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2019 Primer: Will Tiger get his 15th?

Tiger Woods
Masters.com

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.

Other:

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.

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Will the Astros ever give Joey Loperfido a chance to fix the black hole at first base? Composite Getty Image.

So how long do you suppose the Astros will cling to the ludicrous notion that Jose Abreu will return to being a sustainably decent hitter (much less a good hitter)? The All-Star break? The trade deadline July 30? The day the Astros are eliminated from the playoff race? End of the season? End of his contract at the end of next season? Maybe they sign him to a two-year extension?

Since rejoining the team Abreu has played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He has seven hits in 42 at bats for a .167 batting average. That’s only not horrible in comparison to the sub-pathetic .099 mark Abreu had when hiatus time arrived. Since returning, Abreu has walked once. If you remember or are familiar with Susan Powter you know what comes next. STOP THE INSANITY!

Kyle Tucker’s absence obviously punches a big hole in the Astros’ lineup. Still, that regularly running out Jeremy Pena in the cleanup or fifth spot in the lineup doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, is ridiculous! Pena has been abysmal for the last month. May 11 he put up his fourth consecutive multi-hit game. In 29 games since, Pena has added one more homer with an anemic on-base percentage of .238. Not batting average, OBP. Yuck. All teams solicit All-Star votes for non-worthy guys. Pena plays in the same league as Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Corey Seager, and Anthony Volpe. Hyping Pena for the All-Star game is plain ol’ silly.

Jon Singleton ever slotting in the lineup fourth or fifth, sigh. He of one homer and 28 strikeouts in his last 79 at bats. It’s just a sad state of affairs that no one below Pena or Singleton in the lineup should obviously be higher in the lineup. Mauricio Dubon, Victor Caratini, Trey Cabbage are all bottom third of the lineup if in the lineup type guys. Chas McCormick seemingly losing almost all of his hitting ability has hurt. Yainer Diaz stinking for much more of the season to date than he’s been good has hurt.

The refusal to try Joey Loperfido at first base is somewhere from perplexing to stupid. Look, Loperfido is not an elite prospect. His poor contact skills may doom him from becoming a quality regular. But find out! He struck out a bunch in his first taste but also hit .333. The low upside of the Abreu-Singleton combo is obvious. Evidently to just about all but Astros’ decision makers. Going with Trey Cabbage over Loperfido in the outfield also underwhelms.

Chasing down the Mariners?

It could all still turn for the better, but the Astros are at increasing risk of fading to oblivion behind Seattle in the American League West race. They deserve to be 31-38. They have a losing record at home, they have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record in day games, they have a losing record in night games. They are 7-14 in games against left-handed starting pitchers, they are 24-24 (hey, .500, yippee!) vs. right-handed starters. It would take a serious collapse to fall entirely out of the Wild Card race before the trade deadline, but the Astros are flirting with danger there too. They have to leapfrog several teams to get to the third Wild Card position, currently held by the Minnesota Twins. This doesn’t seem to be a good weekend to gain ground on them. Not that A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers visiting Minute Maid Park this weekend are anything special, though in Friday night’s series opener the Astros face the arguably best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season (Tarik Skubal). But the Twins have four games at home against the lowly Oakland A’s.

If Minnesota is not to overtake Kansas City and Cleveland to win the AL Central, you know Carlos Correa would love to make the playoffs at his ex-team’s expense. Wednesday Correa banged out the first five-hit game of his career. It’s pretty amazing that Jose Altuve has never had a five-hit game given how great a hitter he’s been and the relatively few walks he’s drawn. Sunday in Anaheim, Altuve racked up his 39th four-hit game. Remember, last September, Altuve hit five home runs over seven innings that overlapped two games against the Texas Rangers.

George Springer is the lone Astro ever to rack up six hits in a game, doing so at Oakland in 2018. So far this month, Springer is six for 40. Springer has two seasons left after this one on the six-year 150 million dollar contract he signed with Toronto. At 34 years old he is playing as if washed up. 2023 was the worst season of Springer’s career and he has fallen off a cliff from there thus far in 2024. Springer is batting .198 with his OPS at a sickly .582.

There is only one player in the modern era (1900 forward) of Major League Baseball to amass seven hits in a nine-inning game. In 1975 Rennie Stennett went seven for seven at Wrigley Field in a Pittsburgh Pirates 22-0 obliteration of the Chicago Cubs. The “Bleacher Bums” must have had fun that day.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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