PGA Championship

The PGA Championship galleries at the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens were famous—arguably notorious—for their presence, in number and voice. Those expecting a similar turnout this week may be disappointed.Through three practice rounds at the 2019 PGA Championship, the grounds have been noticeably quiet at Bethpage State Park. On Tuesday and Wednesday, many of the holes boasted more volunteers than spectators, a sight especially true on the remote part—holes six through 12—of the property. A beverage vendor mentioned sales were “about 30 to 40 percent” off from their weekly forecast. And a fan noted on the fifth hole, “It’s more crowded out here on a normal Saturday.”

To be fair, one can’t judge optics alone. Bethpage’s Yosemite-like dimensions provide plenty of space to roam. This is in stark contrast to last year’s PGA host, Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, where the confines were so tight that you occasionally felt like you were at an overrun rock concert. The vast expanse at Bethpage correlates to a natural thinning of those outside the ropes.And yet the spartan bleachers were evidence that more might be at play. According to ticket marketer VividSeats, the average price of passes sold leading up to the 2019 PGA Championship is down nearly 20 percent from last year. Sports business analyst Darren Rovell reported that the tournament has the lowest secondary ticket prices in recent major history, noting $350 weekly passes are going for $150.

At time of publication, the PGA of America had not responded to a request for practice-round attendance numbers. On the PGA of America website, however, Saturday and Sunday daily passes are sold out. And PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh noted on Tuesday that Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters directly correlated into increased fan interest in the PGA.It’s helped—obviously blew up our ticket sales immediately thereafter,” Waugh said. “We were in good shape anyway, but it certainly helped.

It has not been picnic weather out on Long Island. A steady rain on Monday made for unfavorable conditions, and temperatures the first two days hovered in the high 40s. Even with clear and sunny skies on Wednesday, a soft-yet-steady wind brought out heavy jackets and winter hats. There’s also the matter of timing.

The PGA Championship’s new May date has its benefits, but it’s not particularly conducive to local families, with school still in session in the New York area. Only a handful of kids have been on site, a far cry from the scene down the road at Shinnecock last summer for the U.S. Open in June. Whether crowds are thin because the tournament proper has yet to start could also be a factor, although it’s worth noting that Bellerive broke attendance records on Monday and Wednesday despite bad weather, while Shinnecock also claimed robust crowds all week.

There’s also the chance that saturation is at play. The 2002, and to lesser extent, 2009 U.S. Opens at Bethpage were novelties. The course has since hosted two PGA Tour events—the 2012 and 2016 Barclays. And unlike St. Louis, which welcomed professional golf back for the first time in a decade, New Yorkers are a spoiled bunch, having the Open at Shinnecock last year and Winged Foot serving as U.S. Open host next summer.

Admittedly, that tenor at Bethpage could change come Thursday, and again PGA of America officials are still expecting a big weekend turnout. Perhaps it will be just as rowdy an environment as previous U.S. Opens. But through three days at Bethpage, the build-up to this PGA has not translated to fannies in the seats.

PGA Championship 2019

The PGA Championship That’s what everyone wants to know this time of year, and rarely has the decision at the top been more

difficult. All eyes are on Tiger Woods coming off his stunning Masters victory, though he will be bucking history if he hopes to pull

off the double. No player has won the Masters and PGA Championship in the same season since … you guessed it … Jack Nicklaus in

1975.

There is a strong field of generational talent set for Bethpage Black this week, and we would be remiss without mentioning Rory

McIlroy, who is arguably golf’s most consistent player right now, and some of the other young guns looking to claim the year’s second

major title. With the PGA Championship moved up from August to May, it will be interesting to see how the entire field adjusts both

this weekend and down the stretch of the 2019 season. Narrowing this field down to a champion and top finishers is a tough task, but

we here at CBS Sports are certainly up to it.

