Rory McIlroy feels that the famous length and difficulty of Bethpage’s Black Course could play into his hands this week as the Northern Irishman targets a fifth Major Championship at the US PGA Championship.
“I think with the rain we’ve had the last couple of days, the length will definitely help. I’m just looking at the scorecard here, I actually wasn’t sure whether we were playing it as a par 70 or 71, so par-70, the seventh hole can obviously go from a par five to a par four.
“The two times we played the PGA TOUR event here it was a par five, and then the U.S. Open it was a par four. I mean, 7,500 yards, par 70, it’s a long golf course, and it plays even longer with the cold and wet conditions. Length is definitely going to be a big factor this week.”
The 30 year old has been on superb form in 2019, with a win in the Players Championship on the US PGA Tour supplemented by a runner-up finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship and six further top tens in the States.
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Having claimed a top ten when the U.S. Open was played at Bethpage back in 2009, the two-time US PGA Championship winner will be on confident mood when the event – taking place in May for the first time since 1949 – gets underway at the beastly 7,459-yard par 70 course on Thursday.
“I’ve had a pretty good record in May. I’ve won a few tournaments, and I was a pretty big fan of this date change, moving this tournament back to May. I feel like going forward it’ll definitely lend itself to going to some new venues. It got a little hot in August in places like Southern Hills.
“Saying that, obviously we’ve got to deal with a little bit of chilliness up here, but at the same time, I think it gives the PGA of America more of a variety of courses to go to, which I think is a good thing.
Francesco Molinari is also feeling fresh having played just once since missing out on a second Major title at the Masters Tournament last month, while Shane Lowry – the only Rolex Series winner of the 2019 campaign following January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship victory – is hoping to impress having claimed his best result in golf’s big four in 2018 at this event.
“I had a chunk of time off after the Masters so I’ve been at home practicing and trying to get ready for this week. I feel good, rested and ready to go.
“It’s different playing this event in May but obviously we’ll get used to it. It’s the same tournament, just a different date. Condition wise it might be a little bit different, especially judging by how it’s been the last few days in New York but it’s still a great event just as it has been in the past.
“I think I got my first top ten in a Major in this event and obviously I’ve had a second place so it’s been a good Major for me compared to the other three. I guess the setup of the course is pretty typical – thick rough and you need to hit fairways and greens.
“I’ve enjoyed the courses that we’ve played in the past. I played my first U.S. Open here at Bethpage in 2009 so I’ve been trying to work off those memories as well. It’s a tough course, especially with the cold weather, it’s going to play very long. But it’s a great test of golf.”