The top-ranked golfers in the world will get ample attention at the 2019 PGA Championship. But they’re not the only players with a chance.
This will be the first PGA Championship held at Bethpage Black. But the venue has hosted two U.S. Opens (2002 and 2009) as well as The Barclays twice (2012 and 2016). Past success definitely makes it easier to project a good dark horse. Some dark horses were once among the world’s best and now look ready to rebound after some hard times. Others are names that might not jump out. But for various reasons, they can’t be ignored.
Most of the attention will go to the players in the top-25 in the world. But heading into the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, these dark horse players must be taken seriously as well.
Scott is one of a select few players in the field to have played in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage. He missed the cut that week. But since, he finished T36 at the 2009 U.S. Open, 62nd at The Barclays in 2012, and T4 at the same tournament in 2016. So, he knows how to get around the course. Scott has missed two cuts in 2019. But he’s notched two top-10 finishes and two more top-20s. It’s not the sharpest we’ve ever seen Scott. But his form is good enough that we could easily see him competing to win his second career major.
Two things really jump out when assessing Moore’s chances at the PGA. The first is that while he’s experienced some struggles in 2019, Moore finished third at the Valero Texas Open. So, we know that he can still contend. Second, Moore has two top-10 finishes at Bethpage Black. The first came at the 2009 U.S. Open, where he finished T10. The second was a T7 at The Barclays in 2016. Bethpage Black has a well earned reputation as being one of the most difficult courses in the world. Moore can clearly play it well. That makes him awfully hard to ignore.
Not too long ago, Matstuyama was one of the top-five golfers in the world. His form is not what it’s been in the past. But at 27, he isn’t exactly over the hill. And while it’s been a while since Matsuyama has been in the winner’s circle, he’s been consistent factor pretty much every time he’s teed it up over the last year. He hasn’t missed a cut since the 2018 British Open and has five top-10 finishes in that time. He definitely has the chops to be a factor over the weekend at the PGA.
Kokrak is ranked No. 65 in the world. But he’s moving in the right direction. After missing the cut at the Open Championship a year ago, he was ranked No. 126. Since then, he hasn’t missed a cut. And he’s not just playing the weekend. Kokrak is making himself a factor. In 2019, Kokrak has notched four top-10 finishes. On top of that, he finished T7 at The Barclays in 2016. So, something about the venue seems to suit his eye. Kokrak may be down in the rankings. But he has a lot going in his favor heading into the season’s second major.
It’s been a while since Grillo won. But when we look at his form over the last year, we see good signs. Since missing the cut at the British Open in 2018, he’s failed to reach the weekend only once. Over that same period, Grillo has three top-10 finishes. And while he hasn’t earned a win since 2015, one of his closest calls since came at the 2016 Barclays. There, Grillo finished one shot behind Patrick Reed, good enough to tie for second. While Grillo is down in the rankings, it’s easy to have some good feelings about his chances.
Bjerregaard made a huge splash earlier in 2019 when he ended Tiger Woods’ run at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play. But his 2018 was also notable. Bjerregaard missed seven cuts a year ago. So, if you’re looking for someone who will reliably play the weekend, you have to consider that. But when Bjerregaard made the cut, he was pretty special. He produced a win and nine other top-10s. Bjerregaard’s driving accuracy can sometimes be a little erratic. But if he’s finding the short grass, Bjerregaard’s distance will serve him quite well at Bethpage.
We can’t say that this is the best we’ve ever seen Snedeker. But there’s a lot to be upbeat about. First, he’s missed only two cuts since the 2018 Open Championship. In that same window, Snedeker has a win and three other top-10s. Additionally, while Snedeker missed the cut at the 2009 U.S. Open, he finished solo second at the The Barclays in 2012 en route to winning that year’s FedEx Cup. So, the course doesn’t exactly terrify him. Snedeker has a reputation for being a solid grinder. Chances are, that’s what will be needed to be in the mix at Bethpage.
This will be Janewattananond’s second career major and first in the United States. But while he isn’t exactly a household name, Janewattananond has played some outstanding golf in 2019. Playing primarily in Asia, he’s posted six top-10 finishes. One of those was a win. We tend to focus our attentions on the American and European Tours. Generally, that’s where the top players come from. But there is great golf being played around the world. Janewattananond has been nothing short of dominant in Asia. Don’t be surprised if this week is something of a coming out party for him.
The 2016 Open champ has taken a bit of a drop in the world rankings as of late. But more recently, he’s been much better. Stenson has made four straight cuts. That included a T9 finish at the WGC Match Play. He also notched eight top-10 finishes in 2018. So, he’s enjoyed success recently. On top of that, Stenson finished in ninth place at the 2009 U.S. Open. Going back on something that happened 10 years ago can be tricky. But past success at the course certainly doesn’t hurt his outlook heading into the PGA Championship.
Spieth hasn’t won since the 2017 British Open and his world ranking has plummeted over the last two years. Fortunately, there is some good news. One, he’s made the cut in each of his last four tournaments and in eight of his last nine. Two, he finished T10 at The Barclays in 2016, held at Bethpage Black. So, he has a comfort level with the course. Spieth is a long way from where he was when he was the best player in the world. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him complete the Career Grand Slam, either.