By DOUG FERGUSON - AP Golf Writer



FILE - In this June 17, 2009, file photo, Phil Mickelson walks out of the rough on the 18th hole during his practice round for the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. For such a strong course, Bethpage has a reputation for having a weak finishing hole. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

FILE - In this June 17, 2009, file photo, Phil Mickelson walks out of the rough on the 18th hole during his practice round for the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. For such a strong course, Bethpage has a reputation for having a weak finishing hole. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)


FILE - In this June 12, 2009, file photo, Bunkers line the fairway and protect the green on the 18th hole of Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Bethpage is hosting its third major when the PGA Championship starts May 16. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)


Bethpage At-A-Glance

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — A hole-by-hole look at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, site of the 101st PGA Championship to be played May 16-19. Includes combined rank and scoring average of each hole from the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens:

No. 1, 430 yards, par 4: The opening shot from an elevated tee bends to the right, with a cluster of trees on the right blocking any approach that takes on too much of the bend. The left side allows for a better angle to the green that features a bunker on the front right. The front third of the green slopes sharply, so anything short or with too much spin could roll off the green. This is the smallest green on the course.

Rank: 11.

Scoring average: 4.18

No. 2, 389 yards, par 4: This is the only par 4 under 400 yards, featuring an elevated tee shot and then a short iron to an elevated green. The fairway bends to the left between trees on both sides. The left side of the green falls off sharply, while the right side is protected by deep bunkers.

Rank: 14.

Scoring average: 4.14.

No. 3, 230 yards, par 3: The shallow green is angled from back left to front right, with bunkers on the left side so deep that players will only be able to see the top part of the flag stick. Anything long will drop off severely behind the green.

Rank: 9.

Scoring average: 3.20

No. 4, 517 yards, par 5: While short by par 5 standards, it features a green some 50 feet above the landing zone for tee shots. The fairway bends to the left around a cluster of bunkers. The cross bunkers only come into play if someone misses the fairway into thick rough. The elevated green is protected by a series of bunkers. The safe play for those going for the green in two will be to the right, setting up an easy pitch.

Rank: 18.

Scoring average: 4.88.

No. 5, 478 yards, par 4: Massive cross bunkers hug the right side of the hole, though they can be carried by the longest hitters. The ideal play is down the right side because trees cover a ridge along the left side. The green is small and well-bunkered.

Rank: 5.

Scoring average: 4.41.

No. 6, 408 yards, par 4: A straightforward hole, with large bunkers making the fairway appear even more narrow. The fairway drops some 20 feet. Driver is a bold play to get down to the lower portion and leave a wedge to a small green surrounded by bunkers.

Rank: 13.

Scoring average: 4.15.

No. 7, 524 yards, par 4: This plays as a par 5 during public play. The tee shot is fairly straight before it turns to the right, with tall trees down the right preventing players from taking off too much of the dogleg. The approach is a long iron to a green that is not elevated and will allow the ball to run onto the green. A large bunker guards the right side, with a small one to the left.

Rank: 4.

Scoring average: 4.42.

No. 8, 210 yards, par 3: From an elevated tee, the green is guarded in the front by a pond, with large bunkers on the left that really only come into play for back pin positions. A tall oak and a steep dune are to the right of the hole. The bank in front of the green is shaved, meaning anything short is likely to roll into the water. The green has a ridge that could serve as a backboard.

Rank: 8.

Scoring average: 3.23.

No. 9, 460 yards, par 4: The hole bends to the left with a large bunker complex on the left side of the landing area. Playing short of the bunkers leaves a longer shot from a contoured fairway with a limited view of the green. Two deep bunkers protect the front of a relatively flat green.

Rank: 15.

Scoring average: 4.10.

No. 10, 502 yards, par 4: A far tougher start for those teeing off on the back nine during the opening two rounds. It’s a straightaway hole that requires a strong tee shot to get to fairway. Anything left will find tall fescue, bunkers or hollows. The elevated green is guarded by bunkers.

Rank: 3.

Scoring average: 4.43.

No. 11, 435 yards, par 4: A blind tee shot to a fairway tucked between dunes should favor the right side for a better angle into the most severe green on the course. The putting surface has a false front, causing problems for any putt or chip from beyond the hole. Bunkers protect the front part of the green.

Rank: 7.

Scoring average: 4.26.

No. 12, 515 yards, par 4: Arguably the toughest tee shot on the Black Course, players can hit driver over cross bunkers to shorten the hole, or play safely out to the right of the bunkers. Any drive hit too straight could run through the fairway into the rough. The second shot is straightforward to a large green with severe undulations.

Rank: 2.

Scoring average: 4.48.

