2019 Primer: Will Tiger get his 15th?
The big question for 2019: Will Tiger win a major this year? Showing no issues with his back, Tiger got stronger as the year went along in 2018. In fact, he closed out with a bang, winning the Tour Championship Tournament, proving he can compete with the young guns. What follows is my bold predictions for the Majors and other things to watch for in 2019.
The Masters-April 11-14: Rory McIlroy
Last year the golfing world cried when Sergio Garcia put the green jacket on Patrick Reed's shoulders. The fans will be happy to see anyone but Reed win this year at Augusta National, and no one will be happier to take the green jacket from Captain America than Rory McIlroy. Rory told the press that he will focus on playing more golf in the states this year, as well as playing the week before every major, something that he has never done before. And since he has changed to a spider putter, his putting, long a weak part of his game, has made tremendous strides. With just a decent week with the flat-stick, Rory will complete his career grand slam at the Masters.
PGA Championship-May 16-19: Matt Kuchar
A different look for the PGA Championship this year, as it changes from the last major of the year to the second. The tournament is headed to the big apple, where Bethpage Black hosts the tournament for the first time. Bethpage Black was the host of 2 US Opens (2002, 2009) as well as the Barclays (2012, 2016).
With massive crowds likely on hand, the prediction here is that they will be chanting KOOOOOCH on Sunday. Mr. calm, cool and collected will finally break through to win his first major.
Kuchar's great ball-striking and tremendous putting are a good fit at Bethpage, where the fairways and greens are relatively small. Kuchar has already won twice this season, with a win in Mexico at the Mayakoba Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii, so he looks to be in good form already. If that form keeps up, it will be Matt Kuchar hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on May 19th.
US Open-June 13-16: Tiger Woods
Pebble Beach hosts the US Open this year, and the scoring should be much lower than last year's debacle at Shinnecock Hills. Pebble Beach plays into the games of two of the most prominent golfers in the world: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tiger looks to get his first major win since 2008. In the 2010 US Open Tiger finished T-4 here and won in 2000 by 15 strokes. Pebble sets up for Tiger's game, and there is no better time for Tiger to show he is back than at a course which he eats up. Tiger's "frenemy", Phil Mickelson, also loves the coast of Cali and is looking to breakthrough for his career grand slam on his birthday. It would not be a shock to see Tiger and Phil battling it out on Sunday just like old times. No one is better at closing tournaments than Tiger Woods, and if he has the lead going into the back nine on Sunday, Tiger looks to add another major win to his milestone.
The Open Championship-July 18-21: Xander Schauffele
This is going to be the year of Xander Schauffele. He already won the first tournament of the year at Kapalua and really has no flaws in his game. He hits it long and low along with a phenomenal short game. Last year at The Open, Xander finished 2nd to Molinari and in 2017 had a top-25 finish. Granted, Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale are different from Royal Portrush, but Xander enjoys taking the trip across the pond and playing links style golf. The Irish will be all over the home favorite Rory McIlroy, so Xander will be under the radar going into The Open. Do not be shocked to see Schauffele taking a sip out of the Claret Jug by the end of the weekend.
A new year brings along new rules for the 2019 PGA Tour season. One major rule change includes keeping the flagstick in while putting. Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few golfers who is using the new rule change to his advantage. We'll see whether the science in DeChambeau's head has gone too far, as the former SMU golfer looks to add on his 6th career win.
Another question mark going into the new year is what will happen to Jordan Spieth? Jordan had his first "human" year on the PGA Tour in his short but phenomenal career. Will he bounce back or will the yips haunt him for another year? 2019 is in store for some wild finishes and controversy, but with so much talent brewing, it could be the best year in golf history.