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Witnessing the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship May 21, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Golf, Internet, Interviews, Jazz, Media, Music, News, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel, TV, Video, Weather.
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For the fourth year in a row, I attended at least one PGA Tour event; and for the third time in the last four years, I attended a round of a major golf tournament. Three years ago, it was the second round of the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Last year, the third round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Sunday, I attended the final round of the PGA Championship (final leaderboard) at Bethpage State Park’s Black Golf Course, Bethpage Black for short. The Black previously hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open.

The 101st PGA Championship was the first to be played in May, after decades in which it was held in August and served as the last major of the season. Now, it’s the second. That means CBS holds the broadcast rights to the first two majors of the year, with Fox carrying the U.S. Open and NBC televising the Open Championship.

Bethpage State Park and its courses are only 15 minutes away from my Wantagh home, but going there for the PGA Championship by car required driving south to Jones Beach State Park parking field 3 or 4 for general parking:

My dad and I were directed to field 4:

From there, a shuttle bus took us east on Ocean Parkway, north on Wantagh Parkway to Exit W6, east on Merrick Road, north on the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway (NY 135), east on Merritts Road (after exiting at a special ramp), and finally to the terminal outside Bethpage Black. We arrived at 12:30, two hours and five minutes before Brooks Koepka (“KEP-ka”), the 54-hole leader by seven shots, was to tee off:

The sun broke through the clouds for the first few hours, but the clouds eventually won out.

The USGA calls their shop the Merchandise Pavilion; the PGA calls it The PGA Shops:

Having already purchased a cap and short-sleeve shirt, the latter of which I wore on the second night of Smooth Jazz for Scholars, and not wanted to lug a bag of merchandise all day, I waited until we left in the evening to get anything.

The defending champion, and, I hoped, the repeat champion:

The range:

Among those practicing were Lucas Bjerregaard, Erik Van Rooyen, and Rickie Fowler.

The obligatory photo op:

The practice green and media center:

The bridge to the range:

The bridge from the 18th green:

Another practice green:

Phil Mickelson walking up the bridge after his final round:

He shot 76 for the second consecutive round, finishing at +12.

The 1:05 group: Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open Champion…:

…and Lucas Bjerregaard:

The Lucases both shot 73 and finished at +3.

The electronic leaderboard/TV monitor:

The 1st fairway:

The 1st green:

I stood by the 2nd tee to watch three groups come by:

First, another group where the pair share a first name: Danny Lee:

…and Danny Willett, 2016 Masters Champion:

The Dannys both shot 77, with Lee finishing at +6 and Willett +7.

The Goodyear Blimp provided aerial coverage early on:

But cloud cover forced it to ground.

The second group I saw at 2 was Rickie Fowler:

…and Sung Kang, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament the week before:

Fowler shot 77 to finish at +6, while Kang fared a little better: 72 to finish even-par.

The third was Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 and Open Championship in 2017:

…and Erik Van Rooyen:

Van Rooyen’s tee shot was way left:

Here’s where it ended up:

The 2nd fairway:

The 2nd green:

Spieth was one stroke better than yesterday, 71, ending up at -2. Van Rooyen shot 73 and finished at +1.

The 3rd tee:

The 3rd green and 4th tee:

The 4th fairway:

After that, I started to get hot – that’ll teach me to wear a jacket – and didn’t feel like walking the entire course. So, I headed for the 18th green. Along the way, I saw the 13th green:

14th tee:

14th green:

Back across Round Swamp Road, the 16th green grandstand:

15th tee:

16th green:

Somewhere in the distance is the 17th tee:

The 17th green and its grandstands:

The 18th tee:

18th fairway, which didn’t see many balls this round:

The 18th green and grandstands:

The TNT/CBS broadcast tower, overlooking the 18th fairway and green:

Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo called the action from 2:00 to 7:00. Spoiler alert: the championship ended on time, meaning 60 Minutes started on time.

The 18th fairway, seen from the greenside bunker:

Matt Kuchar after shooting 69:

He was one of a handful players under par for the round. He finished +1 for the championship.

After stopping at the adjacent concession stand for lunch/dinner, Dad and I returned to our spot by the greenside bunker:

We stayed there to the end. The stiff breezes cooled me off to the point where I put my jacket back on.

Between groups, the leaderboard would switch to the CBS feed (no audio). We watched as Brooks Koepka’s seven-shot lead almost evaporated, mainly due to four straight bogeys from 11 to 14, and Dustin Johnson, two groups ahead, drew closer, with five birdies and only one bogey through 15 holes. Even though I’ve rooted against players myself, I was startled that the fans around me, behind me by the ropes and up in the stands, were cheering Koepka’s demise. I like D.J., I even saw him triumph over Jordan Spieth in The Northern Trust two years ago, but I wanted Koepka to finish what he started. I’ve seen collapses in other sports, and the 2012 Ryder Cup, and I don’t like them. When Dustin Johnson faltered himself with bogeys at 16 and 17, I shook my head in affirmation and pumped my fist, not that anyone noticed. “Take that, fans,” I thought. But the fans cheered again when D.J. saved par at 18, chanting “D.J.! D.J.!” They cheered more as Brooks Koepka missed a short par putt at 17.