No. 13, 608 yards, par 5: The longest hole is made slightly easier because it is straight and reachable in two by long hitters on firm turf. A large bunker on the left is in play off the tee, while cross bunkers some 30 yards short of the green will be a problem for anything that comes up short. The green slopes slightly from back to front, with a bunker to the right among the deepest on the course.

Rank: 16.

Scoring average: 4.96

No. 14, 161 yards, par 3: The shortest hole on the course is the only par 3 that played under par in the two U.S. Opens. The short iron is over a valley to a green that slopes from back to front and from right to left, with a shelf on the top. Gaping bunkers will grab any shot that comes up slightly short. This is the second straight birdie chance before the tough finish on the other side of the road.

Rank: 17.

Scoring average: 2.94.

No. 15, 484 yards, par 4: The hole bends to the left and climbs up a steep hill over the final 180 yards to an elevated green that is protected in front by deep bunkers. Anyone missing the fairway likely won’t reach the green from the rough, or be able to hold the green. The green is 50 feet above the fairway with two tiers that slope from the back left to the front right.

Rank: 1.

Scoring average: 4.54.

No. 16, 490 yards, par 4: The tee shot drops some 60 feet down to a narrow fairway that angles from left to right and can be tough to hit because of the elevated tee. The hole bends gently to the left. A sprawling bunker is short and right of the green, with another bunker to the left. This is one of the few holes where the green can be seen from the tee box.

Rank: 6.

Scoring average: 4.29

No. 17, 207 yards, par 3: The slightly elevated green is 43 yards wide and is divided by a spine through the middle, effectively making two greens. A deep bunker guards the front of the green, with other bunkers catching shots that are right, long and left.

Rank: 10.

Scoring average: 3.18.

No. 18, 411 yards, par 4: Among major championship venues in the U.S. over the last two decades, only Olympic Club has a shorter closing hole. The tee shot is downhill to a narrow fairway that threads a large cluster of bunkers and fescue on both sides. Players can stay short of the bunkers and only have 160 yards to an elevated green that slopes severely from back to front. Lucas Glover hit 6-iron off the tee and had 9-iron to the green when he won the 2009 U.S. Open.

Rank: 12.

Scoring average: 4.17

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The warning sign attached to a waist-high iron fence overlooking the first tee is there for a reason. The Black Course at Bethpage State Park is an extremely difficult course, recommended only for highly skilled golfers.

The public course is strong enough to have hosted the U.S. Open twice and now gets a PGA Championship.

In short, Bethpage Black is a beast — all 17 holes of it.

It’s the 18th hole that leaves so much to be desired. The 411-yard closing hole is not a strong par 4 that defines so many major championship courses, like Oakmont or Southern Hills or Merion. It is not a reachable par 5 that can produce two-shot swings at the finish, such as Pebble Beach or Valhalla or Torrey Pines.

It’s really not much of a hole at all.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bad hole,” Rickie Fowler said. “You have so much going on through the rest of the golf course, and then you kind of just cruise in. Bethpage is just a big golf course. With the 18th hole there it’s like, ‘All right, we’ve put you through enough trouble today.’”

The hole is the second-shortest par 4 at Bethpage Black. It starts on an elevated tee to a narrow fairway that threads a sprawling bunker complex and then heads back up to an elevated green. The landing area was shaped like an hourglass for the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009. For the PGA Championship, chief championships officer Kerry Haigh plans to keep it the same width to at least give players options to hit driver.

It’s not necessarily an easy birdie hole despite being so short. At the previous two majors, the average score was 4.17, meaning six holes were easier. Miss the fairway and players will have a tough time avoiding bogey.

But it probably won’t be much worse than that, and not much better.

“It’s a strong course. It’s a tough course,” Henrik Stenson said. “But it doesn’t have the strongest or best finishing hole.”

Phil Mickelson made a double bogey on the 18th at Winged Foot that cost him the U.S. Open in 2006, the one runner-up finish that haunts him the most. Making par was such a burden at Whistling Straits in the 2004 PGA Championship that it cost Justin Leonard the title and kept Ernie Els from a playoff. Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, playing a group apart, each faced eagle putts from the 15-foot range to win on the final hole at Chambers Bay in the 2015 U.S. Open.

Now that was drama.

Bethpage Black has a finish remembered for two clubs — 6-iron and 9-iron — that Lucas Glover hit off the tee and onto the green when he won the 2009 U.S. Open.

Some context is required for that day. Because rain had soaked the course all week — it required a Monday finish to get in 72 holes — the USGA moved up the tee so that it played 364 yards. The idea was to give players a chance to hit driver beyond the pinch point of the hourglass shape.

“We had so much rain on Saturday night that the lowest, wettest place was the 18th fairway,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said.

