PGA Championship: South Hadley’s Richy Werenski ready for 2nd career major, Bethpage Black

  • Rory McIlroy, center left, and Russell Knox walk onto the eighth green during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Julie Jacobson

  • Jon Rahm, of Spain hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • Patton Kizzire, top left, and Ryan Fox of New Zealand walk down the fourth fairway during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) Seth Wenig

Staff Writer
Published: 5/15/2019 5:36:10 PM

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Sergio Garcia was among the 20 or so players at the driving range Wednesday afternoon. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth were among those scattered around the course at Bethpage Black. Phil Mickelson was signing autographs and taking selfies with fans.

Richy Werenski was on his way to the airport to pick up his fiancée Jordan.

The South Hadley native is in the PGA Championship field for the first time and he wasn’t wasting time. With his pre-tournament work complete, there was no need to hang around.

“I love morning times,” Werenski said. “I usually play a lot of practice rounds in the morning, early. I wake up early, and I’m usually out of the course by 2 o’clock or something. I get all my work done early. It’s kind of how I’ve always been.”

The morning routine will come in handy because Werenski tees off in the first round at 7:29 a.m. Thursday with Steven “Pepsi” Hale on his bag.

Werenski wasn’t originally in the field for the PGA Championship when it was released last Friday. He finished tied for 38th at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina and just missed qualifying for his second major. He was 77th on the PGA Championship points list and needed to be in the top 70.

However, Werenski was the third alternate. He decided to skip the Byron Nelson in Texas to rest and flew to New York to wait. First Charl Schwartzel withdrew for injury, then Davis Love III. That moved Werenski to first alternate.

“I was here sitting in the hotel and at like 6 o’clock at night (Sunday) I got the message Sam Ryder withdrew and I was in,” Werenski said. “I was pretty excited.”

An alternate has won the PGA in the past. John Daly famously won the 1991 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate. Werenski goes off the first tee with Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Justin Harding.

“I’m nice and fresh, ready to go,” Werenski said. “I feel like I needed” the week off.

Bethpage Black will be a grind. The course is lush and playing at 7,459 yards. The par is 70 with only two par 5s.

“The great thing about this golf course is it’s tough. It’s a really hard golf course,” he said. “I feel like it’s just one of those golf courses where anybody in the field can win. Just to get in is huge and I feel like I have the same chance at winning as everyone else does. I just have to go out and do what I know I got to do and see how things turn out.”

Tuesday’s practice round was the first time Werenski every played at Bethpage.

“It’s long and I’m not one of the longest guys out here by any means. I drive it pretty straight and my long irons are really good so that’s kind of what it is,” he said. “It’s a lot of drivers off the tee and you got to hit the fairway. Rough’s really long so I feel that’s an advantage for me. … You have to think your way around it really well. It comes down to who can manage their misses really best and kind of take their medicine and not try to get too greedy. You’re going to make bogeys out here. You miss the fairway, most of the time you’re just hacking it out of the rough down there 100 yards. Bogeys are going to happen but I feel pretty good entering the week.”

The PGA Championship will be Werenski’s 18th tournament of the season. He’s made the cut 11 times and finished as high as tied for third at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He played in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills but missed the cut at 16-over par.

“I feel like I’ve been improving over the last month or two,” Werenski said. “Every round I feel is getting a little bit better. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well, starting to putt really good. I’m seeing a lot of good in my game right now and that’s good. It’s one of those things where I feel like I have to keep teeing it up and I’m going to have a good tournament here very soon.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.


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