We’ll get to Koepka’s 18th hole in a bit. But first, here are some of the players that came before him, starting with Rory McIlroy, the 2012 and 2014 PGA Champion, as well as the 2011 U.S. Open Champion and 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year (winner of the Open Championship):

Like Matt Kuchar, McIlroy shot under par 69 and finished at +1.

When I went back to the concession stand for a chocolate chip cookie, I noticed there was another course map, smaller than the one by the entrance:

Back at the green, the Lucases, Glover and Bjerregaard:

One hole earlier, at 17, Bjerregaard made a hole in one while Glover chipped in for birdie from the bunker! I heard the roar, but didn’t know what it was until I saw on the leaderboard/monitor. It turns out my friend, guitarist and vocalist Matt Marshak, was there and saw both shots! How exciting!

Back at 18, Danny Lee in the bunker:

Rickie Fowler:

Jordan Spieth:

Dustin Johnson:

“D.J.! D.J.!”:

He finished with a 69, -6 for the championship. Spoiler again, Koepka survived 18 to win by two.

Luke List:

List had a rough day after three rounds under par. He shot 74 to finish at -1.

And that brings us to Brooks Koepka. His tee shot landed in the fescue left of the fairway:

His second shot landed back in the fairway.

After checking the distance…:

…he laid up and landed on the green, 12 feet from the hole:

The fans changed their allegiance to Koepka as he walked up to his ball:

After playing partner Harold Varner III putted out, an unfortunate 81 for him and +6 finish, Koepka putt from 12 feet:

…and made it:

As Jim Nantz said on TV, “It’s a Koepka coronation!” “Coronation” was the word I had hoped for after Saturday. Despite shooting a 74, his only round over par, he was crowned repeat PGA Champion.

Here’s how it looked on CBS:

I couldn’t see the trophy presentation from where I was:

Unfortunately, no one could hear it, either. Whoever was in charge of the speakers didn’t feed into the CBS audio. Only the TV audience heard Bill Macatee as he announced Rob Labritz was the low-scoring club professional, heard PGA of America President Suzy Whaley introduce Brooks Koepka as he returned to the green to receive the Wanamaker Trophy, and heard Koepka fielding Macatee’s questions. Fans in the grandstands cried “we can’t hear you!” and words to that effect. They cheered when it seemed like they were supposed to: when Labritz waved and Koepka raised the trophy. This could be why I’m unable to find video of the presentation online. This video has excerpts at the beginning, but that’s all we get. Otherwise, I have to consult my DVR, as I did yesterday morning.

5/26 UPDATE: One week later, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship was played upstate, at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, televised on Golf Channel and NBC. Ken Tanigawa won by one shot. This time, the crowd at 18 was able to hear the trophy presentation hosted by Steve Sands. Oak Hill will host the regular PGA in 2023, as it did in 2013, 2003, and 1980. It first hosted the Senior PGA in 2008.

With no sign that the presentation would be redone for the fans, Dad and I headed for the exit:

Future PGA Championship sites:

Along the way, we went into The PGA Shops:

I had to get a commemorative 18th hole flag, as I had done for the two U.S. Opens. Yesterday morning, I unwrapped it and put it on my bedroom wall:

It replaced the flag from the 2009 U.S. Open:

…which replaced the one from 2002:

That one developed creases from being folded up for ten years.

Back at the Black, it was time to go:

With my iPhone’s battery at 10%, I turned it off for the shuttle bus ride back to Jones Beach. I charged it in the car on the way home and back in my room once I got home.

Bethpage Black’s next big event will be the 2024 Ryder Cup. The last thing I’d like to hear that Sunday, whether in person or on TV, is the “Olé” song, indicating Europe won again.

I’m so glad that Brooks Koepka held on to win the 101st PGA Championship. It’s his fourth major victory in the last eight he’s played. The win returned him to #1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. And he’s undefeated on Long Island, having won his second U.S. Open last year at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton. Congratulations, Brooksie!

Will Koepka get the three-peat at Pebble Beach next month? Will Dustin Johnson redeem himself after losing the lead in the final round the last time the U.S. Open was at Pebble? We’ll see.

6/16 UPDATE: Neither happened. Gary Woodland won by three shots over Koepka to win his first major.

Until then, I’ll leave you with videos…:

Todd Lewis’s interview with Brooks Koepka for Golf Channel

…and articles:
Mike Lopresti, PGA.com: Big-Game Brooks Koepka Goes Wire to Wire for First Repeat PGA Championship Since Tiger Woods
Ryan Lavner, Golf Channel: Little brother no more: Koepka sends message staring down DJ at the PGA
ESPN: Koepka struggles, holds off Johnson for PGA win
Kyle Porter, CBS Sports: Brooks Koepka finds his edge, exuding toughness in fourth major win
Greg Logan, Newsday: Brooks Koepka holds on to win at Bethpage Black despite struggling in final round
Hank Gola, New York Daily News: Brooks Koepka wins PGA Championship overcoming difficult course, hostile crowd
Mark Cannizzaro, New York Post: How Brooks Koepka avoided epic PGA Championship choke job

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Comments»

1. the #1 Itinerary - May 21, 2019

Great post 🙂

Mike C. - May 21, 2019

Thank you.


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