Glover says the reason he hit 6-iron off the tee was to have the same shot he had hit the previous three rounds, when he used 5-wood off the tee. “The goal on the last round was to get it where I had it the rest of the week,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s a bad hole,” Glover said. “It’s tight. It’s a cool-looking hole. If you don’t get it on the fairway, it’s a bear. If you get it on the fairway, there’s not much to it, which is fair with the rest of the course.”

That would be the defense of No. 18 that Mickelson applies.

Mickelson, a runner-up in the last two majors held at Bethpage Black, loves the finishing stretch more than just the finishing hole. The par-5 13th can be reached in two for long hitters. The 14th is 161 yards, making it the shortest hole on the course and a reasonable birdie chance. And then players cross the road and face the strongest hole at No. 15, which plays 484 yards with a severe dogleg that goes up the hill.

The 16th hole is no picnic, and neither is the par-3 17th.

“It’s a good mixture to catch guys with birdies on 13 and 14, and to catch guys with pars on 15, 16 and potentially 17,” Mickelson said. “You can make up ground on the closing holes, and then 18.”

And what to make of 18?

“That’s one hole that gets you back home,” Mickelson said, comparing it in that regard with the 18th at Cypress Point. “It doesn’t showcase really how great the entire golf course is. The closing hole isn’t the best hole out there, but it gets you back.”

It’s not the shortest closing hole in championship golf. The 18th at St. Andrews is 356 yards protected by out of bounds on the right and the Valley of Sin in front of the green. But most players can drive the green. The 18th at Olympic Club in San Francisco is 344 yards, but the tee shot is partially blind and the green complex is so severe that birdie is no bargain even with a wedge to the green. Miss the fairway and par becomes a challenge.

The closing hole at Bethpage is so ordinary that Davis contemplated using the 18th hole on the adjacent Red Course for the U.S. Open, but left it as it was. Among other reasons, it allowed people to play the same routing as a U.S. Open. That’s the beauty of playing majors on public golf courses.

For major championship golf or public play, the heavy lifting takes place over 17 holes.

“You’ve done all your work. The meat of the golf course is in the middle,” Fowler said. “And then 18 is like, ‘Thanks for coming. Hope you had fun.’”

FILE – In this June 17, 2009, file photo, Phil Mickelson walks out of the rough on the 18th hole during his practice round for the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. For such a strong course, Bethpage has a reputation for having a weak finishing hole. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/05/web1_122839964-53538f6227c3404aa137930bd2b3a98a.jpgFILE – In this June 17, 2009, file photo, Phil Mickelson walks out of the rough on the 18th hole during his practice round for the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. For such a strong course, Bethpage has a reputation for having a weak finishing hole. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

FILE – In this June 12, 2009, file photo, Bunkers line the fairway and protect the green on the 18th hole of Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Bethpage is hosting its third major when the PGA Championship starts May 16. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/05/web1_122839964-db82534085dd4c508b940f0adde3afa4.jpgFILE – In this June 12, 2009, file photo, Bunkers line the fairway and protect the green on the 18th hole of Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y. Bethpage is hosting its third major when the PGA Championship starts May 16. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

By DOUG FERGUSON

AP Golf Writer

Bethpage At-A-Glance

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — A hole-by-hole look at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, site of the 101st PGA Championship to be played May 16-19. Includes combined rank and scoring average of each hole from the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens:

No. 1, 430 yards, par 4: The opening shot from an elevated tee bends to the right, with a cluster of trees on the right blocking any approach that takes on too much of the bend. The left side allows for a better angle to the green that features a bunker on the front right. The front third of the green slopes sharply, so anything short or with too much spin could roll off the green. This is the smallest green on the course.

Rank: 11.

Scoring average: 4.18

No. 2, 389 yards, par 4: This is the only par 4 under 400 yards, featuring an elevated tee shot and then a short iron to an elevated green. The fairway bends to the left between trees on both sides. The left side of the green falls off sharply, while the right side is protected by deep bunkers.

Rank: 14.

Scoring average: 4.14.

No. 3, 230 yards, par 3: The shallow green is angled from back left to front right, with bunkers on the left side so deep that players will only be able to see the top part of the flag stick. Anything long will drop off severely behind the green.

Rank: 9.

Scoring average: 3.20

No. 4, 517 yards, par 5: While short by par 5 standards, it features a green some 50 feet above the landing zone for tee shots. The fairway bends to the left around a cluster of bunkers. The cross bunkers only come into play if someone misses the fairway into thick rough. The elevated green is protected by a series of bunkers. The safe play for those going for the green in two will be to the right, setting up an easy pitch.

Rank: 18.

Scoring average: 4.88.

