got to hit it not only straight, but you’ve got to hit it far.”
All eyes — from the outside golf world and also those of Long Islanders — will once again be on Woods, the current betting favorite and winner of the 2002 U.S. Open held at Bethpage Black. Woods was the only golfer to finish under par during that event. He also competed at Bethpage in the 2009 Open, and most recently during The 2012 Barclays, a Fedex Cup event. Woods famously injured himself that weekend, and fell to his knees after hitting a shot on Sunday.
This mighty municipal course has long been considered one of the country’s finest public golf courses. “The People’s Country Club” played host to a PGA event last in 2016, though conditions will be more difficult for golfers to navigate this time around, for different reasons.
Course maintenance crews generally opt to go for more difficult course conditions to challenge the field during a Major Championship. But heavy rains dumped in the days leading up to the event mean that fairways will offer less roll out off tee shots. It gives a distinct advantage to those who drive the golf ball farthest.
“I mean, 7,500 yards, par-70, it’s a long golf course, and it plays even longer with the cold and wet conditions,” said Rory McIlroy, who is playing The Black for the third time as a professional. “It could play more like 7,700 because of those factors.”
In 2009, the 109th U.S. Open was held at The Black and marred by continuous, torrential downpours that resulted in sloppy play. Though showers will be in the area, particularly on Thursday and Friday, they are not expected to impact play as severely as the last Major Championship to be held at The Black.
Officials expect upwards of 200,000 spectators to make their way through the grounds at Bethpage State Park Golf Course this week. The tournament has already produced increased levels of vehicle traffic in surrounding neighborhoods, including some road closures near the park.
Nassau County and PGA officials are encouraging spectators to use alternative means of transportation for getting to the grounds. Long Island Rail Road trains will ferry fans to the grounds via shuttle service from the Farmingdale train station. According to the MTA, up to 18,000 spectators are expected to use the LIRR to get to the course per day.
There are even accommodations for Uber and Lyft riders, who can take their rides to a designated PGA Championship pickup and dropoff destination that will then be connected to the course via shuttle service as well, according to the PGA.
The tournament kicks off early Thursday morning at the crack of dawn. The week’s featured threesome of Woods, defending PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, and Italian star Francesco Molinari tee off at 8:24 a.m.