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.
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.
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 today.
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.
McIlroy said: “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.
“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.”
Lowry added: “My game’s alright, I’ve had a couple of weeks off and had a decent week a few weeks ago so confidence is high enough.
“Obviously it’s a tough, long golf course here this week and we’ll have to see how it plays out but I’m looking forward to the week.
“I played 11 holes today and it’s definitely long, but luckily enough this is the longest we’ll see it all week. The weather is supposed to warm up a little more and the rough won’t be as thick so I’ll get out tomorrow and see what it’s like then, but I’ll imagine it will play a bit shorter than it is now.
“It was about 100 degrees in Bellerive last year when we played this event and this year is obviously a lot colder – we’re up north here in New York, and at this time of the year.
“Personally for me, it feels like it’s come around very quickly. We had the Masters not too long ago, we’re here now and it’s hard to believe the U.S. Open is less than a month away and then The Open is so close too. So the schedule is very much on top of you this year.
“I think this golf course is there for you, there’s not too much that’s tricky about it so for practice rounds I’m just getting out there to play it as much as I can.
“It’s long and it’s wet underfoot so playing too much out there will take a lot out of you so you just have to play as much as you feel you need to to know the golf course.”