No. 5, 478 yards, par 4: Massive cross bunkers hug the right side of the hole, though they can be carried by the longest hitters. The ideal play is down the right side because trees cover a ridge along the left side. The green is small and well-bunkered.

Rank: 5.

Scoring average: 4.41.

No. 6, 408 yards, par 4: A straightforward hole, with large bunkers making the fairway appear even more narrow. The fairway drops some 20 feet. Driver is a bold play to get down to the lower portion and leave a wedge to a small green surrounded by bunkers.

Rank: 13.

Scoring average: 4.15.

No. 7, 524 yards, par 4: This plays as a par 5 during public play. The tee shot is fairly straight before it turns to the right, with tall trees down the right preventing players from taking off too much of the dogleg. The approach is a long iron to a green that is not elevated and will allow the ball to run onto the green. A large bunker guards the right side, with a small one to the left.

Rank: 4.

Scoring average: 4.42.

No. 8, 210 yards, par 3: From an elevated tee, the green is guarded in the front by a pond, with large bunkers on the left that really only come into play for back pin positions. A tall oak and a steep dune are to the right of the hole. The bank in front of the green is shaved, meaning anything short is likely to roll into the water. The green has a ridge that could serve as a backboard.

Rank: 8.

Scoring average: 3.23.

No. 9, 460 yards, par 4: The hole bends to the left with a large bunker complex on the left side of the landing area. Playing short of the bunkers leaves a longer shot from a contoured fairway with a limited view of the green. Two deep bunkers protect the front of a relatively flat green.

Rank: 15.

Scoring average: 4.10.

No. 10, 502 yards, par 4: A far tougher start for those teeing off on the back nine during the opening two rounds. It’s a straightaway hole that requires a strong tee shot to get to fairway. Anything left will find tall fescue, bunkers or hollows. The elevated green is guarded by bunkers.

Rank: 3.

Scoring average: 4.43.

No. 11, 435 yards, par 4: A blind tee shot to a fairway tucked between dunes should favor the right side for a better angle into the most severe green on the course. The putting surface has a false front, causing problems for any putt or chip from beyond the hole. Bunkers protect the front part of the green.

Rank: 7.

Scoring average: 4.26.

No. 12, 515 yards, par 4: Arguably the toughest tee shot on the Black Course, players can hit driver over cross bunkers to shorten the hole, or play safely out to the right of the bunkers. Any drive hit too straight could run through the fairway into the rough. The second shot is straightforward to a large green with severe undulations.

Rank: 2.

Scoring average: 4.48.

No. 13, 608 yards, par 5: The longest hole is made slightly easier because it is straight and reachable in two by long hitters on firm turf. A large bunker on the left is in play off the tee, while cross bunkers some 30 yards short of the green will be a problem for anything that comes up short. The green slopes slightly from back to front, with a bunker to the right among the deepest on the course.

Rank: 16.

Scoring average: 4.96

No. 14, 161 yards, par 3: The shortest hole on the course is the only par 3 that played under par in the two U.S. Opens. The short iron is over a valley to a green that slopes from back to front and from right to left, with a shelf on the top. Gaping bunkers will grab any shot that comes up slightly short. This is the second straight birdie chance before the tough finish on the other side of the road.

Rank: 17.

Scoring average: 2.94.

No. 15, 484 yards, par 4: The hole bends to the left and climbs up a steep hill over the final 180 yards to an elevated green that is protected in front by deep bunkers. Anyone missing the fairway likely won’t reach the green from the rough, or be able to hold the green. The green is 50 feet above the fairway with two tiers that slope from the back left to the front right.

Rank: 1.

Scoring average: 4.54.

No. 16, 490 yards, par 4: The tee shot drops some 60 feet down to a narrow fairway that angles from left to right and can be tough to hit because of the elevated tee. The hole bends gently to the left. A sprawling bunker is short and right of the green, with another bunker to the left. This is one of the few holes where the green can be seen from the tee box.

Rank: 6.

Scoring average: 4.29

No. 17, 207 yards, par 3: The slightly elevated green is 43 yards wide and is divided by a spine through the middle, effectively making two greens. A deep bunker guards the front of the green, with other bunkers catching shots that are right, long and left.

Rank: 10.

Scoring average: 3.18.

No. 18, 411 yards, par 4: Among major championship venues in the U.S. over the last two decades, only Olympic Club has a shorter closing hole. The tee shot is downhill to a narrow fairway that threads a large cluster of bunkers and fescue on both sides. Players can stay short of the bunkers and only have 160 yards to an elevated green that slopes severely from back to front. Lucas Glover hit 6-iron off the tee and had 9-iron to the green when he won the 2009 U.S. Open.

Rank: 12.

Scoring average: 4.17