2019 PGA Championship predictions

Winner — Jason Day (25-1): Quietly having a terrific season, Day has been immense at past PGA Championships with his only major win

coming in 2015 at Whistling Straits. Since then, he has a 2nd, a T9 and a T19 in the past three years. He also has the best score to

par of the 30 golfers who made the cut at both the 2012 Barclays and 2016 Barclays at Bethpage Black. Sleeper — Emiliano Grillo

(150-1): Shot four rounds of even par or better in 2016 at The Barclays to finish T2, one back of Patrick Reed. Has the game from tee

to green to get it done but is currently 208th in putting. All it takes is one hot week.

Top 10 lock — Rory McIlroy: Big surprise here that I’m picking the No. 1 golfer in strokes gained who also has eight top 10s in nine

stroke-play events on the PGA Tour and two PGAs to his name. I like huge limbs.Top 5 in order: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods Surprise prediction: Brooks Koepka finishes outside the top 20. It seems like everybody in the golf media world is hopping on the

bandwagon, so I’m going to head the other direction for the time being. Which definitely means he’s going to win by six and grab his

fourth major championship.

Lowest round: 65 (-6)
Winning score: 275 (-9)
Winner’s Sunday score: 69 (-2)

Winner — Dustin Johnson (10-1): While D.J.’s span of winning stretches back to the beginning of the decade, his reign as the best

golfer in the world really only covers the past three years. The world No. 1 has been beating on the door in the past couple majors

to double his count, and I think a weekend of deep drives and solid work on the greens — Johnson currently ranks No. 5 on the tour

in strokes gained putting — leads to a couple of 2-under and 3-under rounds that can propel him to the top of the leaderboard by

Sunday evening.

Sleeper — Sergio Garcia (60-1): Something has to give with Sergio. He has five top-10 finishes in nine PGA Tour events this season

but is currently carrying a streak of six straight missed cuts in majors with no top-20 finishes since he won the Masters in 2017.

There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with his game; it has just been some big numbers early in these tournaments that have him

spending the weekend watching with the rest of us. I say Bethpage, a place where he finished in the top 10 at both U.S. Opens (2002,

2009), is the place he reverses course.

Top 10 lock — Xander Schauffele: In just eight major starts, Schauffele has four top-six finishes and has been the runner-up twice.

He’s going to continue to exceed expectations until he breaks through with a win, even as he has already notched two victories this

season. It’s possible that comes this week but personally, I feel much better about him playing well — because he almost always has

his best stuff at the big tournaments these days — and finishing in the top 10. He’s a top-10 player in the world! Why wouldn’t he

be top-10 at the PGA?

Top 5 in order: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy

Surprise prediction: Jordan Spieth will miss the cut. Spieth enters the PGA Championship without a top-20 finish in 13 events this

season and a scoring average (71.175) that would mark as the worst of his career by more than a stroke if it held for the year. The

reason no one is beating the drum for the potential of a Spieth slam at Bethpage is that he’s outside the top 200 in both strokes

gained off the tee and driving accuracy.

Lowest round: 64 (-7)
Winning score: 274 (-10)
Winner’s Sunday score: 69 (-2)

Winner — Rickie Fowler (16-1): This course sets up nicely for Fowler, and with all of the attention going to Woods and nearly all of

his peers entering event, the pressure is off as one of the best players in the world continues the search for hiss first major

championship. Call this a gut feeling more than anything as, despite Fowler’s strong play in these events, he’s never really all the

way atop the leaderboard by the time Round 4 comes to a conclusion. Plus, Rickie has two top-15 finishes at this tournament over the

last couple of seasons.

Sleeper — Ian Poulter (60-1): With top 20 finishes in each of his last four events, including a T12 at the Masters (which would have

looked far better if not for a final-round 73), Poulter has been playing some great golf as of late. He’s not historically great in

this event with only two top 20 finishes in 16 appearances, but this is called a “sleeper” for a reason.

Top 10 lock — Rory McIlroy: McIlroy is a backdoor top 10 waiting to happen with seven in the last four years alone. The problem is

he’s also missed four cuts in that same span.

Surprise prediction: Phil Mickelson will miss the cut. Lefty has missed consecutive cuts at the PGA Championship and been unable to

make the weekend in three of his last seven majors. I don’t like rooting against anyone in this manner, but it worked for me for a

couple years with Zach Johnson at the Masters, so I’ll throw Lefty to the fire this time around.

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