3 THINGS
Major Championship Golf Returns to Bethpage Black May 16, 2019 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Michael Trostel, USGA

A decade after it last hosted a major championship, the best players in the world once again descend upon Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y., on Thursday for the 101st PGA Championship. The venerable A.W. Tillinghast design previously held the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open Championships, won by Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, respectively.

Perhaps even more interesting than the championships themselves is the story of how the 2002 U.S. Open came to Bethpage. Here are three things to know about Bethpage’s championship pedigree as we prepare for the season’s second major.

The People’s Course

The U.S. Open moves around the country. It has been played on both coasts, in the Midwest, the mountains and as far south as Texas. But until 2002, it had not been played on a daily-fee public course. Enter Bethpage Black.

Former USGA Executive Director David Fay, a native New Yorker, hatched the idea in the mid-1990s and took a group of staff members to visit the course. Despite poor conditioning, mostly due to budget constraints, the layout drew raves from the contingent, who came away excited about the possibility of Bethpage hosting a U.S. Open.

In 1997, the USGA was close to an agreement with the state of New York to bring the 2002 championship to Bethpage, but Fay had one final stipulation: The state couldn’t raise the economical Black Course green fees – $31 on weekdays and $39 on weekends – for at least three years after the Open. Once that was secured, the contract was signed.

The USGA funded $3 million in renovations by Rees Jones to prepare the course for the championship. Jones used 1938 aerial photographs as his guide in restoring the course to Tillinghast’s vision.

Despite the course’s high profile gained from hosting two U.S. Opens, as well as the FedEx Cup’s Northern Trust in 2012 and 2016, green fees have remained reasonable. New York residents pay just $65 on weekdays and $75 on weekends.

Tiger, Phil and Sergio At The Top

Three players finished in the top 10 in both the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens – and they will all be in the field this week. Tiger Woods (2002 – 1st; 2009 – T-6th), Phil Mickelson (2002 – 2nd; 2009 – T-2nd) and Sergio Garcia (2002 – 4th; 2009 – T-10th) all had success in both visits to Bethpage.

In 2002, Woods was the only player to break par for 72 holes (3-under 277) and became the fifth player to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam in the same calendar year. He’ll look to accomplish that feat for a second time this week.

Mickelson’s two second-place performances at Bethpage contributed to his record six runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open. Mickelson lauded the vocal fans during the final round of the 2002 championship, saying, “It was one of the most exciting days that I’ve had in the game of golf. I could actually feel the electricity in the air.”

Duval Turns Back the Clock

In 2002, David Duval was ranked No. 7 in the world. He had recorded 10 top-10 finishes in his previous 16 major championships. So it wasn’t surprising that he contended in the U.S. Open at Bethpage. The surprise was that it came seven years later, in 2009.

Duval missed the cut in 2002 with rounds of 78–73. In 2009, Duval was ranked 882nd in the world and wasn’t exempt into the championship. He qualified in Columbus, Ohio, and made his first run at a major championship title since his 2001 victory in The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Duval led the field in putting that week at Bethpage and birdied holes 14-16 in the final round to draw within one stroke of Glover, but a bogey on the 17th hole dropped him into a tie for second. His runner-up finish was his only top 10 in a major championship after 2001.

Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at mtrostel@usga.org.

More 3 Things