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5 contenders to win the US PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka is the defending champion.

Tiger Woods is seeking a 16th major title in the US PGA (Adam Davy/PA)
Tiger Woods is seeking a 16th major title in the US PGA (Adam Davy/PA)

The second major of the year gets under way next week as Bethpage State Park’s famed Black Course hosts the US PGA Championship.

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(PA Graphics)

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five contenders for the title on Long Island.

Tiger Woods

Where else to start than with the 15-time major champion? Woods’ emotional victory in the Masters last month was his first major title in 11 years. A lot of the focus in the immediate aftermath was understandably on the 43-year-old’s comeback following spinal fusion surgery, but the manner of the win was equally important. The final round was a masterclass in how to win a major under pressure – playing safe on the 12th when his rivals found the water, making birdies on the two par-fives on the back nine and then using the slope on the 16th to make another. A closing 70 was nothing special in terms of scoring, but it was precisely what was needed and similar tactics will be required at Bethpage, where Woods was the only player to finish under par in winning the 2002 US Open.

Brooks Koepka

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Brooks Koepka is the defending champion (David Davies/PA)

Defending champion Koepka was one of the three players to finish just a shot behind Woods at Augusta and the big-hitting American continues to impress in major championships. Since the 2016 US PGA, Koepka’s form in majors reads 4-11-1-6-13-1-39-1-2 and the 29-year-old seems to have recovered from a weight-loss regimen which left him feeling “out of sorts” and resulted in a Twitter spat with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who called it “the most reckless self-sabotage that I have ever seen of an athlete in his prime.”
With a rain-soaked course set to play into the hands of the long hitters, Koepka will have a distinct advantage at Bethpage.

Rory McIlroy

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Rory McIlroy is seeking a third US PGA title at Bethpage (David Davies/PA)

McIlroy’s victory in the Players Championship made him the bookmakers’ favourite for the Masters but the four-time major winner was never in contention after an opening 73 and his tie for 21st was his worst finish at Augusta since 2013. McIlroy then finished eighth in the Wells Fargo Championship after a disappointing closing 73 but is another player who should be suited by the conditions at Bethpage, which could resemble those during the 2011 US Open which he won by eight shots. The 30-year-old also finished 10th at Bethpage two years earlier in just his third major appearance.

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson could be forgiven for focusing more on the US Open given that he needs to win that event to complete the career grand slam, but his record at Bethpage is superb. The left-hander finished runner-up there in both 2002 and 2009 and was also 13th in The Barclays in 2016. Mickelson has missed the cut in three of his last five events but did win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this season and was also second in the Desert Classic.

Dustin Johnson

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Dustin Johnson’s length off the tee will be an advantage at Bethpage (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Johnson has never quite rediscovered the form which saw him move to the top of the world rankings for the first time in February 2017 and promptly follow it with further success in the WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. However, the big-hitting American has won twice this season and finished runner-up behind Woods at the Masters, while he was also third at Bethpage in The Barclays in 2012. Long, straight driving is likely to be key and Johnson ranks 10th in strokes gained off the tee on the PGA Tour this season.

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